Williams's infectious romp shows what happens just before a woman surrenders to respectable adulthood-nerve-jangling regret set to the tune of a loudly ticking biological clock. Magazine designer Stevie, 34, is poised to marry boyish and vulnerable Jez. Stevie is both excited and worried she's making the wrong choice when Sam, a photographer she's had a thing for since art school, shows up. But she gets hitched anyway and spends a hilariously horrid honeymoon in Thailand trying to ignore her incompatibility with Jez and avoiding London hipsters Seb and Katy-particularly Katy, who has a history with Stevie and, suddenly, the full attention of Jez. Every couple in the book seems mismatched, and as Sam lingers and serial-dating pal Lara turns a couple of heads, marriage-shaking trouble is in the offing. Williams (Yummy Mummy) fills the book with sharp lines and sharper summations of her characters' ever-changing states of affairs. The novel packs a lot of laughs and delivers a snazzy payoff in the last chapter. Take this one to the beach. (June)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
A Bad Bride's Taleby Polly Williams
The author of The Yummy Mummy returns with a sparkling, hilarious look at what happens when you meet the wrong man at the right time.
Two weeks before her wedding, Stevie Jonson, a successful graphic designer in her mid-thirties, has got serious jitters. Is she finally growing up, or compromising horribly? In love or in denial? By the time Stevie steps/em>… See more details below
The author of The Yummy Mummy returns with a sparkling, hilarious look at what happens when you meet the wrong man at the right time.
Two weeks before her wedding, Stevie Jonson, a successful graphic designer in her mid-thirties, has got serious jitters. Is she finally growing up, or compromising horribly? In love or in denial? By the time Stevie steps into her 1930s vintage wedding dress for the last fitting, her life is coming apart at the seams. Her best friend, Lara, is moving to New York City, fulfilling Stevie's long-held dream of moving there herself; her parents' marriage is heading for the rocks; her teenage crush (The One That Got Away) is back in town, a reminder of everything her fiancé isn't; and that niggling little voice in her head is getting louder all the time. As the clock ticks, a shocking secret threatens to bring Stevie's future crashing down around her.
A Bad Bride's Tale is a grown-up love story about marrying, mating, compromising . . . and how love doesn't have a timetable.
Stevie Jonson has everything a girl's supposed to hope for-she's got a career that she loves as a graphic designer, and she's about to get married. So what if Stevie worries that she's just settling, not settling down? She's also got this nagging feeling that there are still things unsaid with an old friend who's about to move halfway around the world and whom she's just fixed up with her best friend, Lara. Brushing off her doubts as last-minute wedding jitters, Stevie runs into problems on her honeymoon with Jez in Thailand, where they bump into another old acquaintance, the man-eating Katy, and her boyfriend, Seb. Soon, Stevie senses undercurrents of misjudgment between her and Jez, and sexual tension among the four drives the blushing bride to the cold realization that maybe her marriage really was a mistake. This ensemble romance is a strong follow-up to Williams's The Yummy Mummy. Likable characters, funny dialog, and the vicarious pleasure of an exotic setting propel a sometimes predictable plot with an ultimately satisfying ending. Fans of British women's fiction will enjoy; recommended for all public libraries.
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Read an ExcerptA BAD BRIDE'S TALE
By Polly Williams
HYPERION Copyright © 2008 Polly Williams
All right reserved.
Chapter One STEVIE JONSON SWITCHED ON HER LAPTOP. WOBBLING on the shelf of her bent knee, it washed her round, pale face with green light, leaving the rest of the bedroom in darkness. It was 1:23 A.M. She knew what would happen if she shut her eyes. Her wedding-since midnight, only thirteen days, fourteen hours away-had assumed a voice of its own and it was a voice that grew louder as her head sank toward her pillow, whispering questions about monogamy and seating plans, and humming an unbearable rotation of late-eighties disco classics. It hung above her head like a shadow made from thousands of tiny black question marks. She hadn't slept properly for days. Unable to face another night of insomnia, Stevie decided to push her tiredness to the limits and stay up as long as possible. This way she would surely fall asleep eventually, her exhaustion the stones in her pockets that would plunge her into mercifully blank depths.
