The New York Times bestselling author of The Red Hat Club fearlessly takes on mothers and daughters, wedding madness, and midlife passion in this frank, funny, and fabulous new novel.
Georgia, Linda, Diane, Teeny, and Pru have been best friends since high school, and never have they needed one another more. Georgia's precious twenty-eight-year-old daughter, Callie, has gone and gotten engaged. Usually this would be cause for celebration. After all, this is the South, where dreams of white dresses and wedding bells are as important as finding the perfect hat. But Callie's intended groom just happens to be a man they went to high school and college with: Wild Man Wade! These women know more about the groom than the bride does. His drunken shenanigans. His wild oats. And all of his conquests as well as his mistakes. They can imagine him in the most inappropriate of circumstances, but not as a son-in-law!
With absolutely hilarious Southern observances and dead-on wit about mothers, daughters, marriage, and families, Wedding Belles will have you laughing and crying whether you live above or below the Mason-Dixon line.
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.56(w) x 8.28(h) x 1.03(d)|
About 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.
Date of Birth:April 21, 1949
Place of Birth:Atlanta, Georgia
Education:One year of college and several professional real estate degrees and appraisal certifications
Read an Excerpt
By Haywood Smith
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2008 Haywood Smith
All rights reserved.
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.
— My Best Friend, Linda Murray
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 independence for midlife and beyond. Governed only by our own Twelve Sacred Traditions of Friendship, our luncheons have become a welcome refuge of acceptance 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 England 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?CHAPTER 2
Bad news is like a dead fish. The longer you keep it hidden, the worse it stinks up your whole life.
— Linda's Russian Grandmother BUBBIE
Same day. 11:35 A.M. Swan Coach House, Atlanta.
I Was So late I had to use valet parking, then maneuver my honkin' big hat through the crush of waiting women crammed into the foyer. I could tell they were staring at me behind their polite smiles, and I cringed at the overwhelming (and ridiculous) feeling that they had somehow sniffed out my bad-fish bad news.
It didn't even occur to me that they were probably just taken aback by my huge red hat and purple gabardine overcoat.
When I got to the dining room, I looked toward our regular corner booth and saw that I was the cow's tail.
There they were, my four best friends, resplendent in red hats and purple outfits.
Teeny, who looked like a blond little Audrey Hepburn with big blue eyes, was our Miss Melly, but with one major difference: She was our keeper of secrets. Beneath her impeccable manners and gentle ways hid a hard-headed businesswoman. A devout Catholic, she'dcompensated for being stuck in a bad marriage by eavesdropping on her abusive mega-developer husband when he and his powerful father talked shop over their bourbon. Then, for the next thirty years, she'd used what she heard to secretly invest every cent she could scrape up. Only when her two sons were grown and gone — and she'd amassed a fortune of twenty million — did she file for divorce and an annulment from the Vatican.
Now Teeny's pet project was Shapely Clothing, a break-even operation that employed needy women to make comfortable, flattering, classic clothes for real-women shapes and sizes. We all wore them (she'd had dress forms made to our exact measurements), and she paid us a thousand dollars apiece for any of our design ideas she could use.
Next to her sat Diane in deep purple slacks and a red cashmere sweater that accented her slim build and brunette hair. The organizer in our group, Diane had marshaled our help to get the goods on her cheatin' lyin' lawyer husband who planned to leave her penniless. And we got him good, yes we did. Now very happily divorced (with a cowboy on the side, but we'll get to that later), she runs the design division of Shapely from the penthouse office next to Teeny's, just a few blocks away on West Paces Ferry.
Beside her sat Pru, our prodigal. Tall and rawboned, Pru was a size sixteen from the knees to her waist, and a size twelve everywhere else. Back in the hippie era, she and her pot-smoking husband had tuned in, turned on, and dropped out, sacrificing each other and all Pru's self-respect to drugs and alcohol over the long, lost years. Then Teeny had found her and brought her back to us. After a promising beginning, Pru had fallen off the wagon so hard that we'd had to go to Vegas to stage a spectacular intervention (with the help of Cameron "the Cowboy"). Then we acted as her family in rehab whether she liked it or not, and Pru had pulled through with flying colors. For more than a year now, she'd showed up clean and sober every day for work as Diane's assistant at Shapely.
Last but not least was Linda, our heart and our humor, but she didn't look very happy. Her plump face was drawn down into an uncharacteristic frown. Maybe I wasn't the only one with bad-fish bad news.
The two of us had been confidantes since our high school days as Mademoi selles, when Friday-night sleepovers meant services with her family at the Temple and shul on Saturday morning. Once trim and athletic, Linda had married the love of her life, a wonderful ur-ological surgeon named Brooks, and both of them had grown fluffy and contented. Until their only child Abby did her own dropout and shacked up with Osama-damned-boyfriend (yes, his name is really Osama), but as the Bible says, "The rain falls on the just and the unjust."
