Bridal Favors
by Connie Brockway, historical (2002)
Dell, $6.99, ISBN 0-440-23674-6

Let's get this out of the way: Bridal Favors - is that what Victorians call an orgasm? - isn't the worst, but it isn't the most earthshattering Connie Brockway book in existence either. It's pleasant, but at the same time, I'm hard-pressed to remember anything about this book a few days after I've finished it. Why is this?

Well, this book doesn't seem to have any scenes between the hero Justin Powell and heroine Evelyn Cummings Whyte that actually resonate with any emotion or poignancy. They can be funny together, but I don't actually get any deep sparks between those two. The author seems more intent on being funny than being romantic, and Bridal Favors doesn't succeed in balancing poignancy with humor. Sure, our main characters don't have much baggages, but Connie Brockway definitely knows how it should be done, this balancing of humor and poignancy thing.

Or maybe it's the rambling prose that threatens to get out of hand, especially when Justin is in his "dandy mode" speak. I've received feedbacks from readers complaining that Connie Brockway sometimes write as if she has run amok with the thesaurus. I didn't see it in her previous books, but when Justin talks in this book, I see a giant hardcover edition of the Merriam-Webster thesaurus falling down from the sky onto hapless old me.

So, for a romance novel, this book is more than acceptable. For a Connie Brockway book, well, this is just okay.

Justin Powell, spy, nerd, ornithologist, inventor... something (I'm not too sure what exactly he does for the intelligence, to be honest) owes Evelyn White a favor. Ten years ago, 15-year old Evie catches Justin in the dark of the night at her home party sneaking out of his colleague's room. She believed that he was sneaking out of the room of his (very married) girlie, and assumed that he was a rake. Today, she still believes him to be a rake. So what if he doesn't act like it? A good rake is never caught, so therefore there won't be any gossips about him, right? Evie, you got me there. Stephanie Laurens and Nicole Jordan may want to talk to Evie a bit too.

Today, Evie's auntie has eloped with a Frenchie, leaving her catering business in Evie's not-at-all capable hands. Evie is aghast: she is a master strategist and planner, how could arranging simple things like weddings be so out of her ability? She won't accept that! She must not fail this latest wedding she is about to destroy, er, make beautiful!

First, she has to get Justin to agree on letting him use his ancestral crumbling abbey-turned-manor for the wedding site. Then she has to make sure that Justin doesn't do the tacky with any wedding guests. Then she may find some time to find a beau for herself, not Justin, definitely, maybe that nice (if strange) Ernst fellow living next door. But Justin keeps getting in the way. Drats.

I'm still trying to make sense about the spy angle. It happens like that - whoosh! - and I still have no idea what to make of it. Is that Connie Brockway I see in a white godly toga clinging on for dear life high up when the stage bringing her down from the stage roof tips over?

I really can't put a finger as to why I find Bridal Favors rather un-fun. Maybe it's because I don't really know who or what Justin is. I adore Evie - here is one romance heroine I certainly can't call stupid or braindead, and this is something worth rejoicing a million hallelujahs over - but her interactions with Justin never really gel together. They are funny together, but where's the deep exchanges, the melodramatic heart-thumping love causes fools to do? They act more like bratty kids trying to outdo each other rather than adults in love. The head-scratching conclusion to the spy-wedding thing makes me chuckle, but really, what was that all about?

Bridal Favors is readable and fun - I finished it in one afternoon, chuckling and giggling often - but it's more of a tasty snack than a hearty meal. Hopefully the next Bridal Season book will have some deeper emotional undercurrents running through and provide something meatier for me to sink my teeth into.

Oh, and one more thing? Please retire the matchmaking staff thing. This plot device is not just old, it's freaking ancient.

Rating: 80

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