Review | The Wedding Date, Jasmine Guillory

33815781As the chief of staff of Berkley’s mayor, Alexa Monroe lives her life by the rules. So when she’s stuck in a hotel elevator with a hot guy, she’s surprised to find herself agreeing to go to a wedding with him that weekend. Drew is in town for his ex-girlfriend’s wedding, he’d lied about having a new girlfriend and his date had cancelled on him last minute, so on the one hand, it’s really her good deed of the year. Yet on the other hand, Alexa has to admit Drew Nichols is hot, and she’d love to see a lot more of him. The wedding weekend turns out better than expected, and to Alexa and Drew’s surprise, they find themselves finding excuses to hang out every weekend afterwards.

The Wedding Date is such a fun and entertaining romance. It’s in the vein of many romantic comedies — fake date turned true love — and is a great example of why this trope is so popular. The chemistry between Alexa and Drew crackles from the moment they notice each other in the elevator. I love the realism in the initial awkwardness of their fake coupledom, as they’re pretending to know each other much better than they actually do, and I love the real attraction just sizzling beneath their cover story.

Both Alexa and Drew take turns narrating the story, which is a device that so often goes wrong, but in this case works wonderfully. As far as they both know, the other is interested only in a short-term fling, but because we see both their perspectives, we know how they’re both slowly falling in love with each other despite their best efforts to convince themselves otherwise.

I also enjoyed the subplots about both characters’ careers. Alexa is chief of staff to the mayor of Berkley, and she’s advocating for her boss and city council to support an arts program for at-risk youth. It’s a project with personal significance to her and I love how supportive and excited Drew is about her work, even before their relationship even got off the ground. Drew in turn is a paediatric surgeon in LA, which is really a romance hero profession straight out of a Harlequin novel. But what I really love is a scene when Alexa goes with him to check on one of his patients, and ends up bonding with the child’s mother by offering to connect her to some valuable resources like victim’s advocates and financial aid. I love how both characters have high-powered jobs that they love, but more importantly, and they both find a fit with each other’s world even on a professional level.

Finally and probably most significantly for me, I love how realistic Guillory’s depiction of an interracial romance is, and how she centres our point of view on this primarily from the perspective of her Black heroine. Often, authors signal that a character is non-white by mentioning their skin colour, but in this book, Guillory starts by having Alexa notice Drew in the elevator as a white man. This twigs the reader on to the realization that Alexa herself isn’t white, and more importantly, removes the idea of white-ness being the default. Alexa refers to her own skin colour in the next scene when, in a conversation with her sister about dying her hair blond, she says she may have the same skin colour as Beyonce, but that doesn’t mean she can pull off blond hair. Again, comparing herself to Beyonce not only lets the reader know she’s Black, but gives us a concrete idea of her skin colour.

Later, Alexa asks Drew if she’ll be the only Black person at the wedding. Drew is taken aback and admits he never really noticed, but yes she will be. He’s horrified at his admission, and Alexa lets him off the hook by saying she doesn’t mind, she only wants to be prepared. And Drew actually learns: later, on their way to another event, he awkwardly tells her there will be some Black people at the event, which Alexa then appreciates because even when she enters as the only Black person in the room, she knows she won’t be the only one for the entire evening.

Throughout, we see Drew’s friends through Alexa’s eyes, mostly through her self-consciousness that his female friends all seem blond and slim, and they’re wearing dresses that won’t at all suit her curvier figure. I can relate so much to this experience of walking into an event and realizing I’m either the only person of colour in the room or one of a bare handful. I can also relate to the experience of being curvier than many people in the room, and of seeing dresses that were designed for slim frames. I can only imagine how Alexa must feel when all of your boyfriend’s exes (and there are a lot) fit a certain type, and you’re the only one who doesn’t fit the mould.

Finally, there’s a cringe-worthy moment where a man asks Alexa where she’s “really from” and not accepting her answer that she’s from Berkley. Again, this scene feels taken straight out of my life, and I could very much relate to Alexa’s emotions as she knows exactly what the man is after, refuses to give it to him and still has to deal with his stubbornness in continuing to ask. I can feel her struggle to shut the conversation down while still remaining polite, and I love how Drew stepped in to rescue her and — more importantly — immediately believed her when she said the guy was being offensive.

I absolutely adored Alexa and Drew and The Wedding Date. It’s a fantastic romantic comedy for February and I especially love how real Alexa’s and Drew’s perspectives felt. Also, how beautiful is that cover design (by Vikki Chu)?

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Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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