REVIEW: Five Wakes and a Wedding by Karen Ross
Undertaker Nina Sherwood is full of good advice. For example, never wear lip gloss when you’re scattering ashes.
Nina is your average 30-year-old with a steady job, a nice home – and dead bodies in her basement. As an undertaker, she often prefers the company of the dead to the living – they’re obliging, good listeners and take secrets to the grave.
Nina is on a one-woman mission to persuade her peers that passing on is just another part of life. But the residents of Primrose Hill are adamant that a funeral parlour is the last thing they need… and they will stop at nothing to close down her dearly beloved shop.
When Nina’s ‘big break’ funeral turns out to be a prank, it seems like it’s the final nail in the coffin for her new business. That is, until a (tall, dark and) mysterious investor shows up out of the blue, and she decides to take a leap of faith.
Because, after all, it’s her funeral…
Dear Ms. Ross,
I will admit that when I read the blurb for this novel, I got the impression that this would be more of a cutesy rom-com sort of book. The opening scene sort of bore out that thought but I quickly realized that this would be a little different – more women’s fiction and with serious parts though still with a large dash of humor.
It wasn’t always Nina Sherwood’s plan to become an undertaker and spend her life helping to plan funerals but you play the cards you’re given. In Nina’s case it was the death of a dear friend – and the funeral that was so totally unlike what the friend would have wanted – that steered Nina to the business. When a soulless (pun intended) corporation (sigh … from America by way of China, of course) takes over the family owned business where she’s worked and Nina faces the future of watching them become money grubbing arseholes, she rebels.
Well. she’s fired, actually but it frees her to start “Happy Endings.” Why should funerals be dull, sad events that cost a fortune? Why not tailor them to the deceased, make them personal, make them eco friendly, or just whatever is wanted or makes sense? That’s what she hopes to bring to the modern funeral table. Only her neighbors and fellow business people are horrified and determined to put her out of business. She’s bad for the tone of the upscale neighborhood. Can she hang on to her hopes and goals and still make her business expenses?
First off, Nina isn’t working out of her home as the blurb sort of implies. This is no “Six Feet Under.” I can also see why banks turned her down as initially her business plan appears to be “sit and hope that business comes to her.” A lack of phone calls or foot traffic – beyond those people determined to complain – finally forces her to realizes that advertising –> it’s used for a reason. And since social media and her store window are free, she finally gets with the picture.
Luckily for her, Nina’s family is behind her as are her two friends who each have their own problems and issues. I appreciated that Gloria and Edo come alive (pun sort of intended) here and contribute to the story. The evil villains are suitably menacing and, well, evil. Nina’s business finally begins to take off initially due more to a bit of a good luck and rubbing shoulders with the famous. But she’s also worked out more of a plan to maximize her exposure and get the word out about what she’s offering. I did laugh at the place where the hot lawyer who has taken a shine to her whisks her off for lunch as it shows he knows what interests her.
The book progresses with Nina finally starting to get some funeral traction though there seems to be a lot of “magically everything starts to get better” fairy tale too. The rich and privileged inhabitants of Primrose Hill started to annoy me more and more as the story continued. One thing that delighted me is how Nina handles a man from her past who shows up. Too often, romance heroines go all wobbly when a past love appears but here there’s no weakening on her part. Her new romance throws in what rom-com-ness the book has but sadly also relies on a lot of “wish fulfillment due to money.”
I ended up liking the book though the pace did drag a little at times and I had trouble getting over the business problem contrivances that bedevil Nina along the way. By the end, she’s on top of things but at first, I wasn’t that impressed with her lack of acumen. Everything gets wrapped up in tidy bows maybe just a bit too easily. Still Nina evolves as a businesswoman and shows her personal strength which I appreciated. C+