The Nine Month Plan

 
Bride Needs Groom
by Wendy Markham
(Warner, $6.50, PG) ISBN 0-446-614548
***
When it comes to Wendy Markham’s Bride Needs Groom, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that the last third of the story is quite strong. The bad news is that you have to read through the first part of the book to get there. You’ll have to decide whether it’s worth the effort.

Mia Calogera needs a husband. The beloved grandfather who raised Mia has threatened to disinherit her if she isn’t married by his 85th birthday. Since that date is approaching quickly, Mia is frantic to find a husband. She meets a man online, explains her situation, and agrees to meet him in Las Vegas and get married.

However, on the plane ride to Las Vegas, she meets Dominic Chickalini, who like Mia, lives in New York. A longtime bachelor who is determined to stay that way, Dominic is going to Las Vegas on business when he meets Mia, who is wearing a wedding dress. They spend the trip talking, and she confides her reasons for marrying to him.

Dominic and Mia are immediately struck by their attraction to each other. By the time the plane lands, Dominic realizes that he might have found the woman who can change his mind about marriage, and Mia decides she can’t marry the man she came to Las Vegas to marry.

The first part of the story doesn’t quite work for one simple reason: the love-at-first-sight scenario isn’t convincing. Readers are expected to believe that this couple falls in love —or something that could grow into love — during the flight. Unfortunately, there’s not enough in the story to support it. Mia and Dominic talk, they make judgments about the other, they share a kiss. It just doesn’t seem like the basis of a lasting relationship.

Dominic and Mia return to New York and have to deal with the effects of everyday life on their relationship. It’s at this point that the story becomes interesting, and Markham’s story about two married people who have ambivalence about their marriage yet still want to make it work is a compelling one. However, it takes more than 200 pages for the story to get to this point. If I hadn’t been reviewing this book, I wouldn’t have made it this far.

Readers might feel distanced by the storytelling — Markham chooses to tell Mia and Dominic’s story in third-person present tense. Here’s an excerpt to illustrate:

“Excuse me,” a voice asks, and she looks up to see a cuddly couple dressed in a bridal gown and tux.

“Yes?” Mia asks, knowing what’s coming because it’s been happening to her pretty much from the moment she arrived.

“Do you know which way we go to find the wedding chapel?”

She points them in the right direction with what she hopes is a not-too-hollow-sounding congratulations.

If you don’t find Dom, she thinks wryly, you can always lead paid, guided tours of this place.

This unique point-of-view took some time to get used to, and some readers may have a difficult time with it.

I was ultimately glad I read Bride Needs Groom, but I enjoyed the last part of the story rather than the book as a whole.

--Alyssa Hurzeler


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