|Our hero and heroine in Once Upon a Wedding both suffer from an inferiority complex. If the reader cannot believe in this premise, then the story makes little sense, as this is the motivation behind almost everything they do. Even with believing it, there are situations that are hard to buy. The amount of believability will dictate how much enjoyment and thus whether this book is more than just an acceptable reading experience.
Kelsey Wilson is the poor relation (even though she is rich) in a household of her uncle and aunt. Her cousin Emily is about to marry a man named Todd Dunworthy and Kelsey’s role is that of wedding planner. She has dreamt of owning her business and this wedding will shoot her over the top if it is successful. She has invested her time, her energy and many of her friends businesses on its outcome.
Emily is a model daughter except for one small incident: a threatened elopement with then bad-boy Connor McClane when she was only eighteen. Connor is coming back home for the wedding, leaving Kelsey with this assignment from her aunt of intercepting Connor and keeping him from ruining the wedding. Kelsey meets Connor at the airport and is struck by his physique and his looks. She is also intrigued by his statements. Connor is a PI and tells Kelsey that he has met Todd Dunworthy and his gut is telling him that there is something wrong – Todd is a control freak and Connor has suspicions that he may be an abuser or worse, someone who will make Emily miserable because all he wants is her money.
So Kelsey and Connor enter into an uneasy alliance to try to find out the truth with a little over two weeks to figure it out. This alliance, of course brings them into continual contact. When two people are fighting an attraction, it also brings a lot of sexual and relationship tension. Connor is determined to prove that Todd is a scumbag and Kelsey doesn’t know what to think but she has so much invested in the wedding, she struggles with helping Connor try to stop it. She tries to talk to Emily, but receives mixed messages about her willingness to marry.
Connor feels inferior to all the Wilsons because of his past. He actually took the money Emily’s dad offered him to get out of town, but only to help other friends invest in their restaurant. He is fearful that Emily and Kelsey will find out and thus lose their respect. Kelsey’s problems of low self-esteem come from her mother’s history. Kelsey’s mother tried to marry a man well beneath the Wilsons on the social scale. When he took the money and ran after leaving Kelsey’s mom pregnant, she was disinherited and had to survive on her own. She raised Kelsey to believe that men were not trustworthy and that it was the “Wilson women against the world.”
So Connor and Kelsey connect and this leads to romance, but not without many bumps along the way. Neither has anything to be ashamed of, yet they struggle to get past it. Kelsey hated the fact that her dad took the money and ran, leaving her mother alone. The fact that Connor took money from her uncle was telegraphed throughout the book as a secret that would cause conflict when it was discovered. It is resolved in a very predictable manner. Other situations that were a bit off were things like Kelsey planning Emily’s wedding with little input from Emily. Emily is a wimp, making it hard to worry about her choice of husbands and making it hard to believe Kelsey’s devotion to her. The Wilson parents are one dimensional throughout much of the book. The author then transforms them and asks the reader to believe in the transformation.
Once Upon a Wedding tries to be a fairy tale happily-ever-after story. Instead, Connelly dishes up a mixed bag, asking the reader to believe in many incongruities.