REVIEW: It Takes Two by Jenny Holiday
Dear Jenny Holiday,
I haven’t read One and Only, the first book in your Bridesmaids Behaving Badly series (yet – it’s on the TBR) but I heard such good things about it that I was keen to read the second book, It Takes Two. I also saw the pictures of photo shoot for the cover and that piqued my interest even more. And now I really need to read One and Only because I know I’m missing out. This book stands alone well enough but there are references to the earlier book and readers who are sensitive to spoilers will want to start there. For me, it didn’t really matter.
Wendy Liu is a Toronto defense lawyer and the maid of honor at her best friend’s wedding. Jane and Wendy have been besties since they were children and have a very close bond. Wendy has mixed feelings about the wedding.
She needed to up her game here. Yes, she wasn’t into all this wedding bullshit. But the bigger issue was that in her heart of hearts, she wasn’t into the wedding itself. She was, selfishly, sad that Jane was getting married. She had nothing against Cameron, Jane’s fiancé. Well, nothing that would stand up in court. He had started out as kind of a jerk, and what Jane saw in him remained a mystery to Wendy, but anyone with a brain could see how
happy he’d made Jane.
It was just that it had always been Wendy and Jane against the world. The Lost Girls, they used to call themselves. The Dead Dads Club. They were a duo.
And now they were going to be…not that.
I understood where Wendy was coming from so much, that uncomfortable mix of being happy for someone else but also being sad because of the inevitable changes that will occur and/or being sad that one isn’t that happy oneself, so I found Wendy very relatable.
Jane’s older brother is Noah. When Jane’s father died in a car accident while he was driving drunk, teenage Noah stepped up and got a job working nights in a grocery store after school. Their mother sank into a deep depression and Noah basically became the parent to Jane and, by extension, to Wendy. Wendy had a crush on Noah but everything changed when he stood her up at the school prom, leaving her humiliated in front of her peers. It’s been 17 years since then but she still isn’t over it. She has made it a mission to avoid Noah as much as possible and the wedding is going to make that extremely difficult – he is in the wedding party too.
Noah is a prosecutor in New York, having moved there for college and stayed to live and work, so Wendy has been able to successfully avoid him for most of the intervening years without it being very obvious to everyone else. After the prom debacle, Wendy put on a tough outer layer and started traveling as an avoidance technique. In doing so, she discovered in herself a love of travel – when the book begins, she’s planning a six month trip around the world and will leave shortly after Jane’s and Cameron’s wedding.
Noah is all about responsibility and protection and duty and he’s very buttoned-up about it all. I wondered how you would explain his no-show at the prom because it seemed like a real dick move and it made me inclined to give him the side eye. The story from his perspective isn’t told until late in the book and I’m glad. It took me that long to really understand what made Noah tick in a way that had me able to forgive him and really root for the HEA. I think if I’d heard it earlier in the book it would not have had the same impact.
Noah and Wendy have always had a bantery, competitive, fun-combative vibe to their interactions and if Wendy sometimes seems more serious than the situation deserves and the anger a little too real, Noah doesn’t really cotton on to what’s really below the surface. On Wendy’s part, then she and Noah are forced into each other’s company, that anger tends to fall away and they fall easily into the fun back-and-forth snap and sizzle of conversation.
Wendy doesn’t do relationships and Noah doesn’t do one-night stands. And of course, Wendy’s best friend and Noah’s sister, is Jane – someone they both rely on and do not want to lose. Embarking on a relationship with each other is fraught with risk and Wendy and Noah, for different reasons perhaps, are very risk averse, particularly when it comes to their emotions.
There is a lot at stake which kept the dramatic tension in the story but it was also not enough to be insurmountable either – I bought their HEA completely.
I am usually a hero-centric reader and I did like Noah very much but the star of the book for me was Wendy. I liked her competence, her vulnerability, her determination and her laughter. So many things she did or felt (apart from the running – I do not do running) are things I could see myself doing or feeling. (Naturally, I thought Wendy was awesome! :D)
He gestured to a seat and waited until she was settled before lowering himself next to her. Their thighs touched. She pulled away slightly. Then regretted it. Then scolded herself for regretting it. Then went back to regretting it.
The friendship between she and Jane, as well as with Elise and Gia, the other members of the foursome, was a delight to read as well.
Not having (yet) read the first book, I didn’t know much about Cameron but there was a scene with he and Wendy midway through the book which had me Team Cameron all the way. I loved the way he clearly realised Jane and Wendy are a package deal and did not resent it.
Noah likes physical beauty well enough but he is most attracted to brains and Wendy’s brains do it for him in a big way. The other members of the wedding party are often noting that when Wendy and Noah banter it sounds like foreplay. Noah is also physically attracted to Wendy – I loved his baffled obsession with her collarbones – although I was a little concerned about the dress that one time.
I liked the way it all worked out, the characters acted in ways which were consistent and there was a definite female empowerment vibe going on which I loved – all against the backdrop of Jane’s “low-key” (but totally not low-key) wedding planning, leading up to the big day.