Wedding Belles

Wedding Belles

3.7 14
by Haywood Smith

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This frank, funny, and fabulous novel fearlessly takes on mothers and daughters, wedding madness, and midlife passion.  See more details below


This frank, funny, and fabulous novel fearlessly takes on mothers and daughters, wedding madness, and midlife passion.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review.

Cynthia Darlow's bravura narration of Smith's novel makes this a must-listen on audio. The characters consist primarily of middle-aged Southern women, yet Darlow gives each one a distinctive and memorable voice. Outside the members of the Red Hat Club, Darlow gets a chance to show her range and versatility as Georgia's elderly mother, Pru's five-year-old granddaughter, Diane's aw-shucks Texan beau and, best of all, blunt and brassy cousin Rachel. Darlow's rendition of the rude-yet-utterly-clueless Rachel, with her over-the-top New York accent, is priceless and will have listeners howling with laughter. As perfect as she is with such comic moments, Darlow is equally deft with the poignant ones. As enjoyable as the print novel was, this is even better on audio. A St. Martin's hardcover (Reviews, June 2).
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Library Journal

Smith here finishes her "Red Hat Club" trilogy (The Red Hat Club; The Red Hat Club Rides Again), reuniting narrator Georgia Baker with her four best friends, women who meet monthly at Atlanta's Swan Coach House Restaurant to celebrate life. They support one another, cheer for one another, and help each other through the good and bad. This time, Georgia is the one who needs help; her brilliant 28-year-old daughter has announced her intentions of becoming the third wife of her father's best friend from college, "Wild Man" Wade. Georgia, a true drama queen, has a detective investigate her future son-in-law's past. What could go wrong during all the parties, snooping, and a wedding with a groom older than his mother-in-law? Smith's latest, filled with humor, a few tears, and some prayers, will delight her fans. The warm, satisfying story will also find new readers, who can easily catch up with Georgia and her friends. This enjoyable book is recommended for all public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ5/15/08.]
—Lesa Holstine

From the Publisher

“Smith's latest, filled with humor, a few tears, and some prayers, will delight her fans. The warm, satisfying story will also find new readers.... This enjoyable book is recommended.” —Library Journal

“Another heartwarming and hilarious installment in Smith's beloved Red Hat series.” —Booklist

“Fans of the series will enjoy and look forward to the next.” —Publishers Weekly

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Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.20(d)

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Chapter One

Nobody’s perfect. So, a lot of the people on the beach are skinnier than you. Big deal. There’s always somebody older and fatter out there, too, so you might as well wear your bathing suit and enjoy yourself.


LIKE MOST PEOPLE, I’ve always thought of the word perfect as an absolute, but there’s nothing like a wedding to prove otherwise, especially when the wedding’s your daughter’s and you know it’s a big mistake. Then the term is relative—like disaster.

All her life, my second-born, Callie, had been a mother’s dream: smart as her physicist father, outgoing as her big brother Jack, principled and salt-of-the-earth sensible as my precious mother-in-law, and gorgeously athletic as my mother—who is still a handsome woman at eighty-four and walks three miles a day, and drives like a New York cabbie in Atlanta traffic.

Callie was our perfect daughter. Never in her life had she given us serious cause to worry.

But the word perfect can also mean "completed." Little did I know that my obedient daughter was saving up all her bad-behavior credits to cash them in on one giant bombshell of a boo-boo that would redefine "perfect wedding" in biblical terms, meaning finished, thank-God-it’s-finally-over-with.

Oh, for a crystal ball! If I could have been absolutely sure my instincts were right, I would have gunnysacked her to keep her from the altar. As it was, I was the one who got gunnysacked.

The present. Second Tuesday in January. 10:55 A.M. Muscogee Drive, Atlanta.

NORMALLY I LOVE January’s sweet, silent stillness after the glittering clutter and excitement of Christmas. Stripped of wretched excess (the only way to decorate for the holidays), my house seems clean and sleek and tranquil. I bask in the new year’s quiet order with a long, relaxing breath and look forward to the high spot in my monthly routine, lunch with my lifelong best friends.

For the past thirty-something years, since we were pledges in our high school sorority, Linda, Diane, Teeny, and I (and lately Pru, our prodigal) have tended the ties that bind on the second Tuesday of every month at the Swan Coach House Restaurant, where we share laughter, fun, fellowship, frozen fruit salad, and generous doses of "Poor Baby" on a scale of one to five (the only allowable response to whining of any kind).

