After a long relationship and loving marriage, Andrew Lane and Miles Kettering-Lane have been separated for the past two years. After a major conflict destroyed things between them, the men have barely been able to speak to one another without the presence of their attorneys. However, they have not yet gotten officially divorced, wanting to wait until their daughter returned from the Peace Corps before selling their house and dissolving things between them for good.
Now that Kelly has returned home, she has thrown a wrench in the plans with an unexpected engagement. Not only is Kelly getting married, but she wants Andy and Miles to handle all the planning. Kelly doesn’t want any thing fancy, just a small backyard wedding at their family home. But it isn’t going to be as easy as it sounds. Kelly’s in-laws-to-be, the Lincoln-Collins’, are basically unbearable. They are wealthy and entitled and want to plan the entire wedding. Miles and Andy are attempting to stand firm and give Kelly the wedding she wants, but it is not easy with the pressure from her future in-laws, not to mention that both her dads really want to give her a big fancy wedding as well. On top of that, they are dealing with Andy’s social media influencer boyfriend who somehow seems to be in the middle of all the proceedings, making things even more difficult.
Andy and Miles know the only way they are going to keep any sort of handle on the chaos is to be a united front. That means spending time with one another and working together in a way they haven’t since their marriage fell apart. Fortunately, the more they are together, the more things begin to thaw between them. As Kelly’s wedding approaches, Andy and Miles just may find that their own relationship is blooming as well.
Fathers of the Bride is a light-hearted, lovers-reunited story featuring two older heroes who are finding their way back to each other. The set up here is fun, and while we know that the wedding will ultimately bring the men back together, I still enjoyed following along as Miles and Andy rekindle their romance. The story has the light humor that is a hallmark of much of Thornton’s work and there are many amusing moments. There are also some nice touches here that give a sense of both Andy and Miles, as well as their relationship. Things fell apart between them because the two worked together on a TV show for years. When the network decided to fire Miles, Andy stayed on (for both contractual and financial reasons, and also because he thought it would spare Miles’ feelings). Unfortunately, Miles was so hurt that he kicked Andy out and the two never managed to reconcile, particularly since Andy started dating someone new quite quickly. Despite the fact that neither man can really get out of his own way to move past the conflict, I could still feel the love and affection between them and was rooting for them to get back together. I had no doubt that the pair still loved one another and wanted to be together, but neither could bring himself to make the move until the wedding planning forced them to interact. The romance is on the light side here, as the story is more focused on the wedding planning with the relationship in the background. I also found that while the characters were distinct, their voices felt very similar. The story is told in first-person POV and I had some trouble remembering whose chapter I was in fairly often and I did have to stop and clarify regularly.
I think a lot of how you feel about this story will rest on how well the humor works for you. The story pits Andy and Miles against Kelly’s future in-laws and Andy’s boyfriend, Raj. So the Lincoln-Collins clan and Raj are meant as the comic relief in that they are completely over the top and absurd. Raj is a social media influencer who spends all his time taking selfies and thinking about what he is going to post to Instagram. He somehow insinuates himself into the whole wedding planning process and makes it all about him and how he can gain the most followers by sharing all the happenings online. The Lincoln-Collins family are incredibly wealthy, entitled, and frequently offensive to anyone who isn’t rich, white, and straight. They are awful and, again, we are clearly meant to laugh at how crazy they get around the wedding planning and how spoiled and rich they all are. The part that really worked for me is the humor surrounding the couples themselves. The Lincolns and the Collins’ were best friends and neighbors. Each couple ended up divorcing and swapping to marry someone from the other couple. So it is sort of a running joke that it is impossible to tell who is currently married to whom and which ones are actually the groom’s parents. They are also near identical in personality and looks, playing up the fact that they are essentially interchangeable rich white people. So I found that element of the story made for some nice humor and playful absurdity.
The problem for me is that the Lincoln-Collins family are basically horrible people. We are meant to laugh at them, but I think we are also intended to see them as sort of exasperating in a humorous way. However, I found them just awful. They are so prominent in the story that I just didn’t enjoy spending so much time with these terrible people who seemed to have no redeeming qualities other than raising a great son. So the humor just didn’t land well enough for me with these families to balance out how unpleasant they are and what genuinely awful people they are, and I definitely didn’t find myself having a soft spot for them, even at the end.
I also found Raj problematic as, again, he is basically awful. And I think as readers we are supposed to find him awful. Which made me struggle with just why Andy is actually dating this guy. The pair got together only a month after Miles and Andy split up and are living together. Raj is much younger (only a few years older than Kelly) and completely unpleasant. I could not understand for the life of me why he and Andy are together. Andy never does one thing to indicate he even likes Raj, let alone loves him. In fact, he seems to detest everything about him. Yet until he starts to rekindle things with Miles, Andy seems totally content to date this terrible person. Andy also seems to mock and roll his eyes at Raj for all his social media obsession, yet Andy is a brand manager whose job it is to manage Raj’s social media career (as well as the careers of other influencers). So while I detested Raj, and cringed every time he showed up on page, I also found it off putting that Andy was even dating this guy (yet still seemed to hate him) and don’t feel like it reflected particularly well on him on many levels.
So as I said, I think these characters are supposed to be sort of exasperatingly humorous, but I found them just so awful I couldn’t really find any fondness for their craziness. But I think the larger problem is that the Lincoln-Collins parents are set up to be this wealthy, entitled family who are completely out of touch with the rest of the world, who throw their money around and only care about the public appearance and status, not what Kelly and her fiance actually want. And they are pretty much dialed up to 11 in terms of their awful behavior, but the problem is, Miles and Andy are not exactly innocents either. Kelly wants a small backyard wedding. Miles and Andy take out a $125,000 home mortgage because there is no way they could possibly hold a wedding for less than that. Kelly wants 100 guests; Miles sends out 300 invitations. Andy decides he doesn’t think Kelly’s bridesmaid is a good choice (and he is right) and he decides to find another one for her without asking. Miles is frustrated that Kelly didn’t register and got what he views as subpar gifts as a result, so he decides he will just return them for her and get something else. I could go on, but the point is, these guys are also rich (just not as rich) and extremely concerned with what others think (just not as concerned). And I feel like if the running joke in the story is that the in-laws are so awful and don’t care at all what Kelly actually wants, it just didn’t work for me to have her fathers basically exhibit the same behavior (albeit on a scaled down version). Now, overall Miles and Andy are much better people than the in-laws and certainly seem to try harder to think about Kelly. But in the end, their behavior was just too close for me to really work and it kept me from finding them as relatable and likable as I wanted for the men who are the heroes of the story.
Finally, the ending just didn’t work at all for me. I can’t say anything without major spoilers, but the short version is someone does something supposedly out of love and caring, but I couldn’t see as anything other than totally awful and it just made things fall apart for me at the end. So be warned here, this is a MAJOR spoiler and don’t read it if you don’t want the ending revealed:I couldn’t help but have a sour taste in my mouth at the way the whole thing plays out.
I think what carried this book for me is that Marshall Thornton is a great storyteller. As much as they were too over-the-top for me in their wedding planning and meddling, I did like Miles and Andy and couldn’t help but root for them. There is a tenderness to them together, even as they are angry at one another, and I never doubted their love for Kelly. There were definite moments that worked for me in the humor and the story kept me engaged. But I found that the antagonists were just all so awful that I couldn’t find them funny most of the time and given how much of the story is devoted to them and the wedding planning, the book just didn’t fully work for me.