REVIEW: A Catered Affair by Sue Margolis
Dear Ms. Margolis,
Though I’ve been back to reading romance for over 15 years now, there are still way too many authors I’ve yet to try. In one of the latest big ol’ boxes of books that Jane sent me was a copy of your newest book “A Catered Affair.” For some reason I don’t examine too closely, a blurb about a Big Event gone Horribly Wrong will always snag my attention and the featured one here promised to be a doozy. With a public meltdown to look forward to, I settled down to enjoy the show.
London lawyer Tally and her doctor fiance Josh have finally set the date which propels her mother and Nana Ida into a frenzy of Jewish wedding planning. Tally’s been aware of Josh’s long issues with commitment due to his father walking out on the family when Josh was a teen but everything seems to be “Go” and “Full Steam Ahead.” The dress is beautiful, the flowers look fabulous, the food promises to be divine and the reception for 200 ought to be the culmination of a wonderful day. Except that Josh is a no show.
Blindsided Tally decides to let the reception go on, after all the food is already there and paid for, and with the help of more than one bottle of wine, she makes it through. When the evening winds down though, all she wants to do is be alone and lick her wounds. Until she spies the caterer, Kenny. Drunk enough not to care, she snags him for one last dance, propositions him, passes out on him and wakes up the next morning to discover he spent the night with her in the wedding suite holding her hair back and the champagne bucket under her head as she hurled – repeatedly.
Despite their rocky start, the two find common ground in both having just been dumped by their S.O.s and begin to spend mate-y evenings together. But they’re Just Friends as Tally tells everyone ad nauseam who senses the vibes they produce when together. Tally knows from her parent’s experience that two people need to be well matched for a HEA future and Kenny just doesn’t fit her preconceived plans for a hubby. But could Tally be wrong about who her Mr. Right is and will she wise up in time to keep him?
From my experience reading lots of other Chick Lit-ish books, I expected that the set up for the story would take roughly 30-40 pages then it would settle into the post-bolting-groom stage for the majority of the book. After all, from the blurb we know that Josh is not going to be the hero. Yet, in a move that some might find refreshing and others dislike, you give us 100+ pages of Tally and Josh’s relationship plus wedding arranging. I find myself in the “dislike” camp and wondered why the need for that amount of space devoted to a we-know-to-be-doomed couple. I mean it just went on and on before the kablooey scene.
After Tally’s reception implosion leading to the getting-to-know-you night with Kenny, the book progresses more like I’m used to reading. Only I discovered that there are major aspects of Tally I didn’t like. I don’t mind a flawed heroine but Tally takes the wedding cake as far as her romance with Kenny. Tally, for lack of a better way to put it, is a snob. And she’s a snob for the last 250 pages of the book. Tally is amusing in that underplayed English sarcastic humor way, she’s a hard working lawyer who deeply cares about her clients, she loves her family and is a great friend but…she’s a snob. And her seemingly overnight change (see more of this below) doesn’t work for me. Kenny is sweet, a hard worker, a good friend, seems to be a great lover who takes pride in his cunnilingual (is that a word?) talent and, in my opinion even at the end of the book, far too good for Tally. That’s bad in a romance book.
The book and its characters are chock full of issues. Issues are good as they make the people seem more well rounded to me but! those issues need careful resolving for me to keep that realistic feeling. That doesn’t happen here. It’s full on problems/dilemmas both professional and personal for most of the characters up to about the last 20 pages of the novel. Then, with a wave of the authorial wand, everything is suddenly Happy Days and resolved too neatly and too perfectly. It’s almost Mary Sue in its perfection. Too easy, too pat and too unrealistic. No one’s life smooths out this way. And this goes double for the Big Mis final confrontation scene which rears its ugly head complete with protestations that the relationship is over for all time only for Twue Love to hang a 180 degree turn the very next day!
My disappointment in the opening third of the book, coupled with not truly liking the heroine’s treatment of the hero for the next – almost – two thirds of the book finished up with a rush to solve all the conflicts/issues so that sunshine can beam from everyone’s ass leads me to an unhappy grade for “A Catered Affair.” Sorry but D for this one.