When we all started turning fifty, we decided to wear red hats and purple in honor of Jenny Joseph’s wonderful poem "Warning," a delightful declaration of in de pen dence for midlife and beyond. Governed only by our own Twelve Sacred Traditions of Friendship, our luncheons have become a welcome refuge of ac cep tance and sanity— or occasional insanity, none of which was ever my idea—in this crazy world. And every month, we take turns bringing a joke that’s not woman-bashing, and preferably not man-bashing, either.

For the past thirty-something years, I’ve always gotten to the Swan Coach House Restaurant early so I could sip my iced tea or hot lemonade in our regular banquette in the back corner of the main dining room and savor the anticipation of seeing my friends.

Until that gray morning last January, when—for the first time ever—I was seriously considering skipping the whole thing. Disconnecting the phone, turning off my cell, taking one of the four sleeping pills I had left from a trip to En gland five years ago, and pulling the covers up over my head.

Not that it would do any good to postpone the inevitable, but I couldn’t stand the idea of telling anybody, even my best friends, about the dumb thing my brilliant daughter was about to do. Not until I absolutely had to.

If I stayed home and took the sleeping pill, it would knock out my internal Chicken Little along with me. She’d been dithering away in hyper-drive ever since Callie’s New Year’s Day announcement.

Not that I’m mental or anything, but when it comes to my psyche, I have this constant internal dialogue with pieces of myself that just won’t shut up. Chicken Little, my drama queen, and my scolding Inner Puritan hog up the whole house, relegating my Sensible Self and Creative Inner Child to the shed out back.

It occurs to me that some people might think it odd, especially when I argue with myself aloud, but it works for me. I mean, it’s not like I believe I’m hearing voices. I know it’s all me. I talk to machines, too—all the time—but that’s not crazy. It’s only crazy when you think they talk back. Unless they really do, which happens more and more often these days.

Nevertheless, on that second Tuesday morning last January, my Sensible Self managed to push her way into the parlor and urged me—for the fiftieth time since Callie’s announcement—to look at the big picture and remember how blessed my family was.

We were all healthy and productive. Callie had finished her doctorate in theoretical mathematics and landed a job teaching at Oglethorpe in the fall. Our twenty-nine-year-old son Jack was happily building Home Depots all over America. My husband John and I had a fabulous love affair going that had waited till midlife to burst into flame. John had tenure teaching physics at Georgia Tech. We had finally paid off the mortgage. God was in His heaven. And I had four steadfast friends to help get me through this.

Maybe I ought to go to the luncheon after all.

As usual, Chicken Little ignored all the blessings, only to squawk, Callie’s making the mistake of her life! She has no idea what she’s getting into! Linda and Teeny and Pru will know the minute they slap eyes on you that something’s seriously wrong.

All I’ve ever wanted to do was keep a low profile, but no such luck. It’s a curse, having a face that hides nothing.

I could always call an MYOB (Mind your own business: Sacred Tradition of Friendship Number Five). But then my loyal friends would probably worry up all kinds of drastic things.

If I simply played hooky, they’d send out the bloodhounds. But if I called to cancel, they’d expect an explanation. When it came to our monthly friendship fix, the only acceptable excuses were foreign travel, jury duty, chemo, moving away, or hospitalization.

Standing at the mirror in the foyer of my little house on Muscogee Drive, I reapplied my nonfeathering red lipstick for the third time and prayed with as much conviction as I could muster for the grace to accept Callie’s choice. But God and I both knew my heart wasn’t really in it. So I ended up reminding Him yet again that this whole thing couldn’t be a good idea.

The Lord and I have that kind of a relationship. I speak my mind, and He loves me anyway and runs the Universe as He sees fit, whether I agree with Him or not.

Things could certainly be worse. Linda’s daughter Abby had quit Agnes Scott six months short of graduating with honors to become a hairdresser and move in with (and later marry) her Jewish mother’s nightmare: a lapsed-Moslem Rastafarian tattoo artist whose student visa had expired.

Which meant that Linda would certainly be able to empathize, but that offered cold comfort. Nobody really wants to hear, "It could be worse."

I sighed in resignation. As the Beatles said, "Oh-blah-dee, oh-blah-dah, life goes on," so I decided to suck it up and go to my luncheon.

I picked up my red felt picture hat. Maybe just this once, I could keep from blabbing everything.

Other people’s secrets, I could keep, but not my own. Still, just because I hadn’t ever been able to do it before didn’t mean I couldn’t do it now. There’s a first time for everything.

Grabbing my red pocketbook, I resolved to develop a pleasant, impenetrable mask on the way. I could do this. After all, I’d managed to keep from telling Mama so far.

Oh, lord. How would I ever tell Mama?

Excerpted from Wedding Belles by Haywood Smith

Copyright © 2008 by Haywood Smith

Published in 2008 by St. Martin’s Press

All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.

