The Bride Wore Chocolate
by Shirley Jump, contemporary (2004)
Zebra, $5.99, ISBN 0-8217-7691-6


While the storyline of The Bride Wore Chocolate won't be winning any awards for originality anytime soon, what makes this book stand out is Ms Jump's fantastic way with secondary characters who manage to be funny and meddlesome without being intrusive or in-your-face annoying. Also, be warned that this book is liberally flooded with chocolates described in vivid and mouth-watering detail. People on a diet best brace - or gird - themselves before reading this book.

Candace "Candy" Woodrow's wedding plans are turning into a nightmare. The priest has run away with the church secretary, for one. The labels are starting to peel on the wedding invitations. Then the DJ suffers a cardiac arrest. The coup d'grace is her beautiful wedding dress catching fire (actually, the entire bridal shop catches fire). While all these signs would point towards the fact that maybe the wedding isn't meant to be, Candy is determined nonetheless to marry boring Barry Borkenstein. Even if the man who is her soul-mate, Michael Volgers, is trying his best to knock on her door and let her know that she should let him come in.

Candy is marrying Barry because she has been hurt before and she now will marry a boring man she feels no sparks for because she will be safe, yadda yadda yadda, she will not be like her colorful mother, wah wah wah, someone please take the violin and smash it over her head, thanks. The biggest problem of this story is waiting for the heroine to come to her senses and in the meantime, she can grate on the nerves considerably. On the other hand, Michael is a romantic charmer and Candy's wacky grandmother steals the scene.

What makes this book work very well for me is that, to me, Ms Jump manages to create something magical here. Yes, the story is trite, the heroine is annoyingly recalcitrant and deserves a hard kick on her behind, but the hero is an unapologetic hunky package of romantic sentiments that can send me into a swoon. There is a nicely-done romantic atmosphere here, from the chocolates to the wedding dress, to the point that I feel as if I'm transported into some magical world where it is okay for people to profess their love spontaneously without having to fear cynicism. While I am normally a cynical person who cringe at too-sentimental songs, movies, or books, I find myself melting like an M&M to the charms of this book. It's romantic. It's dreamy. If the heroine will just bug off, it will be perfect.

As long as Ms Jump keeps weaving this magic of hers in her books, I suspect that I will be coming back again and again for more.

Rating: 79


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