Let me start by saying that I love Southern fiction. There are charming books set in the South, with charming women you want to go have brunch with. WEDDING BELLES by Haywood Smith (2008) is not that book. Georgia, Linda, Diane, Teeny, and Pru are notthose women.
To be fair, I’ve never read anything by Ms. Smith, and this is the third book in the Red Hat Club series. I picked it up at a little free library because the cover looked like something cute and sweet – a candy of a book. Plot-wise, it had the potential to be an absolute romp and sometimes I want something sweet, like icing on a cake. This is the first book in a very long time that I nearly refused to finish.
Let’s start with our narrator, Georgia Baker. Bless her heart, but she is the absolute worst. She is not a good friend. She is not a good wife. And she is not a good mother. But she will proclaim that she is all three all the day long, and especially from the church pew come Sunday morning.
Exhibit A: She claims that she has been Wade’s close friend for 30 years. Bullshit. She’s hated that man since he sexually assaulted her friend Linda. (And I won’t even touch on that little scene.)
Exhibit B: She wants the world to think she’s a good wife. She repeatedly lets the reader know she purposefully married a man she didn’t love so she wouldn’t get hurt. (They’ve been married for 30 years at this point.)
Exhibit C: She wants the world to think she’s a good mother. She nearly causes her daughter to go into a panic attack over sex with a man she loves before marriage. She lets someone else pay a lot of money to have the man her daughter intends to marry “checked out” by professional investigators. The man who is also her close & personal friend.
Again. She is awful.
Her daughter, Callie, is marrying a man 30 years older than her. But, as our Karen of a narrator makes quite clear, it’s not as bad as if Callie were marrying a woman. And it’s certainly not as bad as Linda’s daughter and that “Osama-damned-son-in-law.” (Those early sections made me not want to finish the book.)
Now let’s talk about the book itself, shall we? There were certain things in the actual writing that annoyed me.
1) She repeats herself. Over and over again. I don’t need to be told five hundred thousand times that MYOB is Mind Your Own Business or that it’s Sacred Tradition of Friendship #5 – I get it.
2) Rachel. Why is she even in this novel if not a vessel to give one of the other women a slice of drama and to showcase again what filthy rich can do? She flits into the novel like hell on wheels, drives the plot for a bit, and then gets married off to a rich widow. Maybe they just needed a nasty northerner to remind Georgia that “family is family.” She was intentionally underdeveloped, flashy as the moment required, and quickly discarded.
3) Elena. The best person in the novel is never actually seen. But she birthed Peach and that little girl made the novel worth slugging through. (I actually enjoyed Pru’s storyline.)
4) She can’t remember Wade’s children’s names. At first, his son is Scott and most certainly not named for Wade. Then, through the detective’s report, we learn he has three children: Wade Robert, Brandon James, and Laura Elizabeth. Suddenly at the wedding, his eldest son’s name is Tom. Ummm…
I could go on, but I won’t. I was not the audience for this book, and I don’t know that I have ever said that. Additionally, there were some issues that I think an editor with St. Martin’s Griffin, an imprint of MacMillan, should have gleaned on to and “helped.”
A lot of people ADORE this series and these women; I am not one.