Of all of us, Linda was the only one confident enough to let her hair go silvery white. (Not me. I've warned my children that I plan to be the redheaded old lady with way too much makeup, who talks too loud and pokes people with her cane.)
Watching my girlfriends scrutinize my approach, I could see their concern and braced myself for the inevitable questions they would ask about why I was late.
Hang in there. You can do this, my Sensible Self encouraged in optimistic denial of my lifelong inability to keep from telling on myself.
My smile grew more fixed with every step as I worked my way between the brightly tulipped underskirts of the white-clothed tables in the Coach House's main dining room. When I reached our corner banquette, Teeny stood for an air kiss, her tiny, slender hands cold as she took my big, garden-scarred warm ones. "Glad you made it," she said without recrimination. "I was about to send out a search party to blanket the city." Which she could literally afford to do. She cocked her head at me. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine," I lied, anxious to shift the attention somewhere else. "Linda, you look miserable," I said as I sat in my usual place. "What in the world's the matter?"
"Not now," she snapped, then got me off the hot seat with a grumpy, "Who's got the joke? Somebody make me laugh, please."
Almost invariably, whoever called for the joke wanted to get it out of the way so she could discuss something urgent, so the others promptly shifted their concern from me to Linda.
Pru signaled it was her turn to tell the joke by reluctantly waving her long fingers. "Me."
"Okay," Linda grumbled. "Get on with it."
It wasn't easy finding funny jokes that met our criteria, and even when Pru found one, she had shown no talent for the telling. In the past year, she'd made two well-meaning tries, but failed miserably. Not that we cared. We laughed anyway and complimented her on the consistency of her terribleness.
Teeny couldn't tell a joke right to save her life, either, but her lame efforts were often funnier than a lot of ours that went off without a hitch.
"Remember, now," Pru cautioned. "I'm awful at this."
"Remember, now," I said with affection, "that doesn't matter."
Pru responded with a welcome glimmer of spunk. "Trust me. That doesn't make it any easier." She composed herself. "But this time, I really practiced. So here goes:
"One day, when she was on her way to visit her mama in Florida, Mavis stopped for gas in a tiny little south Georgia town, right across the street from a cemetery and a funeral home. While she was gassing up, a hearse came out of the funeral home down the way and slowly rolled toward the graveyard, followed by a woman in a red dress walking a huge rottweiler on a leash. Behind her came another hearse, then at least thirty more women, single file."
Rapt, the four of us hung on Pru's every word as she went on.
"As the woman in red came by her, Mavis can't resist asking, 'Please excuse me for intruding on your grief. I'm sorry for your loss, but could you please tell me what happened here?'
"The woman in red stopped. 'My husband got drunk and tried to kill me, so our dog, here, attacked and killed him,' she answered without the slightest hint of remorse.
"Mavis looked at the other hearse behind the widow. 'So who's in there?'
" 'My mother-in-law,' the widow said. 'She was trying to help my louse of a husband finish me off, so the dog killed her, too.'
" 'Wow.' Mavis thought about her own lousy husband and mother-in-law and asked, 'Could I borrow your dog?'"
We started to laugh in delight, but Pru raised her palm to indicate the joke wasn't over.
" 'Sure,'" she went on. "The widow cocked her head toward the long procession behind her. 'But you'll have to get in line.'"
Stunned by Pru's perfect delivery, we waited for a heartbeat, then burst out laughing — along with several people at nearby tables.
"That was perfect!" I told her. "And funny." I lifted my hands and did a polite opera clap, fingertips patting the other palm. "Brava."
Linda arched a silver eyebrow, "I'm in a bad mood, and you still made me laugh," she said. "Even though there was a widow in it."
What was that supposed to mean?
"Traitor," Teeny said in mock indignation. "Now I'm back to being the only one who can't tell a joke."
Pru flushed with pride. She looked really happy, a rare and special state for her. "I practiced on Bubba" — her grown son —"till I got it right."
"It was great," Diane said. Then she turned abruptly to Linda. "Okay, so what's wrong with widows, and why are you in such a rotten mood?" No preliminaries with Diane. She always cut straight to the chase.
Linda hesitated with a frown.
Taking advantage of the break in conversation, our regular waitress Maria put a fresh basket of mini muffins on the table, then pulled out her tablet and pen. "May I take your orders now, or would you ladies like me to come back later?"
"We'll order," Linda decided for all of us.
Maria waited patiently without the slightest hint of irony while we all perused our menus, then ordered the same choices we always did: the shrimp salad plate for Diane, the Favorite Combination plate for Linda and me, the grilled chicken green salad for Teeny, and a chicken salad croissant for Pru.
Excerpted from Wedding Belles by Haywood Smith. Copyright © 2008 Haywood Smith. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
'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!
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.