Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Book Review: Happily Never After

By Jami Denison

Back in the days when I watched soap operas, the wedding episodes were always my favorites. Nothing ever went smoothly. Who can forget Tina showing up at Cord and Kate’s wedding on One Life to Live, coming back from the dead with a baby in her arms? (It wasn’t actually her baby, but that’s a different story.) Or when Greenlee showed up in the nick of time to stop Ryan from marrying Kendall on All My Children? Of course the most famous interrupted wedding of all time was on General Hospital, when Scotty confronted Luke before he could marry Jennifer Smith, and Luke ended up on the run with Laura rather than on his honeymoon with the mobster’s daughter. Oh, those were the days.

Lynn Painter’s latest romantic comedy, Happily Never After, reminded me of those terrific episodes. The action starts off as Sophie Steinbeck’s wedding is ruined: When the preacher asks if anyone objects, a man stands up and tells Sophie that her fiancĂ©, Stuart, has been cheating on her. The wedding’s off, and…  plot twist! Sophia actually hired the man who objected. She’d found out about the cheating, didn’t want to call off the wedding because her father worked for Stuart’s father, and hired Max instead. 

After a night of drinking and bonding over their different views of love, Max and Sophie decide to go into the lucrative wedding-objecting business together. Seems there are a number of folks engaged to cheaters who can’t call off their weddings because of powerful in-laws. And these folks are willing to pay well to have someone else do their dirty work. 

At the same time, Max and Sophie start fake dating so his father can retire and move to Florida, and she can get promoted at her day job. While the feelings between them grow, Sophie continues to insist she doesn’t believe in love. Then they get a call to break up the wedding of Max’s ex. When Max hesitates, Sophie realizes she’s jealous. Will the final break up be of the objectors themselves?

Max and Sophie have great chemistry, and Painter has a true ear for dialogue. At its best, the characters reminded me not of soap opera greats, but of Harry Burns and Sally Albright. Sophie’s “love isn’t real” stance is almost as strong as Harry’s “men and women can’t be friends” point-of-view. Their back-and-forth is the best part of the novel. 

For readers who don’t enjoy explicit sex scenes or fake dating, Happily Never After may not be their cup of tea. But if you enjoy clever dialogue, beautiful people, and traditional romantic comedy tropes, spend a few hours with Max and Sophie. 

Thanks to Berkley for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us.

Listen to this book on Speechify!

No comments: