Wedding Girl

Wedding Girl

by Stacey Ballis

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Overview

You’ve Got Mail meets Julie & Julia in the new foodie fiction from the author of Recipe for Disaster.

Top pastry chef Sophie Bernstein and her sommelier fiancé were set to have Chicago’s culinary wedding of the year…until the groom eloped with someone else in a very public debacle, leaving Sophie splashed across the tabloids—fifty grand in debt on her dream wedding and one-hundred percent screwed on her dream life. The icing on the cake was when she lost her job and her home…
 
Laying low, Sophie moves in with her grandmother, Bubbles. That way, she can keep Bubbles and her sweater-wearing pug company and nurse her broken heart. But when Sophie gets a part-time job at the old-fashioned neighborhood bakery, she finds herself up to her elbows in dough and reluctantly giving a wedding cake customer advice on everything from gift bags to guest accommodations. Before she knows it, she’s an online wedding planner. It’s not mousse and macarons, but it pays the bills. But with the arrival of unexpected personal and professional twists, Sophie wonders if she’s really moving forward—or starting over from scratch...

Includes Recipes

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780698171251
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/03/2016
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 180,426
File size: 860 KB

About the Author

Stacey Ballis is the author of nine foodie novels: Inappropriate Men, Sleeping Over, Room for Improvement, The Spinster Sisters, Good Enough to Eat, Off the Menu, Out to Lunch, Recipe for Disaster, and Wedding Girl. She is a contributing author to three nonfiction anthologies: Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys, Everything I Needed to Know About Being a Girl I Learned from Judy Blume, and Living Jewishly. She was an educator for more than fifteen years in Chicago, including teaching high school English in the Chicago Public Schools and serving as director of education and community programs for Goodman Theatre for seven seasons, before pursuing a full-time career in writing and consulting.

Read an Excerpt



   


        Every Girl Should Be Married
   


   


        (1948)
   


   


        I may not meet the right man today. Or even this week. Or even this year. But believe me, when I see him, I’ll know it.
   


   


        —Betsy Drake as Anabel Sims
   


   


        Nine months ago . . .
   


   


        “You look gorgeous, Sunshine. A vision of loveliness.” My dad seems horribly uncomfortable in his tuxedo. He’s tugging a bit at the bow tie, which is
        crooked, but at least is black and real, as opposed to what he showed up with this morning: a purple clip-on covered in multihued Grateful Dead bears.
        His cummerbund is upside down, and he’s wearing scuffed black Dr. Martens, which are making his pants look short. But today I’m so happy I don’t even
        correct him on using the wrong name.
   


   


        “Look what we made, Robert, just look.” My mother glides across the room in what can only be described as a fringed lavender muumuu, her waist-length
        graying curls twisted up in an elaborate braided bun, like a black-and-white Greek Easter bread attached to the back of her head. She tucks her short,
        round form into the long expanse of my dad’s embrace, and he pulls her close and rests his head atop hers, both of them looking at me with a
        combination of deep love and concern.
   


   


        “I know, Diane, I know. We did good.” She beams up at him, and he kisses her deeply. With tongue. Gack.
   


   


        “Hey, parents, could we please keep the making out to a minimum, at least until after dinner?” Don’t get me wrong; it’s fantastic that after over forty
        years together my folks are still hot for each other. I just really don’t need to see it in shiny Technicolor.
   


   


        They pull apart with a sickeningly slurpy squelch and look over at me.
   


   


        “Poor Sunshine, she’s still embarrassed of us,” my dad teases.
   


   


        “Bobby, you know she prefers Sophie; today of all days, give her a break,” says Bubbles from her perch across the room in a comfortable chair. Thank
        god for the voice of reason.
   


   


        “Of course, Mom, you’re right; have to respect the bride’s wishes.” My dad walks over and kisses my grandmother on her soft, powdery cheek.
   


   


        “Good boy.” Bubbles pats the hand he has placed on her shoulder.
   


   


        I was born Sunshine Sophie Summer Karma Bernstein. The Sophie was in honor of my dad’s dad, Solomon, Bubbles’s husband, who died only a month before I
        was born. I was Sunshine until I got to kindergarten, but when the whole class burst out in cruel laughter when the teacher called my name, I quickly
        replied, “My name is Sophie,” and so I have been to everyone in my life except my dad ever since. My mom, as a clinical psychologist, is very much
        committed to honoring people’s choices, so she made the switch immediately and with great purpose, correcting family friends and colleagues swiftly and
        firmly if they slipped. On my thirtieth birthday I gave myself a gift and had my name legally changed to Sophie Rosalind Bernstein. Bubbles’s middle
        name is Rosalind, and Rosalind Russell is our favorite actress, so it seemed like a good choice. I still haven’t gotten up the nerve to tell my
        parents. Bubbles says there’s no need to cause trouble where there is none, so it is our secret. I once asked her if she minded being called Bubbles,
        and she laughed.
   


   


        “You named me, and I wouldn’t want to be called anything else.”
   


   


        When I was just learning to talk, at the precocious age of ten months, my parents kept trying to get me to call her Bubbe—Yiddish for “grandmother”—but
        I kept saying Bubbles, and it stuck. I’ve often felt bad about dumping such a frivolous name on someone so elegant and sophisticated, but she swears
        she loves it.
   


   


        “You are a vision, Sophie, truly,” she says, and I turn back to the full-length mirror that has been set up in our little lounge. And I have to admit,
        I look like Katharine Hepburn. Well, actually I look like I ate Katharine Hepburn, if you want to know the truth, but I look as glamorous and
        radiant as a girl could corseted within an inch of her life and stuffed into her custom size-twenty Vera Wang gown. Because you know what’s fun,
        designers? That when us bigger girls go wedding-dress shopping, already a horror show of “sample” sizes we have to be shoehorned into to get a “sense”
        of how a dress “might” look, we discover your sizing is scaled for Lilliputians and completely unrelated to every other size chart on the planet. I’m a
        solid size sixteen almost everywhere, an eighteen in some of the more luxury brands, and a glorious, if rare, size fourteen in some lower-end brands.
        But only in Wangland am I a twenty. Oh, and the upcharge for bigger sizes is also a real treat; nothing like paying a fat tax for your special day.
        Thanks for that.
   


   


        None of it matters today. The dress is a perfect rich off-white, the color of the cream of grass-fed cows; made of the heaviest matte silk; and in a
        simple strapless style that’s fitted at the waist and then drapes over a subtle crinoline to just above my ankle. The gauzy organza overdress has wide,
        fluttery lapels and long, loose balloon sleeves cuffed at the wrist, which help to mask my not-exactly-Michelle-Obama-esque upper arms, and it buttons
        tightly on either side of my waist before extending over the skirt, which moves around me with a languorous swoosh. The dress was inspired by Katharine
        Hepburn’s wedding dress in The Philadelphia Story, adjusted appropriately for my ample curves and made a bit more modern, but the feel is the
        same. I think Kate would approve, frankly. My thick, dark, often-unruly curls have been tamed into sleek, shiny waves, held back over my left ear with
        a jeweled clip, and my makeup is simple, highlighting my fair skin and hiding the spray of freckles across the bridge of my nose. A little silver
        shimmer on my eyelids makes my blue-gray eyes sparkle, and there’s just a swipe of pale pink on my lips. The Dior pumps were probably a splurge I
        should have done without, considering the total cost of this day, but I couldn’t resist. The opaline silver was just the perfect color, and while I’ll
        probably be crippled for the rest of the week, they look fantastic. Heels are the bane of anyone who spends long workdays on her feet in supportive
        clogs.
   


   


        Candace, the event manager here at the Ryan Mansion, comes flying in. “Sophie? Do you have time for a quick walk-through before we open the doors?”
   


   


        “Of course.”
   


   


        My mom starts to walk toward us, but Bubbles catches the look on my face.
   


   


        “Diane, dear, would you get me some more of that sparkling water, please? You go ahead, Sophie; the three of us will wait here for you.” Thank god for
        Bubbles. She knows how much work went into planning this day. And she also knows that I don’t want anything to mar it. Like another lecture from my
        happily unmarried parents about why a piece of paper doesn’t mean anything, and about how many wells could be dug in Africa for what I’m spending on my
        top-shelf open bar, or how many cleft palate surgeries could be performed in South America for a fraction of what the flowers cost.
   


   


        I follow Candace out of the lounge and down the hall to the elevator.
   


   


        “You look gorgeous,” she says as we ride down to the main floor. “How do you feel? Nervous at all?”
   


   


        “Actually, no. I feel great. Never felt better!”
   


   


        And I do. No jitters, no sweaty palms, no butterflies. This is the day I was destined for. The man I was destined for. Dexter Kelley IV—DK to his
        friends, and Dex to me—is literally my every dream come true. After a lifetime of listening to my mother proudly announce her “Ms.” status when
        correcting people who referred to her as “Mrs.,” I’m ready to happily check the “Mrs.” box. After endlessly explaining why my last name is different
        from both my parents’—Dad’s is Bernard, Mom’s is Goldstein, so I got to be Bernstein, a combination of the two, invented in no small part because of
        Carl Bernstein and the fact that my folks met at an anti-Nixon rally in 1973—I’m ecstatic to become simply Sophie Kelley.
   


   


        And who wouldn’t be? In Dex, I’ve found my perfect partner in all things. We work together at Salé et Sucré, the two-Michelin-starred restaurant from
        Alexandre Leroux and Georg Zimmer. I’m the senior pastry sous chef and heir apparent to Georg, and Dexter is the head sommelier. We’ve been working
        together for six years and have been a couple for nearly three. We’ve landed an angel investor for a soon-to-be restaurant of our own. Local socialite
        Colleen “Cookie” Carlisle has agreed to terms on funding the purchase and build-out of our first place, including finding us a stunning location on
        Fulton in a huge warehouse space and hiring the superhot Palmer Square Development team to do the design/build.
   


   


        I have to say, as much as I love my Dexter . . . our general contractor, Liam, is insanely gorgeous. I don’t know how his wife, Anneke, ever lets him
        out of her sight. Of course, since she’s the lead architect, I guess she doesn’t really have to, but when those babies drop, she’s not going to have
        much of a choice; I would imagine twins are going to trump just about everything. Our project manager, Jag, promises that it’ll be smooth sailing, and
        both Cookie and Dexter have total confidence, so I’m following along. After all, it’s Cookie’s money, and some of Dexter’s. The agreement is that I
        will cover the wedding and he will cover the restaurant, and that seems more than fair as we begin our lives together. My dad, ever the lawyer, thought
        we should both equally fund two separate accounts to pay for things so that it was all even, but I didn’t even broach the idea with Dex. To be honest,
        I don’t really want him to know what I’m spending on this event. Despite keeping the guest list down to under a hundred and calling in major at-cost
        favor pricing from chef pals and vendors who work with the restaurant, the event was still coming in at nearly seventy grand, which has pretty much
        emptied my savings and maxed out all my credit cards, including three brand-new ones. Gone are the gifts from my family: five grand from Mom and Dad
        and two from Bubbles. Not to mention the bat mitzvah bonds I cashed in. But a girl only gets one shot at her dream wedding, and besides, Dexter’s trust
        fund will come entirely under his own control in a few weeks, which is why he said we should both stay in our apartments and wait before looking for a
        new place for the two of us, and postpone planning our honeymoon.
   


   


        “When the trust turns over, we’ll be able to find the perfect house, and when we officially quit, we can take a few weeks off to travel before jumping
        into the restaurant full bore. Everything will be so much easier then. Do you really want to go through the hassle of combining households in one of
        our places now and then having to repack and reorganize in a few months?”
   


   


        I’m sure that when his trust kicks in, my newly minted hubby will have no problem helping me pay off this minor debt I’ve accrued. After all, while it
        isn’t billions, it certainly has enough zeroes that we should be able to do everything we want house- and honeymoon-wise, with plenty of cushion for
        the future, and I know he’ll see the value of starting our life together debt-free. Especially with the lifelong memories of this glorious day.
   


   


        Candace and I step off the wood-paneled elevator and into the wide entry room of the mansion. This place is my win-the-lottery dream house: twelve
        thousand square feet of late-1800s graystone on elegant Astor Street. And we are using all of it. The first-floor dining room will have the ceremony;
        the adjoining living room will house our cocktail hour. Then everyone will go up to the second level for the sit-down five-course dinner and dancing in
        the massive formal ballroom, with the anterooms set up for cozy conversation, and a smoking room for the cigar crowd. At midnight everyone will be
        shuttled back to the first floor to the library for a breakfast/late-night-snack-food buffet, and then out through the foyer, where silver gift bags
        will be magically waiting. Then Dexter and I will head up to the third-floor suite for our wedding night before meeting our out-of-town guests and
        closest friends and family tomorrow at Manny’s for a brunch generously hosted by Bubbles.
   


   


        As Candace walks me through all the spaces, I’m blown away. The flowers—arranged by Cornelia McNamara, who does all the special events at the
        restaurant—feature Cornelia’s signature effortlessly elegant style, all in shades of white and cream with plenty of greenery, and displayed in crystal
        vases and silver bowls on every surface. The ceremony chairs are swagged in sheer tulle, and the gossamer chuppah is wound with ivy and fairy lights,
        the canopy gathered in perfect folds to create a small tent. Georg and Alexandre both got Internet-ordained so that they can jointly do the ceremony
        for us, Georg covering the Jewish parts and Alexandre taking care of the secular stuff.
   


   


        The round dining tables, small six-tops to keep conversation flowing, are set with white linen cloths with deep-magenta linen napkins, centerpieces
        that are a riot of magentas and oranges, candles in silver candlesticks, bone china, and Riedel crystal glasses lined up for the exquisite wine
        pairings Dexter has planned for every course. The stage is set up for the jazz orchestra, and there, in the center of the dance floor, is the cake.
   


   


        Three square tiers of hazelnut cake filled with caramel mousse and sliced poached pears, sealed with vanilla buttercream scented with pear eau-de-vie.
        It’s covered in a smooth expanse of ivory fondant decorated with what appear to be natural branches of pale green dogwood but are actually gum paste
        and chocolate, and with almost-haphazard sheer spheres of silvery blown sugar, as if a child came by with a bottle of bubbles and they landed on the
        cake. On the top, in lieu of the traditional bride and groom, is a bottle of Dexter’s favorite Riesling in a bow tie and a small three-tier traditional
        wedding cake sporting a veil, both made out of marzipan. It took me the better part of the last three weeks to make this cake. Not to mention the
        loaves of banana bread, the cellophane bags of pine nut shortbread cookies, and the little silver boxes of champagne truffles in the gift bags. And the
        vanilla buttermilk panna cottas we’re serving with balsamic-macerated berries as the pre-dessert before the cake. And the hand-wrapped caramels and
        shards of toffee and dark-chocolate-covered candied ginger slices that will be served with the coffee.
   


   


        There’s no point to being a pastry chef if you can’t get your own wedding sweets perfect.
   


   


        “It’s, just, everything,” I whisper.
   


   


        Candace puts an arm around my waist and squeezes. At least I think she’s squeezing; who can feel anything through this corset? “It’s one of my most
        favorite weddings we’ve ever had here. You should be a wedding planner.”
   


   


        “Not me. I only want to plan one wedding in my life, and this one is it. The rest of the brides are on their own.”
   


   


        “Well, maybe for a daughter someday?”
   


   


        “Maybe.” I say this, but I don’t really mean it. The restaurant business, even under the best of circumstances, is a hard row to hoe for parents. Kids
        don’t care that the James Beard Award people are in the house and lingering over their luncheon coffee when you are supposed to be watching your
        special snowflake play a carrot in the school show. And Saveur magazine doesn’t care that your kids were up at two a.m. projectile pooping in
        your bed the night before your big photo shoot. But the health department cares very much if you have been exposed to chicken pox or strep throat or
        lice, and wants you not to come within a hundred yards of your own premises. None of this bodes well for being either a fantastic restaurateur or a
        perfect mommy, so I’m reasonably certain parenting isn’t in the cards. Dexter seems fine with the idea that there won’t be a Dexter V; after all, he
        says, he’s got two older sisters popping out heirs, and a younger brother to carry on the family name, so he’s off the hook in the breeding department.
   


   


        I have to admit, seeing Anneke all preggers out to there, and the way Liam watches her and smiles and gently touches her belly when he walks by her,
        does give the old ovaries a twinge. Hopefully, if the new place gets up and running well, and we have some success, maybe in a couple of years we can
        revisit, see if maybe just one child might be a possibility. I would really love to see Bubbles become a great-grandbubbles, and unlike Dex, I have no
        siblings to rely on for that.
   


   


        “Well, if everything looks good to you, I’d say we could open the doors and get ready to welcome your guests,” Candace says.
   


   


        “Can I check in on the kitchen?” I ask.
   


   


        She looks me up and down. “Yes, but hold on a second.” She disappears down the hallway and returns with a large men’s trench coat. “Lost-and-found
        treasure,” she says as I eye the garment. “Put this on; I’m not sending you into that kitchen with this dress exposed. And promise you’ll stand in the
        doorway. I’ll bring everyone to you.” I laugh and slide the coat over myself, grateful that it buttons, albeit tightly, over my hips.
   


   


        We walk over to a swinging door, and she holds it open while I stand just inside. “Bride in the house!” she calls out, and immediately three people
        come walking over.
   


   


        “Hello, Chef, congrats to you,” says my friend Erick, who has taken a night off from both of his restaurants to man the kitchen.
   


   


        “You congratulate the groom, silly, and wish the bride luck.” I accept his kiss on my cheek.
   


   


        “You don’t need luck; you’re a rock star,” says Gino, who is serving as Erick’s sous chef today and running the line.
   


   


        “We’re gonna ruin these people,” says Megan, who is doing all the appetizers and covering the midnight buffet.
   


   


        The menu is spectacular. Passed hors d’oeuvres include caramelized shallot tartlets topped with Gorgonzola, cubes of crispy pork belly skewered with
        fresh fig, espresso cups of chilled corn soup topped with spicy popcorn, mini arepas filled with rare skirt steak and chimichurri and pickled onions,
        and prawn dumplings with a mango serrano salsa. There is a raw bar set up with three kinds of oysters, and a raclette station where we have a whole
        wheel of the nutty cheese being melted to order, with baby potatoes, chunks of garlic sausage, spears of fresh fennel, lightly pickled Brussels
        sprouts, and hunks of sourdough bread to pour it over. When we head up for dinner, we will start with a classic Dover sole amandine with a featherlight
        spinach flan, followed by your choice of seared veal chops or duck breast, both served with creamy polenta, roasted mushrooms, and lacinato kale. Next
        is a light salad of butter lettuce with a sharp lemon Dijon vinaigrette, then a cheese course with each table receiving a platter of five cheeses with
        dried fruits and nuts and three kinds of bread, followed by the panna cottas. Then the cake, and coffee and sweets. And at midnight, chorizo tamales
        served with scrambled eggs, waffle sticks with chicken fingers and spicy maple butter, candied bacon strips, sausage biscuit sandwiches, and vanilla
        Greek yogurt parfaits with granola and berries on the “breakfast” buffet, plus cheeseburger sliders, mini Chicago hot dogs, little Chinese take-out
        containers of pork fried rice and spicy sesame noodles, a macaroni-and-cheese bar, and little stuffed pizzas on the “snack food” buffet. There will
        also be tiny four-ounce milk bottles filled with either vanilla malted milk shakes, root beer floats made with hard root beer, Bloody Marys, or
        mimosas. As Megan said, we plan on ruining these people. The initial sticker shock on just the food bill almost made me pass out, and I thought long
        and hard about nixing the whole midnight-buffet idea. But I figure, if Dex and I are about to open a restaurant, especially a restaurant we hope will
        be hosting special events, these are the people we are going to need in our corner to help us promote it, so it’s important to let them see how we
        bring an event together. Plus, if I’m to be honest, having been to a zillion boring, disappointing weddings, I think there is something to be said for
        being the person who pulls off the amazing one that people remember.
   


   


        I look at these dear friends who are practically working for free to make our day perfect, and grin at them.
   


   


        “We expected nothing less, and we cannot thank you all enough for all of this. You know that I owe every one of you wedding or birthday cakes when the
        time comes!”
   


   


        “We’re going to hold you to that. Have the day you deserve, and don’t worry, we got this!” Erick says, winking at me. “Let’s go, everyone; we’ve got
        mouths in ninety minutes.”
   


   


        Candace shuttles me out of the kitchen, relieves me of my borrowed trench coat, and hustles me back to the elevator. “We’re opening the doors, and I
        know you said you weren’t doing the whole surprise thing, but I just want to check that you are still planning on mixing and mingling pre-ceremony?”
   


   


        “We’re not superstitious, and the more people we have face time with before the ceremony and during the cocktail hour, the more we will be able to just
        sit and enjoy our dinner.” We have a cozy table for two up in the ballroom, close to the dance floor, but still just a little quiet space for
        ourselves.
   


   


        “Okay, then I would do one last lip gloss and hair spray check, and send your family down, and then join them in about ten minutes.”
   


   


        “Will do.”
   


   


        I head back upstairs to my lounge. The door is slightly ajar, and I can hear my parents talking.
   


   


        “It isn’t that I don’t like him; I just don’t like him for her. He seems just a little too slick for my taste,” my dad says.
   


   


        My mother pipes up. “I know, I agree, but what can we do? She loves him. We have to support her fully in that.”
   


   


        “Does she?” my dad says. “Or does she love what he represents? Does she love the idea of him? Does she love that he isn’t me?”
   


   


        “Pish, Robert, it isn’t about you,” my mom says. “She wants everything that isn’t us, that isn’t what we chose, and we can’t choose for her. All we can
        do is help her have her perfect day the way she wants it, and hope for the best.”
   


   


        “What the two of you can do is stop worrying and let the smart, beautiful, capable girl you raised make her own life the way she wants it. She’s not
        some child; she’s thirty-four years old. And who she is and what she chooses and what she may or may not think of you and your choices is officially
        none of your business.” Go Bubbles.
   