In the meantime, alcohol would help. She leaned over to the side of her bed, picked up the glass from the side table, and took the last gulp of gritty red wine. Feeling fortified, she checked her e-mails. Nothing interesting. She foraged among eBay's handbags. Nothing interesting. She clicked on an intriguing site she'd bookmarked earlier that week. "Work Out Your Real Biological Age in Ten Minutes." Possibly amusing. The health interrogation took forever. Finally, she ticked the last box. She stabbed the Enter key. The modem whirred. The website did its math. Her biological age was ... thirty-seven. Oh. Not so amusing. Stevie was thirty-four years old.
She slumped heavily on the pillows, pushing them down into the dark, drafty gap between bed and wall. Blasted computer. She now felt older than thirty-seven. She felt forty-seven. No, eighty-seven. She was mortal. She was going to die, probably prematurely. She attempted to figure out what she'd done so wrong. It was like trying to recall drunken antics at a party the morning after. Okay. She'd been partial to a Marlboro Light in her twenties, but hadn't everyone? Skinny jeans weren't an option, but she certainly wasn't obese, a size 12 or 14, depending on the shop and the season. She didn't bake: There was little incentive when the sun just gave her more freckles. So why did she need a preservation order? Stevie sucked in her breath, locking it in her throat as she read. Okay. Aunt Sue's breast cancer; grandfather's midlife stroke; caffeine and sugar intake; aversion to gyms; irregular flossing. Oh, and the fact that she hadn't breastfed a baby. Funny, that.
Stevie slapped the laptop lid down hard. Biology was blunt, tactless. And it was beginning to seriously piss her off. Only last month, her GP, forgetting his bedside manner during a routine contraceptive assessment, dryly informed her that at "her age" (antique, obviously), she should perhaps be more concerned about declining fertility than avoiding conception. As if childlessness was a "lifestyle choice," as opposed to the way life turned out. In response, she'd shrugged like a defiant schoolgirl and, in her eagerness to leave the clinic's steely statistics, snatched her contraceptive prescription renewal out of the doctor's scrubbed-pink hands, their fingers touching fleetingly. With cruel synchronicity, that night she'd found her first gray hair, pale and curly as an alfalfa sprout.
Chapter Two "SLEPT WELL?" POPPY WHOOSHED BACK THE BALDING velvet blue curtain, creating a ballet of dust particles.
Stevie squinted as daylight flooded the bedroom. "No." She smiled sleepily at her younger sister, pregnant and already mother of two children under five. "I don't expect sympathy." Yawning, she clambered out of bed, one bare foot, then the other, softly slapping the gnarled pine floorboards. At the sink, she splashed cold water on her face and inspected her reflection in the round, toothpaste-speckled mirror: a pillow mark bisected her left cheek like a scar; tired, pollen-brown eyes; hair fuzzy with the static of sleep and dreams. In fact, she looked as if she had been on some kind of adventure during the night and had just managed to scramble back to bed before dawn. In a way, she had, she thought, patting her face dry with a towel, wishing she could shake the remnants of last night's dream from her head like water.
It was a recurring, unsettling dream, which had woken her up with a start a few seconds before Poppy had pulled back the curtains. It hadn't involved the wedding or even the website. It had involved Jez's lip. In particular, the way his upper lip got stuck to his front teeth first thing in the morning. He'd smile and the lip would stretch and pale. It ignited a disproportionate reaction in her, making her flinch away as if assaulted by a particularly fetid blast of breath. And now the lip seemed to have penetrated her subconscious. When had she first started noticing the lip? Four or five months ago, possibly. Had the lip always stuck to the tooth? It seemed rather unlikely that this was a new phenomenon. Relationships are destroyed by details. Could the lip be the tipping point?
"A brew. Sorry, no other drinking vessels available." Poppy placed a large steaming mug on the pile of yellowing paperbacks next to Stevie's bed. The mug was one of their mother's old favorites, wrapped in a quote by Rebecca West: "I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat." It was a mug that usually made the sisters roll their eyes-they had yet to encounter a woman less like a doormat than their mother-but Stevie was too tired for sisterly collusion today.
"Thanks, Poppy." Stevie took the mug, aware that her sister was far more deserving of tea in bed. She walked back to the bed, sat down, and sipped the tea, feeling the too-hot sip burn its way down her throat and tunnel deep inside to where anxieties churned. She rubbed her eyes. "I feel like how I look, Pops."
"Oh, don't worry. Weddings wreak havoc with one's beauty sleep," Poppy said, leaning into the radiator, pressing her bottom into its warm ridges. "I was a right case before mine, do you remember?"
"Insufferable." Stevie smiled, pushing the hedge of wavy brown hair away from her face. "But at least you were organized."
