Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

Better Off Wed: An Annabelle Archer Mystery

Better Off Wed: An Annabelle Archer Mystery

4.1 7
by Laura Durham

See All Formats & Editions

The murder of a particularly difficult mother-of-the-bride has cast a pall on wedding planner Annabelle Archer's latest triumph -- and suspicion falls heavily on her sometime-business partner and friend Richard Gerard. Annabelle knows that even her trusted wedding emergency kit won't be able to salvage their careers if she and Richard can't find the real


The murder of a particularly difficult mother-of-the-bride has cast a pall on wedding planner Annabelle Archer's latest triumph -- and suspicion falls heavily on her sometime-business partner and friend Richard Gerard. Annabelle knows that even her trusted wedding emergency kit won't be able to salvage their careers if she and Richard can't find the real culprit.

It's no easy task since the slain matron was perhaps the most hated socialite in D.C., but Annabelle navigates through the city's colorful wedding industry and powerful social scene on the deadly trail of a killer. Always the bridal consultant and never the bride, she's seen her fair share of bouquet tosses. But there's no telling what surprises a ruthless killer will throw her way if she gets too close.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Annabelle Archer Mysteries , #1
Sold by:
Sales rank:
File size:
515 KB

Read an Excerpt

Better Off Wed Chapter One

Planning a wedding can be murder. Planning weddings for a living is nothing short of suicide.

"Is there a patron saint for wedding consultants? Because I think after this wedding, I just might meet the requirements." I stood near the top of the wide marble staircase that swept down the middle of the Corcoran Gallery of Art's central foyer. Below me, dozens of tuxedo-clad waiters scurried around the enormous hall filled end to end with tables and gold ladder-backed chairs. After having draped ivory chiffon into swags on all forty tables, I massaged the red indentations left on my fingers by the heavy pins.

"Annabelle, darling, I may be a lapsed Catholic, but I'm pretty sure you have to be dead to qualify for sainthood." Richard Gerard has been one of my closest friends since I arrived in Washington, D.C. three years ago and started "Wedding Belles." At the time, he'd been the only top caterer who'd bother talking to a new wedding planner. Now I worked with him almost exclusively.

"The wedding isn't over yet."

"At least your suffering hasn't been in vain." Richard motioned at the room below us. "It's divine."

The museum's enormous hall did look magical. The side railings of the staircase were draped with a floral garland, leading to a pair of enormous white rose topiaries flanking the bottom of the stairs. Amber light washed each of the three-story limestone columns bordering the room, and white organza hung from the ceiling, creating sheer curtains that were tied back at each column with clusters of ivory roses.

"I just hope the MOB is happy." My smile disappeared as I thought of the Mother of the Bride, Mrs. Clara Pierce. I started down the stairs to double-check the tables.

"I don't think she does 'happy.' " Richard followed, his long legs catching up to me quickly.

"If I'd known she would make my life so miserable, I wouldn't have taken this wedding." I brushed a long, auburn strand of hair out of my face and tucked it back into my tight bun. I wore my hair up to make me look older and more experienced, but it didn't make me feel any different. I still got butterflies in my stomach at every wedding I planned.

"You must be kidding, darling." Richard lowered his voice as we reached the floor and a waiter walked past us. "This event is your ticket to all the big, society weddings."

"If society weddings mean more women like Mrs. Pierce, then I'm not interested." I leaned over the table closest to me and smoothed one of the organza bow napkin ties.

"Well, sure, she's been difficult ..." Richard came behind me and fluffed the bow back up.

"Difficult?" I narrowed my eyes at Richard and picked up another napkin. "I had to drive her fifteen-year-old, incontinent poodle to the church this afternoon."

"Her dog was a guest?"

"Not a guest. The ring bearer." I watched as Richard began to shake with laughter. "Turns out there wasn't enough room in the limousine for the wedding party and Muffles, so I got the honors."

"Look at the bright side." Richard ran a hand through his dark, choppy hair. "You're barely thirty, and you beat out all those older consultants for this wedding."

"Probably because I charge less than they do. The first thing I'm doing on Monday is raising my rates." I picked up an unlit votive candle, and Richard produced a long, butane lighter from his suit pocket.

"Then we're going shopping." Richard gave me the once-over and shook the flame of the lighter at me. "If I see you in one more pantsuit, I'm going to cry."

"But they're so practical for working." I looked down at my "lucky" navy blue suit. "Lucky" because the long jacket covered up the fact that I'd been eating way too much take-out. "And this one is silk."

"It's a blend." Richard shook his head as he rubbed the fabric of my jacket lapel between his fingers. "If you want to be an A-list wedding planner, then we're going to have to dress you like one."

"Fine. As long as you promise not to go overboard."

"When would I ever go overboard?" The spread col-lar of Richard's fuchsia and green Versace shirt peeked out from underneath his black four-button suit.

My eyes darted to his neck, and I cleared my throat.

"You don't like the shirt?" Richard extended his arm so I could see the French cuffs. "It looks just darling with my white linen suit. I'd have worn that tonight but I never wear white before Memorial Day."

"Thank God for small favors."

"Speaking of doing favors, I'm also going to take you to the makeup counter. What's the use of having great cheekbones if you don't accentuate them?"

"I appreciate the flattery, Richard, but I don't like to wear lots of makeup."

"No kidding." Richard studied my face. "I'm amazed you look half decent with that drugstore garbage. Imagine how great you'd look if you used a designer line."

"I'll think about it."

"It would be cruel to tease me." Richard formed his lips into a pout.

"If there's any teasing to be done, I should be the one to do it." My assistant, Kate, came down the staircase behind us, her high heels clicking on each step. Kate always wore heels to weddings to show off her legs and make her look taller. She said you never knew who you might see at a wedding, and I was pretty sure she didn't mean old family friends.

"How's it going upstairs?" Richard asked. The nearly four hundred guests were being served cocktails on the upper level of the museum, which overlooked the foyer.

"Well, the sushi chefs almost quit because Mrs. Pierce timed them and took notes on their presentation."

"That damn notebook again." I rubbed my temples with my index fingers ...

Better Off Wed. Copyright © by Laura Durham. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Laura Durham has been named Washington, D.C.'s top wedding planner for the past three years by Washingtonian magazine, has been featured in numerous national wedding magazines, and is the author of a wedding planning guide. After graduating from Duke University and stumbling into wedding planning nearly ten years ago, she's lost count of the number of weddings she's planned. So far, though, no one has been murdered at any of them. She is the author of two previous mysteries featuring Annabelle Archer: Better Off Wed, which won the Agatha Award for Best First Novel, and For Better or Hearse.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

Better Off Wed 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Rockport_rocker More than 1 year ago
Fun read. When the mother of the bride is murdered at a wedding,the wedding planner decides to investigate. She fears that her first big society wedding will remembered as the most disastrous reception in history. Although I thoroughly enjoyed the story and the characters, I could not figure out what Anabelle thought she would learn in most of her investigative efforts. The suspicions she followed did make sense but sometimes it seemed as if she thought information was going to magically appear or that someone was going to confess just because she was there. Of course this is a cozy mystery where an amateur is expected to stick her nose where it doesn't belong. I loved the main characters. At first I figured Richard was going to be the stereotypical sidekick and clown. He did provide some humorous moments but he showed more sense than anyone else. I still don't know if Kate's malapropisms are intentional or accidental misuse of common sayings. Leatrice, the 80 plus year old neighbor, was a delight and once again managed to miss falling into a stereotype. I look forward to reading more of this delightful series and seeing if a relationship develops between Anabelle the Detective Reese.
TheBookResort More than 1 year ago
One word... Depends®. Now that that little matter is mentioned I can continue on my merry way. " I just hope the MOB is happy". Goodness, Laura Durham is friggin' hilarious... or she is related to Lucille Ball. Either way Better Off Wed is a rip-roaring adventure. Yep, this chick knows her comedy like Joan Rivers knows plastic surgery & the Don knows hair pieces. Yeah, Laura is gifted w/ comedic timing & she knows where to deliver it in a book. Better Off Wed was given as gifts to anyone who wanted a good read. Which isn't always easy to find in a world filled w/ books w/ not much going on. Which is totally not eco cool. Memo! Please stop wasting paper on drivel! Better Off Wed is a tumultuous expedition in hilarity. Laura Durham is a real-life wedding planner who held nothing back penning Better Off Wed. Annabelle is charming, amusing & a sheer delight. Annabelle did not come from a ream of one dimensional amateur sleuths. Nope. Not even close. Annabelle owns "Wedding Belles" ~ love the name ~ & this is where the comedy & murder sprouts. Annabelle's friend Richard is wickedly uproarious! In a nutshell... strap on some Depends®!!! I was laughing so hard I thought I was losing it... okay, losing more of it. Durham does an excellent job pointing the finger @ everyone... but pulls the ultimate illusion making the culprit a surprise. Applause & a bouquet of a medium-bodied cabernet sauvignon for that delectable feat. Durham's Better Off Wed won the 2005 Agatha Award for Best First Novel. Not surprised! Read it & see for yourself. The characters are quirky ~ from Kate to yummy Detective Reese. Whoa! It's getting hot in here. Spicy! He's enough to make you want to hop an Amtrak to DC. The twists & turns keep you turning pages. It's a fast read & when you reach the last page you want to immediately grab For Better or Hearse Annabelle's 2nd wedding adventure. Oh, you better just order To Love and To Perish to round out the screaming romp you'll be having & the men in the white coats can be eco-friendly & make one trip = Q!
Kathleen Mann More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Annabelle Archer is a cross between Jennifer Lopez in 'The Wedding Planner' and Jessica Fletcher. Her sleuthing skills are a little unorthodoz, but that's what us amateur sleuths do. Her friend Richard is a force to be reconed with ans so easy to love because he relates so well to women. It was avery easy to feel you were in Washington DC. The mystery was quite curvey, taking twists and turns, making everyone a suspect. In the end it makes total sense, but what a surprise. I can't wait for the next installment to see what high society problem she runs into next. Will it be a mother creating the wedding she never had? Will it involve a debutante who mows everyone over to marry the best man? What about two companies competing for a client's selection at the wedding of the year? Only Laura knows, so stay tuned.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Thought your wedding was to die for? Annabelle Archer discovered THIS wedding was, at least for the mother of the bride. But when it comes to finding a suspect, it is like wading through a crowd. The victim has a mile long list of enemies! ................................. When Annabelle and her friend, Richard, become the prime suspects things get a little desperate. Follow Annabelle, Richard, and Kate (the assistant) try to solve this complex murder and put the real enemy behind bars. .............................. ***** I laughed all the way through this mystery novel! Would I recommend this to mystery fans? OH YEAH! The author keeps readers guessing, yet also provides some hilarious comedy scenes. This is an author to keep an eye on. *****