After having just been visited by the local doctor for a fainting spell, Laura Middlebrook overhears a conversation between her brother, Lambdin, and his best friend which leads her to believe that she is dying and has very little time left to live. On the same day that Laura discovers this piece of news, Sean Wilder, a private investigator, visits Lambdin with the results of an investigation he has just completed for Lamb's father. Laura and Sean meet under rather strained circumstances, but nevertheless, there is a noticeable spark between them. After grieving for a couple of weeks about the state of her health, Laura decides to take matters into her own hands and live life to the fullest in the time she has left. Part of that plan includes experiencing marriage and adventures, and Sean Wilder suits her just fine on both counts. She goes to his office, and boldly proposes, offering him her entire considerable inheritance in exchange for marrying her and showing her a good time. Because of a past experience, Sean wants nothing to do with Laura's money. In spite of his initial misgivings though, he reluctantly accepts her proposal and finds himself married by the end of the day.
The Wilder Wedding had an interesting and unique premise, but in my opinion it did not live up to it's potential. After reading the back cover synopsis, I thought this book was going to be about a woman who thought she was dying, but wanted to live out the time she had left to the fullest. Although it was clear from the start that the heroine's belief that she was dying was simply a misunderstanding, I was expecting the hero and heroine to marry quickly and embark on some romantic adventures before finding out the truth about her health near the end. Well, they did marry quickly, a little too quickly in my opinion. The events of the first few chapters are thrown at the reader at such a fast pace, I didn't feel like I had time to get to know or even care about the characters before they were married and sailing off to Paris for a supposed honeymoon adventure. I'm not opposed to love at first sight stories, but this one somehow did not ring true for me. Aside from Sean's one small act of kindness toward Laura on the day they first met, readers are given little reason for her choosing him to become her temporary husband, and save for his supposed underlying sense of compassion, readers are given little reason for Sean accepting Laura's proposal, since he very clearly didn't want her money. Unfortunately, my belief that the supposed health crisis would take center stage was not the case. It wound up being little more than a weak plot device to get the hero and heroine to marry very quickly and then was used in much the same way to keep them from being physically intimate for a while. This sub-plot was resolved only halfway through the book with the rest of the story being about a terrible misunderstanding on Sean's part about some things Laura has told him and the mystery of a death threat against him.
In my opinion, this story was overburdened with a large number of standard romance sub-plots which I felt were put together in a haphazard fashion. I think that it would have been a better story if the author had stuck with a couple of these plot devices and delved into them more deeply, rather than cramming it with so many that were, in some cases, only cursorily explored. The story simply did not flow very well, and the pacing made me feel like I was on a roller coaster. As I mentioned earlier, there are points where the story moves so quickly that the reader can't really get a good grasp on the situations and other points where it moves so slowly that I was impatiently waiting for something to happen. Most of the time the narrative and characterizations felt forced instead of just flowing naturally. I felt like I would have had to stretch far beyond the limits of my imagination for this story to be believable. The misunderstanding that led Sean to believe that Laura had betrayed him was overblown in my opinion and belabored far too long. The mystery was not even terribly compelling because the author set up too many potential suspects without really leaving a trail of bread crumbs for the reader to follow. In my opinion, a good mystery not only sets up several suspects, but also drops clues throughout the story to hook the reader, so that they want to find the solution. If there were any real clues in this story, I was hard pressed to find them, and eventually found myself not really caring much who was making the death threats.
I generally liked both the hero and heroine, but found Sean to be a rather frustrating and inconsistent character. He made me feel like I was watching a tennis match. During the early part of the book, Sean was a rather dreamy hero, who was kind, caring and compassionate. That all changed in a heartbeat when he found out Laura was pregnant and what was, in my opinion, a silly misunderstanding ensued. At that point, he verbally lashed out at her, then started caring again, then lashed out again, with this dance continuing for the better part of the remaining chapters. I understand that he had a dark tortured past and that his first wife had betrayed him in a terrible way, both of which caused him to be insecure and feel a need for control, but he became so stubborn about the whole thing that this part of the story simply frustrated me to no end. I think part of the problem with the character of Sean was that the author never really took his emotions beyond the surface. He would have been a much fuller character and his actions would have held more weight if his emotions over his very deep past hurts had been more fully explored. I also found him to be an inconsistent character, because we begin the story with the knowledge that Sean is a former soldier, former Scotland Yard detective, and now private investigator, and later discover that he is an art expert and passable artist as well. I can understand a character who has a side hobby, but Sean seemed to have two completely opposing personas. I can say, that if the reader is able to muddle through the maze of his over-broad characterization, at his core, Sean is a pretty decent person. Except for her refusal to communicate during the latter chapters which was darn near infuriating to me, Laura was pretty consistent throughout the entire story. She never really changed from the first page except for becoming even more vibrant during the time that she thought she was dying. Considering how contradictory Sean was, this was generally a good thing, but it also meant that Laura never grew or changed in any way throughout the story. I think her character would also have benefited from having been given more depth. As far as secondary characters, other than Sean's friend Dr. Campion, most are given only brief scenes that don't add a great deal to the story. The only other exception would be Sean's mother and her long-time friend, Byron, who though they were also seen only briefly, added more story value that any other supporting characters in the book.
Other than having a general liking for both of the main characters and a couple of secondary characters, the only other thing that I particularly enjoyed in the story was the time Sean and Laura spent in Paris. During that time they were happy and lighthearted in spite of her supposed illness, and they experienced some truly romantic moments there. The setting of the Parisian underground and the nightlife of Montmartre was also interesting. I haven't read this setting in other romance novels before, and thought it would have been nice if the author had expanded on it in a little more detail. The Wilder Wedding is one of Ms. Stone's earlier books, so perhaps she hadn't fully developed her writing skills yet. It was also the first book authored by her that I have read, and as such I will try to keep an open mind if I come across other works by her in the future. Readers who are looking for a simple, easy read and don't mind standard soap opera plotting may be able to enjoy this book, as could those with a preference for love at first sight stories. I, however, was never really able to fully immerse myself in the story and found it to be rather a bit of a chore to finish.
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