"Retentive, you mean? Oh, I accept that." Poppy laughed, peering out of the sash window into her parents' garden, her belly pressing against the cold glass, a ring of condensation misting its circumference.
Stevie gazed fondly at her sister, who looked more fecund than ever this morning, her cheeks rhubarb-pink, her pregnant belly high and round beneath her crisp white Boden nightie, like a large pudding bowl under her skin. She looked so happy, so light, almost airy despite her girth. Poppy was never happier than when she was pregnant. And it suited her. Stevie was certain that when she was eighty she'd be able to remember her sister exactly as she was now-flip the image up like a favorite old photo-and immediately transport back to this morning at her parents' house, the air thick with pre-wedding tension and the smell of burning toast. "Poppy, sorry if I sound a bit neurotic, but does my wedding have the air of disaster to you?" she appealed to her sister for reassurance. "A fairground crash in slow motion?"
"No!" Poppy laughed, twisting her milkmaid-blond hair over one shoulder. "Don't worry about all the details. Mum's in control."
"Exactly." But Stevie knew she had to take responsibility. She'd shirked too many of the preparatory nuptial duties and taken up her mother's offers of help fully aware of the risks. For the last six months, she'd felt unexpectedly dislocated from the experience. Sometimes it felt like the whole bride thing was happening to someone else.
"You know, what I didn't realize," said Poppy thoughtfully, plaiting her hair loosely with slim, tanned fingers, the pea-sized diamond on her engagement ring projecting rainbow rhomboids against the white bedroom wall. "... is that the interesting stuff happens after the wedding." She looked up from her plait and grinned. "Here's to you getting up the duff."
Stevie raised her mother's mug in a mock cheers. Not for the first time, part of her wished the roles were reversed, as if she'd upset the natural sibling order in some way. It would be nice to occasionally be in the position of dispensing sage womanly advice to her younger sister.
"When are you going off the pill?" pursued Poppy, circling her belly with a flat palm that didn't indent the flesh in any way, suggesting it was hard as a rock. She never flinched from asking her sister the most personal questions.
"Imminently. Jez is keen to populate the planet as soon as possible." Fully awake now that the hot dark tea had kicked in, Stevie recalled the website's conclusion about her age. "Don't look so excited, Poppy, I'm bound to take decades to conceive."
"Oh, rubbish! Piers barely had to touch me."
"You were twenty-six."
In hindsight, although it had seemed a rather dull choice at the time, Poppy had done the sensible thing. She had eschewed the creative vanities of publishing and PR and gone to work in a male-dominated industry at a city accounting firm, much to her mother's incomprehension, where, at the age of twenty-three, she'd swiftly met the handsome, dependable corporate lawyer Piers. They'd married two years later, in clouds of white pleated chiffon, at Piers's family's church outside Winchester. The wedding breakfast, held at Piers's parents' large country house-geographically, just outside her mother's influence, thus allowing Poppy to organize her day without the intrusion of incense sticks or lentils-involved salmon, a chocolate fondue, and two hundred guests, not one of whom did Stevie manage to snog because, even back then, they were all-bar the odd, bald, and boring-in couples. Poppy's first child, Sophie, darling in every way, was conceived on the Tuscan honeymoon four-poster. Finn came along exactly two years later, as planned. And now there was another Fitzpatrick kicking his heels in Poppy's womb, another perfectly timed sibling.
Stevie tried very hard not to be jealous. She was not always successful. But she consoled herself that fulfillment couldn't have happened to a nicer person. And Poppy and Piers were exactly the kind of people-socially responsible, intelligent, and solvent-that should reproduce. They deserved a government subsidy. Well-behaved and charming, the Fitzpatrick children had inherited Poppy's benign temperament, the same sane sky-blue eyes, unsullied by any disappointment, so unlike her own odd yellow-brown ones, which her father always said "were far too knowing," and used to get her into trouble at school for "insolence."
"I'm afraid the mug of tea came with an ulterior motive, Stev. Would you do me a favor?" Poppy gave her prettiest smile. It made her look about fifteen years old. "We're attempting a tantrum-free trip to the natural history museum. I'd kill for a shower first so I don't get mistaken for a lump of prehistoric taxidermy. Would you mind shepherding Finn for a sec?"
"Seems like a fair exchange for a cup of tea."
