The Wedding Party – Jasmine Guillory (Review)

Despite hating each other, Maddie and Theo share a best friend. When she gets engaged and enlists them to the bridal party, Maddie and Theo are suddenly faced with having to see each other far more often.

This is further complicated by the knowledge that the last time they spent time together, it ended in an alcohol-fulled hook up that neither of them has stopped thinking about.

With the sexual tension rising, they agree to a secret enemies-with-benefits set-up that starts to build into something more…

By this point, it’s fairly clear that I’ve really enjoyed all of Guillory’s novels. The Wedding Party, however, is absolutely my favourite. I think it’s actually the first one I read before realising it was third in the series and swiftly reading all the others as well, but it’s also the one that’s stuck with me the most.

Maddie and Theo are a brilliant rom-com couple. Guillory makes neat use of the enemy-to-lovers trope and, having dropped hints in her other novels about these two, weaves her narrative through the events of the other books while still allowing their story to stand alone. Parties that we hear about or see in The Wedding Date and The Proposal resurface here with new meaning, and we get some LOVELY updates on where the couples from the earlier books have ended up.

Guillory’s descriptions of food stand out again, this book specifically makes me want pizza so much. Also! Apparently in Berkely/San Francisco, you can get roasted garlic on any pizza willy-nilly! Why is this not a thing in the U.K.?!

Maddie is another one of Guillory’s gumption-filled heroines and another one I’d love to be friends with. She’s funny and hard-working, but is tempered with a defensive cattiness and judginess that means she gets in her own way more often than not. Her job is important to her and drives a lot of the plot, completely independent of Theo who similarly cares a lot about his job. Maddie’s job as a stylist also means that you get the fun of clothes descriptions, echoing the trope of the makeover montage in a good romcom. Details like that, and Theo’s dancing(!), all left me with a deep certainty that this would make a brilliant film, one I hope they make one day! People often lament the dearth of good romcoms (admittedly less now we have Netflix), and there are a lot that really let themselves down. Perhaps if film companies had a look at the books of beloved romance authors like Guillory, they would be a bit more successful!

As in all her novels, Guillory’s observations on race add another layer to many interactions. This is the first of her books where the central couple are both Black, although all of her heroines are, and the discussions that Maddie and Theo have, not unlike some discussions had by the other two couples in her earlier novels, felt extremely genuine. I love how Guillory reflects the various discussions and assumptions made on behalf of all her characters and, although as a white Brit I can’t claim any knowledge of the reality of her depictions, the coherence and balance to all her characters feels refreshing: no one is fetishized or stereotyped, but ignorance and thoughtlessness is always called out and dealt with in a way that feels quietly powerful. Everyone’s racial and cultural identities are acknowledged as a part of them, without any character being forced to act as a spokesman or generic representative of their race. This allows Theo and Maddie to share and discuss their experiences without giving the book an ‘afterschool special’ air to it.

As I write this, it’s ocurring to me that The Wedding Party is also, in some ways, another contemporary Pride and Prejudice. Although not following the plot as exactly as Curtis Sittenfeld’s fantastic Eligible, The Wedding Party does create a similar vibe of romance between uptight, self-conscious Theo and firebrand Maddie. Their initial meeting is spoilt by a rude comment Theo makes and they continue to misunderstand each other and act defensively until another character practically knocks their heads together. Guillory clearly understands that the narrative tension lies not in how the story ends, but in how it all comes together: the journey of their relationship rather than just whether or not they end up together. She uses her narrative stencil to create another hugely enjoyable romance, relying on engaging her readers through her characters, rather than any melodrama.

The Wedding Party has everything that makes Guillory’s writing so enjoyable but even more so. It’s a very romantic story, it always makes me want pizza, and I root for the characters just as much on my fourth read as on my first.

You can buy it here, and I would absolutely recommend you do!

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