August 17th, 2014

new romantic.

Review: A Wedding in Provence by Ellen Sussman

A Wedding in Provence
by Ellen Sussman

Hoping for a quiet, intimate wedding surrounded by their closest friends and family, mid-life sweethearts Olivia and Brody are enchanted with the beauty of Provence. But soon after their arrival, trouble brews when the owner of their inn – Olivia’s best friend Emily – learns that her husband cheated on her with another woman. This calamity is followed by the revelation that Olivia’s eldest daughter Nell has brought an unannounced companion with her, the man who sat next to her on the airplane to France, a stranger whose only connection to Nell is a strong sexual attraction. Younger daughter Carly is the next to arrive, sans beau, when her Silicon Valley boyfriend couldn’t get time off work to make the trip to France. As her guests stew over their unsuccessful romances, Olivia’s fretting over her own impending nuptials kicks into high gear.

I picked up a copy of this book, knowing that it was not my usual fare, because it was my store’s Book Club title for August. It really wasn’t for me.

The plot is a soap opera. Every guest at this wedding is having some sort of issue in the romance department. The best friend’s husband cheated, one daughter’s too promiscuous while the other is stuck in a dead relationship with a workaholic. One woman’s husband left her. The best man is a lifelong bachelor who can’t commit to any one woman. Sounds like a mess, right? It is. It seems like no one is at the wedding to celebrate the love between Olivia and Brody – no, everyone is just trying to escape their own problems in magical Provence.

Yet, despite this miasma of negativity, the power of Love and last-minute revelations ensures that all stories find suitably happy endings, with all loose ends neatly tied up, by the final page. It’s tidy, it’s clean, and goodness is it predictable.

This is a book in which not much happens. The majority of the action takes place at a rustic Provencal inn, and while a few characters go out on a kayaking excursion and a few others explore an attractive little French town, most of the story revolves around eating, sleeping, and having sex, intermingled with arguments between family members. Perhaps in the hands of a different writer, these scenes could have been made more interesting, but Sussman’s prosaic style did nothing to elevate the dull moments that are always eliminated from the Facebook version of a dream vacation.

I will say this for A Wedding in Provence - it reads very quickly and smoothly. It may have bored me nearly to tears, but I know a lot of older women (my mother, for one) who love stories like this. The romance and the happy ending, driven by character conflict, are just what they want in a summer beach read.

2 out of 5 stars

To read more about A Wedding in Provence, buy it or add it to your wishlist click here.

Peeking into the in:
2013: The Vast Unknown by Broughton Coburn
2012: Giveaway: The Second Empress by Michelle Moran
2011: The Last Days of the Incas by Kim McQuarrie
2010: News: Press “Pause” on the Piranha
2009: Ashland 2009: All's Well That Ends Well by William Shakespeare
2008: Update on Neil Gaiman contest + author interview