Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Secret Wedding Dress (book) by Ally Blake

The Secret Wedding Dress is a contemporary romance set in Australia. It's part of the Harlequin Kiss line.

Synopsis:

Something about Paige's life dissatisfies her, and she's not sure what it is. Mae, her best friend, is marrying Clint, and it's a huge shock for Paige. She had thought Mae, like her, didn't believe in love and lasting marriages. After all, they'd both grown up seeing how miserable their parents were. Paige's father, a famous cricket player, had cheated on her mother while her mother turned a blind eye until it was no longer possible to do so.

Still, Mae seems happy, so Paige goes with her to shop for things for the wedding. No one is more shocked than Paige when Paige buys a wedding dress of her very own. She's not sure why she did it, but something about the dress called to her. Unfortunately, she still has it in her hands when she meets Gabe.

The chemistry between Paige and Gabe is intense, but neither one of them is interested in anything more than no-strings-attached sex. Gabe flat out says that he doesn't plan to be in Australia long, and Paige is perfectly happy to hear that. But what happens when the two of them start to grow closer than they planned?

Review:

I've seen several Harlequin Kiss books at my local Walmart and read the descriptions on most of them, but this was the first one to appeal to me enough for me to buy it. A heroine who bought a wedding dress despite not even having a boyfriend. A hero who was only interested in no-strings-attached sex. I wanted to see how things would go between them. Unfortunately, this book didn't work for me.

The attraction between Gabe and Paige was clear. Their first meeting was in their apartment building's elevator, and they were so focused on each other that noticing other details was difficult for them. I was surprised that either one of them was capable of conversation. The “no-strings-attached sex” part began, I think, within 24 hours of them meeting. Their lust for each other didn't make them completely stupid, however – when they realized that neither one of them had any condoms with them, they postponed the sex they were moments away from having. None of that “we're so hot for each other that we can't stop ourselves, so we'll save the STD/pregnancy freak out for right after.”

Unfortunately, although they were clearly hot for each other, I needed more than that. The book offered me less than I would have liked, and took longer to give it to me than I think it should have. Paige and Gabe's first truly intimate conversation – as in, talking about their personal lives in any kind of detail – didn't happen until halfway through the book. Later in the book, Gabe and Paige blurred the boundaries of their no-strings-attached relationship by going on a date, and Gabe acted like a jerk. I was glad that Paige didn't put up with it and walked out on him before the food had even arrived, but that scene only emphasized how little they knew about each other outside of bed. Gabe did go after her, apologize, and explain himself, but it still bothered me that there was so much about their lives they hadn't talked about yet.

The book had a couple gimmicky elements: the wedding dress and the apartment elevator. Considering that the dress was mentioned in the title, I figured it would play a good-sized role in the book, but in reality the elevator played a bigger part. A more accurate title might have been Love in a Lift (or Love in an Elevator for non-Aussie folks like myself). Paige's purchase of the wedding dress increased her internal conflict about love and marriage, but the dress itself was mostly easy to forget about, and it didn't result in the Big Misunderstanding blowup I was expecting.

The elevator, on the other hand, was front and center in the story. Its tendency to malfunction was brought up a lot. It deposited Paige on Gabe's floor, even when she hadn't intended to go there. An emergency stop gave Paige and Gabe an opportunity to have elevator sex (which squicked me out at the time, because I'm not a fan of sex scenes in public or semi-public places – also, it was one of the few sex scenes in which condom use was not brought up). Paige and Gabe had their first intimate, non-sex-related conversation when the elevator got stuck between floors. Throughout most of the book, this was a matchmaking elevator. I could have done without the final chapter, though, which revealed Sam the Super's part in the whole thing – it only increased my dislike of the elevator sex scene.

This book was way too short for all the things it had crammed into it: the wedding dress; Paige's fear of love and marriage because her father cheated on her mother; other cheating-related issues; Gabe's fear of love and commitment because the last woman he truly cared for betrayed him, which almost led to his business tanking; the malfunctioning elevator; and Paige's fear that her friend Mae's impending marriage to Clint meant that she'd lose her friend to Clint. It didn't really feel like too much until near the end, when a lot of things came to a head at once. I didn't entirely agree with what some of the characters said about cheating (basically, “if you really love them, you'll find a way to get past it and trust that person again”). Also, I felt that Gabe's final proposal of marriage to Paige came too soon.

I didn't hate this book, but it wasn't the fun, quick read I'd hoped for. It took too long for Paige and Gabe to begin to connect in more than just a sexual way, and I felt they'd only just started to walk down the path of being an actual couple by the end of the book.

Read-alikes:
  • Hot Island Nights (book) by Sarah Mayberry - I have yet to read one of Sarah Mayberry's books, although it seems like a lot of bloggers I read adore her stuff. This one, part of the Harlequin Blaze line, sounds like it might be a good read-alike for those looking for another heroine who goes outside her comfort zone and has hot sex with someone she only just recently met.
  • Acting on Impulse (book) by Vicki Lewis Thompson - Another Harlequin Blaze. Although I've read several of Thompson's Nerds books, I don't think I've ever read anything else by her. This might be a good one for those looking for another supposed no-strings-attached relationship.
  • Watch and Learn (book) by Stephanie Bond - Yet another Harlequin Blaze. The heroine is newly divorced and explores sex in ways she never has before but has always wanted to (her fantasy: she likes to be watched). Her new neighbor helps her live her fantasies, but he starts wanting more.

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