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Meet the Author

Haywood Smith is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Red Hat Club and The Red Hat Club Rides Again. She lives in Buford, Georgia.

Brief Biography

Buford, Georgia
Date of Birth:
April 21, 1949
Place of Birth:
Atlanta, Georgia
One year of college and several professional real estate degrees and appraisal certifications

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3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
pinklady75 More than 1 year ago
It was a funny, touching book that helped the south to come alive again. It shows the strength of womanhood without the bashing of men. And lessons were taught and learned along the way by this reader. A wonderfull book that I didn't want to end.
BeachRead245 More than 1 year ago
Wedding Belles by Haywood Smith is the third novel in the Red Hat series. Are you ready to take a walk down the aisle? Synopsis: You are invited to Wedding of Callie Baker and Wade Bowman. Callie has just announced to her parents that she plans to marry Wade Bowman who happens to be her father’s best friend. He is also known to Georgia her mother and the red hat club for his shenanigans in the past. These revelations have caused grave concerns for Georgia. Will she be happy for her daughter? Or will she cause a rift between the two? What solution will the red hats devise? My Thoughts: This is my first Haywood Smith novel. I was initially drawn to her because of the humor in her writing. She shares bits and pieces of her writing at her live events. Humor in writing can be a great asset. I felt she used it well in this novel. I enjoyed the characters. You will enjoy meeting Tiny, Pru, Linda, Diane, and others. How would you feel if your daughter came to you said I want to marry a man who is thirty years my senior? Would you be happy for her? These are the questions that Georgia must answer. I did not enjoy the local flavor that was mentioned throughout the novel. I am looking forward to reading another novel by this author.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved the related stories by Haywood Smith, and would have loved this but for the glaring omission of one of the gang the series is based on. As a "modern" belle myself, it is fun to read a story based in the South. (I am more the generation of the ladies' children, but I enjoyed Smith's books and this one anyway!) I will say I found it VERY strange that a MAIN character that we spent so much time with in the series as a teen and an adult is totally missing. I thought maybe Smith just was going to say "and Susu up and moved". NOPE. It was a huge distraction for me that did take away from my reading of this one b/c I kept waiting for some clue as to why the character was gone and where she was. (I saw this mentioned in another review before buying and thought maybe it was a matter of just not enough detail....It was instead a very valid point. I probably would not have bought this one had I known how much it would distract me. Kind of like reading a sequel to 3 Mustketeers, and suddenly one is missing and NO ONE says anything.) For the women who were so close to make no mention of her in any of the narratives was just WEIRD. Other than that, book is easy to read and fun. I think it almost works better as a stand alone so you are not aware of the loss of Susu. IF the change in line up was addressed (even in a throw away/unsatisfying way), it would be best read with the others.
LuckyPatty More than 1 year ago
All the way to a wedding it seems. Members of the Red Hat Club reprise their roles in another installment of their lives. Missing however is SuSu, who apparently fell off the face of the earth never to be mentioned again. In her place kind of is the cousin of Linda from New York City. A recent widow who unfortunately didn't follow her husband to his grave. All this winds around the story of Georgia's daughter getting married. Should be a happy occassion, but she's marrying her father's best friend. More than enough fodder for the gossipmongers and for the Red Hat Club ladies to lament over. By the time the book ends you'll be glad it's all over and done with.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book. More adventures of Smith's Red Hat friends. I would suggest you start with her earlier books to have a good grasp of her characters. I look forward to more books by Haywood Smith
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Guest More than 1 year ago
'Nobody's perfect. So, a lot of the people on the beach are skinner than you. Big deal. There's always somebody older and fatter out there, too, so you might as well wear your bathing suit and enjoy yourself.' So begins Smith's latest book and unlike the previous reviewer, I loved it!!!! Being from the South and at an age where I can identify with Georgia's worries and fears, I can't imagine anyone not enjoying this read. This is one to share with friends and family!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I adored the first two books about the adventures of the Red Hats. However, I am completely confused as to why a major member of the Red Hats was left out of Wedding Belles entirely as if she never existed. Susu McIntyre, Georgia's best friend from childhood, turned alcoholic stewardess, turned sober attorney is never mentioned. To be honest, she wasn't my favorite character in the first two books, but going through events such as Georgia's marriage without her is just plain strange. Were we not supposed to notice? Also, on a slightly less important note, little details throughout the book just don't match the others. For example, when ordering at their monthly Red Hat lunches, all the women take great pleasure in menu surfing, and then always order the same thing every time. In Wedding Belles, although the same foods are listed, they're ordered by the wrong women. There are several little things in this novel that flat out contradict the previous novels. Like the other novels, this book covers many years, and the little discrepancies are somewhat off-putting.