Piers poked his head into the room. A tall and tubby thirty-something in pale Gap jeans, he sported the kind of inoffensive English good looks advertisers used to sell bran-based breakfast cereals. "Poppy, can we make a move, darling? Please." He tapped his chunky diving watch. "I'll see you downstairs in ten?"
"Sure, sure." Poppy scanned the room. "Where the devil is he? Finn!" A toddler was on the loose.
"The artist in residence." Stevie laughed and nodded toward the hall, which Finn was creatively redecorating with orange crayon.
"Christ." Not seeing the humor, Poppy lurched toward her two-year-old and scooped him up. Finn's stout fat legs-half baby and half boy-kicked, rigid with defiant energy. She took the crayon. "Go sit with Aunt Stevie, darling."
Stevie tried not to feel hurt. He was two, for God's sake. It didn't count as rejection.
Then Finn spotted his aunt's laptop wedged between bed and wall, where she'd let it slump when she'd fallen asleep. It was blinking irresistibly, a call to mischief. He waddled to the bed. "Wanna."
"Here, Finnballs, sweetie." Stevie pulled back the bedcovers-covers she'd had since she was twelve years old, the color beaten out of the patchwork by her mother's accidental boiling washes. Like a security blanket, she slept better under this ratty bit of faded cotton than any of her own crunchy White Company sheets back home at the Bayswater flat she shared with Jez. As the sun beamed dusty rays against her face, she suddenly felt very glad she'd come back to her parents' for the weekend to finalize the wedding plans. It was nicely cyclical somehow. Finn dug under the duvet and reached up to the laptop prize, releasing a condensed-milk smell from the folds of his Power Ranger pajamas.
"Step away from the technology." Stevie swiped the computer out of his reach and ruffled his curls. Thwarted, Finn sulkily picked at the bedroom wall, digging his fingernails into buttons of Fun-Tak, old curly edged school photos, a starburst of peeling Wham! stickers, and a hard, ancient pink Hubba Bubba globule that she'd stuck there during a teenage sulk sometime in the late eighties.
"Make sure he doesn't jump that stair gate, won't you?" Poppy shouted behind her as she clattered downstairs. "And watch the window that doesn't lock ..."
Finn listened warily to his mother's retreating footsteps. He stamped a salivary finger on an old dappled school photograph. "Aunty Stevie."
"Yes, that's me! About a hundred years ago. Very well spotted." She kissed his head and stared at the photo. Yes, she was an awkward-looking teenager, with not nearly enough confidence to inhabit that chunky, "big boned" body. Over the years, she had pummeled her figure into better shape with gym classes, lifting her flat, rather square bottom half an inch and further cinching in her fifties-housewife waist. But the photo caught her stocky teenage silhouette, the one hardwired into her self-esteem at the impressionable age of fifteen in chilly school gym locker rooms and bacteria-infested municipal pools. In her own mind, no matter how slim she got, she'd always be the girl at school boys teasingly called "pudding." And she was still grateful for her fiancé: strawberry-blond hair, warmhearted, colorful, and handsome, even if he had recently acquired a tummy that jiggled on his middle like an underdone poached egg.
"Stevie. Wedding," said Finn solemnly, as if assimilating the news for the first time.
The word "wedding" was destabilizing. Stevie felt herself tense up.
Finn looked up, blue eyes wide and unblinking. "Want cake."
She smiled. "I would feed you meringues for breakfast if I had any in the near vicinity. But I haven't. Cake, later."
"Later," parroted Finn, a little sadly, as if "later" was forever away. "Wedding, later."
Stevie bit off a branching split end of hair-recently missed by her hairdresser-and, in a disciplined fashion, tried to conjure up the proposal, to compensate for the unsettling and wholly inappropriate feelings of negativity.
She closed her eyes. April. Friday night. Jez had spent the majority of that day with his father playing golf. When she'd met him, about 6:00 P.M., he'd looked unusually flushed, and insisted on taking her to dinner at the Wolseley. By that point, she realized now, their relationship had needed good restaurants, theater, cinema, or external drama of some kind, because it had hit a plateau, the initial moving-in-together excitement had faded. They'd become comfortable, maybe too comfortable. They knew how to make each other laugh, exactly how browned the other liked their toast. She knew every whorl of hair on the back of his neck, every bump of his spine, the exact places he liked to be kissed. There were few surprises, few departures from what had already pleasantly been. By that April, only the future remained unlabeled and uncertain.
Excerpted from A BAD BRIDE'S TALE by Polly Williams Copyright © 2008 by Polly Williams. Excerpted by permission.
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