   


        I move a few steps back from the door and stomp loudly, calling out, “You guys ready to get your party on in there?” and fly into the room in a swirl
        of silk, with a big smile. Nothing can ruin today, not even my parents’ concerns. It isn’t like I don’t know what they think of me, of the life I’ve
        pursued. With his brain, his mouth, and his Ivy League degrees, Dad could have been a powerful litigator and partner at a big firm but chose the life
        of a public defender with pro bono exoneration work instead. My mother, equally smart and accomplished and accredited, could have been the ultimate
        therapist to the rich and famous, but she chose a position in which she’s effectively a social worker, as a psychologist attached to local public
        hospitals, schools in terrible neighborhoods, group homes, and juvenile detention centers. She does a lot of work with my dad’s clients when they get
        court-ordered therapy. When I went to culinary school after college, they were thrilled. Right up until I decided on a life of cooking in high-end
        fine-dining restaurants, and not running a soup kitchen staffed by reformed convicts, or teaching cooking classes to welfare moms. They don’t even like
        me cooking for the 1 percent; marrying one of them was never going to go over terribly well.
   


   


        “We’re ready if you are!” Lucky for me, my mom is adept at putting a good face on it, and for today, that is enough.
   


   


        “I’m ready. Dad, if you will please escort these lovely ladies downstairs, I will be down in two shakes to join you. Bubbles, there is a cozy corner in
        the library if you need to sit.”
   


   


        “I’m not infirm, child. I’ll be perfectly fine with the rest of them, thank you very much.” Bubbles claims eighty-two, though I suspect that may be
        slightly underestimating things. But she is reasonably fit, if occasionally forgetful, so I leave it to her to decide when she needs to sit.
   


   


        My dad looks me deep in my eyes and leans over to kiss the tip of my nose like he used to when I was little. “See you down there, Sunshi . . . um,
        Sophie.”
   


   


        I walk over to the mirror and check myself one last time. Everything is in place. And my future is waiting. I turn and head out of the room, closing
        the door behind me. When I get off the elevator, well-wishers immediately surround me. Holding the wedding on a Monday helped keep the costs down a
        bit, but more important, it meant that our friends from work were all able to come, since we are closed Monday nights. And a lot of our friends from
        other restaurants are here as well. All the local restaurant critics and food bloggers we’ve befriended over the years are here. The hum of people is
        warm and welcoming, and as I move through the crowd, I accept the compliments and congratulations graciously.
   


   


        Dexter should be around here somewhere, but I don’t see his brother yet, so maybe they are still on their way. Dexter’s parents are on an exclusive
        safari in South Africa, which apparently was booked over a year ago and which we didn’t know about until I had already plunked down the substantial
        nonrefundable deposit on the space. I thought perhaps they would offer to cover the costs of changing the date, but instead they said they would throw
        us an East Coast reception at the family home in Connecticut this summer. His sisters just couldn’t make the trip what with all the kids and the Monday
        date, so it is just his little brother, Dave, who is here to represent the family. Except “here” is not exactly correct. Dexter said he was picking him
        up at the airport yesterday morning, and that the two of them were doing bachelor stuff, and then golfing today, but it is nearly five o’clock, so they
        must be close. I left my phone off and upstairs in the safe in the lounge—this is not the time for text messages from vendors about produce orders, or
        Facebook updates about dog videos. I’ll take one more pass around, and if I don’t see Dexter, I’ll just zip upstairs and check my phone in case they
        are stuck in traffic.
   


   


        “This is amazing, and you are spec-freaking-tacular.” I turn to see the beaming face of my best friend, Ruth. Ruth and I grew up on the same block and
        have been friends since we were five. Just seeing her grinning face immediately makes me forget my momentary worry. I hug her.
   


   


        “Thank you.”
   


   


        “I can’t believe the whole thing. Are you ready?”
   


   


        “Ready as anything. Where is Jean?” Jean was Ruth’s first girlfriend in college, part of Ruth’s transition from “bi-curious” to “full-time power
        lesbian,” and while the romance fizzled quickly, the friendship was forever. Jean quickly became one of my dearest friends as well, and the pair of
        them keep me sane. Ruth is an investment banker, all badass in her fabulous Armani suits, and Jean is a freelance costume designer for theater, all
        kinds of funky and artsy and creative. Between the two of them, I get the best possible advice on everything under the sun.
   


   


        “You know Jean; she had a meeting this afternoon that she swore would be done by three, but those theater people take two hours to just say good-bye.
        She texted me that she is en route.”
   


   


        I hear the doors open and peek over Ruth’s head to see who is coming in, and it is Jean, but her face is ashen. I wave and she makes a beeline over to
        me. I notice that the hum in the room has softened a bit, and it seems that suddenly a lot of people are reaching for their cell phones, and the loud
        chatter is now a lot of whispering.
   


   


        “Hey, honey,” Jean says, grabbing me in a deep and powerful hug.
   


   


        “Don’t wrinkle the bride!” Ruth tries to pry Jean away, but Jean won’t let go.
   


   


        “Jean. Have corset. Can’t breathe.” I lean back and Jean finally breaks her embrace.
   


   


        “Baby girl, we are here for you and with you, and this is all going to be okay.”
   


   


        My stomach drops.
   


   


        “What the fuck are you talking about, Jean?” Ruth is snippy.
   


   


        “I heard it on the radio on my way over. Dexter . . .”
   


   


        Oh no. This cannot be happening. There’s been a horrible accident. He cannot be gone. I make a little yelping noise as my eyes fill with tears. “Is he
        . . . ?”
   


   


        Jean shakes her head, her eyes reflexively filling with sympathy tears. “He’s not coming, dearheart. He’s in St. Barths.”
   


   


        My heart drops back into my chest. My tears dry up. “I’m sorry, what?”
   


   


        “Jean, you are making no fucking sense whatsoever. Spit it out, woman.” Ruth shakes her shoulders a bit.
   


   


        “I was listening to the news on WGN radio on my way over. They congratulated local girl Cookie Carlisle and her new husband, hotshot sommelier Dexter
        Kelley, on their elopement today in St. Barths.”
   


   


        All the air flies out of my lungs.
   


   


        “That bastard,” Ruth mutters.
   


   


        I look up and see that everyone in the room is looking over at me with shocked faces or still staring at their phones, which I presume are blowing up
        with the news, and my parents and Bubbles are elbowing their way purposefully through the crowd. This isn’t possible. This is a
        night-before-the-wedding nightmare. I’m going to wake up any minute in my cozy bed and get ready to start my wedding day.
   


   


        But then Bubbles holds her arms out to me and says, “Here, shayna maidela, here,” and I know that it is real as soon as I sink into her
        embrace.
   


   


        My dad is rubbing my shoulders and saying all the things one would imagine a pissed-off dad would say, and my mom has joined the hug with Bubbles and
        me and is telling me into my hair that it is all going to be okay. Ruth and Jean are whispering behind me, and everything is soft-focus, and numb.
   


   


        I stand up straight and shake them all off. “Okay, then,” I say.
   


   


        “What do you need?” my dad asks.
   


   


        “What do you want?” my mom asks.
   


   


        “Who can I kill?” Ruth asks.
   


   


        “I have this,” I say. Because if Dexter Kelley the fucking Fourth is going to steal my happiness and my future and my hopes and dreams, he sure as shit
        is not going to steal my dignity. I’m going to do what Rosalind Russell would do. Fake it till I make it.
   


   


        I take a deep breath and try to keep the waver out of my voice as I call out, “Can I have everyone’s attention, please?” The already-quiet crowd shifts
        immediately to dead silent.
   


   


        Ruth takes my hand and squeezes. Which gives me just enough power to continue. “I take it that what I am about to say is not going to come as a
        surprise to many of you, but it appears that this wedding was rescheduled, unbeknownst to us all, at a different location. And apparently with a
        different bride. This is obviously not how we all thought things were going to go today, but I know one thing. I have some of the best chefs in the
        city in that kitchen making a meal that is going to knock your socks off. I have a lot of wine and liquor that has already been paid for, and a really
        great band warming up, and none of us are going to let any of that, or this beautiful venue, go to waste. So I’m going to ask your indulgence as I take
        a few moments to myself, and hope that when I return, you will all join me in having a spectacular party. We’re going to think of this as my official
        Dodged a Bullet celebration, and I expect you all to eat and drink copiously, and dance with abandon, and please not offer me any condolences. Only
        happy talk tonight. If you know a joke or two, get them ready; we’re going to do open mike instead of toasts. I’ll be back soon, but please get the
        party started. My wonderful parents and grandmother are going to show you all to the living room, where you can get cocktails, and the food will be out
        soon.” The crowd bursts into applause and hoots and hollers and shouts of “You go, girl!” and “You rock, Sophie!” and my parents wink at me, and
        Bubbles squeezes my arm, and they head over to wrangle the crowd on my behalf.
   


   


        I head for the elevator, Ruth and Jean in tow, and we make our way upstairs. In the lounge, the two of them begin a long string of expletives and
        threats on Dexter’s manhood, and I go to the safe and get my phone and turn it on. No messages from Dexter. No texts from him. No emails from him, just
        those offering support from people who heard the bad news. And notifications that my Facebook and Twitter feeds are going crazy. I shut it down.
   


   


        “Are you . . . ?” Ruth starts, and I hold my hand up.
   


   


        “Not now. I cannot do anything right now. Right now I would just like for the two of you to agree to spend the night here with me tonight after the
        party, when I’m reasonably sure I will be ready for a total meltdown. But for the moment, there is one quick thing I need to do, and then we are going
        down there, and I mean it, not one word about him or this insane situation or anything unhappy. We are going to get through this night with our best
        faces on, and have a slumber party, and then tomorrow we can figure it all out. Deal?”
   


   


        “Deal,” Jean says. “I’m so proud of you.”
   


   


        “You are the most amazing woman I know,” Ruth says.
   


   


        They follow me out, and we head back downstairs, stopping at the second floor. “Hold the elevator for me, would you? I’ll be right back.”
   


   


        I walk up the hallway to the ballroom and open the door. The room is just as perfect as before. The band is beginning to do a sound check. A busboy is
        leaning against a wall, and I wave him over.
   


   


        “Hi, you see that small table for two near the dance floor? Can you please make it disappear before we come back up?” He nods, heads right over, and
        starts removing the dishes. I cross the room and go to the cake table. Gently, so as not to mar the top surface, I remove the whimsical toppers. I look
        for a place to set them down or throw them away, and not finding one in my line of sight, slowly and deliberately, bit by bit, I eat them.
   





    The Awful Truth



    (1937)



    No, things are the way you think I made them. I didn’t make them that way at all. Things are just the same as they always were, only, you’re the same as
    you were too, so I guess things will never be the same again.



    —Irene Dunne as Lucy Warriner



    Today . . .



    I grab the last box out of my battered Honda, lock the doors, and carry it up the wide stoop and through the front door.



    “My goodness, now that is a very stinky Snatch!” I hear Bubbles in the other room, and I shake my head and suppress my giggles. A fat, elderly pug comes
    barreling down the hallway in my direction, in a custom sweater with black-and-yellow bumblebee stripes. Bubbles is on his heels with what looks like a
    dryer sheet in each hand.



    “Snatch. You stop right there, young man,” she says to the dog, who halts and plops down on his wide ass. If he weren’t a boy, I’d say Snatch has
    childbearing hips, in addition to his desperately horrible moniker. Bubbles, completely unaware of any alternate meaning, named the pup thusly because he
    has a habit of snatching anything in his reach and running away with it, a favorite game. So Snatch he became, much to my amusement and my parents’
    mortification.



    “He rolled in something dead in the backyard,” Bubbles says, by way of explanation, removing the offending garment and rubbing his rolls down with the
    dryer sheet in an effort to deodorize him. “Silly Snatch,” she says lovingly to him, and I head upstairs before I burst out laughing.



    Straight up the narrow staircase and left at the top, into the second room on the right. Boxes are stacked floor to nearly ceiling on three of the four
    walls; there are piles of clothes on the bed, tote bags of all shapes and sizes on the floor and on the desk. I drop the last box on the floor in the far
    corner and sink into the battered blue velvet chair with shiny patches on the arms where the velvet has been rubbed away from years of use. The room, with
    an antique four-poster bed that had belonged to my great-grandparents, periwinkle walls, and a sparkly chandelier, had felt spacious and warm before I
    filled it with all my crap.



    “Is that everything?” Bubbles asks from the doorway.



    “That’s it.” I wave my arm around the room. “The sum total of my worldly possessions.”



    She crosses the space delicately, weaving around the obstacles on the floor with fluid grace. She perches on the wide arm of the chair and takes my chin in
    her hands. “Your worldly possessions are in here and here.” She points her finger at my heart and kisses my forehead. “Everything else is just stuff.”



    “Well, here is all my stuff.”



    “I forgot to ask; maybe we should have painted the room? You picked this color when you were six. I know your taste has changed.”



    My room. Growing up, I spent a lot of time here at Bubbles’s house. She insisted on taking me after school one day a week and one weekend a month. It gave
    my parents a break and gave us quality time together. I always stayed in the room that had been my dad’s when he was a boy. When I was six, I told Bubbles
    that I loved coming over but that the Cubs-blue walls and boyish décor were not really my style, and the next time I came for the weekend, we decorated the
    room. We picked out the pale color at the hardware store and painted the walls ourselves. I agonized at Vogue Fabrics, finally settling on
    deep-eggplant-purple linen, and Bubbles whipped up some drapes on her trusty Singer in a flash. She took me into her attic of treasures and let me pick out
    the bed and desk from the stash of family antiques that no one wanted but she couldn’t bear to give away. We found the velvet chair at a thrift store. And
    the next time I came over, she had installed the chandelier over the bed, all the shiny crystals making a dance of light on the ceiling when the sunlight
    caught them. It was my magical princess room, and over the years the walls sported posters first of unicorns and kittens and then of boy bands and then
    grunge bands, and then, in college, came the ubiquitous poster of Klimt’s The Kiss. Now they are bare, with teeny holes visible here and there
    where pushpins used to be. The desk where I did all sorts of homework and sticker-collection management, and wrote in little diaries with tiny locks and
    keys, is empty, the top clear except for a picture of my granddad in a silver frame, him looking dapper in a suit and jaunty fedora, winking at the camera
    and, by proxy, at me, the namesake he never met.



    “It’s still my favorite room. I wouldn’t change a thing,” I say, smiling at her as best I can.



    “Well, if you change your mind, we’ll redecorate. Now, all of this stuff will wait. I’ve got treats downstairs. We’ll have some Nook time.”



    In my grandmother’s kitchen is a small bay window where there is a tiny café table with two chairs that she and my grandfather brought back from their
    honeymoon in Paris. They got the set for a song from a little bistro that was going out of business near their hotel, and then schlepped all three pieces
    back with them as luggage. The story of taking them on the Métro is a family classic. But the creamy white marble top is shot with blue green like really
    good Roquefort, and has been worn matte and smooth like a river rock with years of use. The chairs with their scrolled iron frames and worn wooden seats
    are shockingly comfortable. We have always called the charming tableau in the window “the Nook,” and all of our most important conversations have happened
    there, with cups of cocoa or hot tea or champagne or bourbon, and always with some sort of sweet little nibble: My decision to go to culinary school, right
    at that table with a mouth full of apricot coffee cake. The John Hughes–esque choice to say yes to the nervous, bespectacled boy from my English class
    who’d never uttered a word in my direction until he asked me to prom, and who did not become a wild romance but did become an unexpectedly good friend. The
    decision to legally change my name, and the equally important decision not to tell my parents.



    “I’ll be down in ten minutes, I promise.”



    “I’ll put the kettle on. You hear that whistle; you get your tushy downstairs.”



    “Deal.”



    Bubbles heads to the kitchen, and I take stock of my shame. I am thirty-four years old. Nine months ago, I was left at the altar by my perfect-on-paper
    fiancé in favor of a tanorexic new-money skeleton of a socialite, resulting in my being over fifty grand in debt on my dream wedding and one hundred
    percent screwed on my dream life. My wedding photographer, unbeknownst to me, did not capture my “riot grrrl” moment of announcing Dexter’s departure from
    my life and telling my nearest and dearest that the show would go on and to drink up. But he did quite adequately capture my consumption of my own
    wedding-cake toppers, and my drunken rendition of Quarterflash’s quintessential breakup ballad “Harden My Heart” with the band. He got great shots of my
    epic wipeout on the dance floor when Jean tried to spin me, a real flattering ass-up, crinoline-over-the-head, Spanx-akimbo classic. And my personal
    favorite: the picture of me alone, sitting on the stairs, one Dior pump with a broken-off heel lying next to me, with an enormous piece of wedding cake
    that I am eating out of my hand as crumbs scatter down the front of my dress. Fat Cinderella wannabe after the ball, with no prince chasing her, just a
    broken shoe and a broken heart, eating her feelings. These lovely memories he sold to everyone who would buy them, and I spent the better part of a month
    confronted with photo arrays of my own embarrassment all over the local Chicago papers and the national online gossip magazines. The mortifying images were
    usually accompanied by a picture of Dexter and Cookie on a beach at sunset kissing passionately, the official wedding picture their publicist sent out. I
    even got a sympathetic mention from Hoda and Kathie Lee, and if I hadn’t been so completely horrified, I probably would have eventually gotten around to
    sending them the cupcakes I meant to bake for them: Cabernet cupcakes with mascarpone frosting—wine and cheese.



    I decided it was best to still take the week off after the wedding. Dexter and I had planned on a little staycation honeymoon, and so I wasn’t expected at
    work. I spent the week in a daze, holed up in my apartment, ignoring calls and well-wishers and interview requests. The night before I was scheduled to
    return to work, my boss, Georg, called to see if I needed more time, but also informed me that Dexter had quit, making it safe for me to come back if I was
    ready. I thought that work would be my refuge. I wouldn’t have to see his lying, cheating face every day or work with him. And for nearly six weeks, I just
    put my head down and channeled all my anger and mortification and thwarted passions into my work. I didn’t even blink when a large box containing all the
    belongings I’d left at Dexter’s apartment arrived by messenger without so much as an apology note. The fact that when I went to do the same I was
    confronted with the realization that the only things of his at my place were a toothbrush and a stick of deodorant made me wonder if I had been delusional
    about the entire relationship, but I shook it off. His apartment had been so much more comfortable than mine and was walking distance from work, I had
    liked staying there as much as Dexter did, and I wasn’t ever one of those girls who needed him to nest at my place just because it was mine. He had the
    good TV, the better wine, the bigger bed, the nicer tub.



    I threw away the toothbrush and deodorant, and washed my hands of it. The mistake hadn’t been mine; it had been his. And I was grateful he had shown his
    true colors before we made things legal. I was strong. I was tough. I was impressive.



    Right up until the entire staff got invited to the soft opening of Abondance, the “new restaurant venture from Dexter and Cookie Kelley.”



    They’d kept the name I had come up with, the French word for “abundance”; my concept, French-influenced comfort foods elevated to fine-dining quality; and
    the glorious space I had helped conceive. I looked at the invitation, everything it represented, and I officially lost my shit.



    I started phoning it in at work, taking shortcuts, losing my perfectionist’s edge. I sent out desserts that were overbaked, breads that were lackluster,
    chocolates that hadn’t been properly tempered and had no shine or snap. I was short and snippy with everyone I worked with, and downright insubordinate
    with Georg, who had been my mentor as well as my boss since I got out of culinary school. He was patient for a couple of weeks and then terse for another
    month, and then he stopped giving me a break and simply gave me enough rope to hang myself. I skated by for a couple more months, my work getting shoddier
    by the day and my attitude getting worse. I systematically alienated every person at the restaurant from the dishwashers to the front-of-house staff,
    people I had once thought of as friends, who now could barely be civil to me. Abondance opened to rave reviews and plenty of press, which caused an
    unfortunate resurgence in coverage of my sad little tale of romantic woe and the accompanying pictures. I drowned my feelings in food and gin until every
    piece of clothing I owned was tight as a tourniquet, and I only backed off my binging because I couldn’t afford to buy new ones. After I came in hours late
    for the fourth day in a row, Georg demoted me from senior pastry sous chef to pastry assistant, and when I told him in no uncertain terms that every
    original idea that had come out of the pastry kitchen in the last four years had been mine, and that he had better not expect me to give up the goods if I
    was just a lowly assistant, he fired me.



    Boy, did I ever deserve it. The news of my career fall from grace only served to flip the script on my victimhood in the whole Dexter debacle, making
    everyone think that he bailed on the wedding because I’m insane and difficult, and that Cookie saved him from marrying a horrible person. What few friends
    I had left in the local industry dried up and became Team Dexter.



    Ruth and Jean abducted me to Canyon Ranch spa, where one of Ruth’s clients owned a home she had always offered to Ruth, and the three of us spent a week
    detoxing and exercising. I had several sessions with one of the counselors where I cried a lot and mourned what was supposed to be, and I returned home
    somewhat more myself and with something of a plan. I would sell my condo and my engagement ring, and use the profits to pay off my credit card debt. I’d
    move in with Bubbles temporarily while I got my shit together, and think about my next professional move. The Chicago restaurant scene will be pretty
    closed to me for the foreseeable future—I now have enough of a rep as a problem-child diva to have ensured that—but I might be able to do something in
    catering or hotel work.



    The plan started great. My folks had been toying with trying to convince Bubbles to explore assisted-living communities—some recent bits of forgetfulness
    were giving them concern about her living alone—but Bubbles was having none of it, so my offer to go live with her came off as a generous granddaughter
    move, and everyone was delighted. But then my Realtor informed me that while we should be able to sell the condo fast, I would be lucky to break even. I
    had bought at close to the height of the market, put only 5 percent down, and then literally two months later, the economy tanked. The place, despite the
    recent bounce back in values, needed upgrading I had never gotten around to, and there was a large special assessment in the offing to get a new roof on
    the building. The engagement ring turned out to have been chosen more for size than quality—leave it to Dexter to be more concerned about the surface
    appearance of things than the deep-down reality—so between them, I made enough money to put about twelve grand in the bank for a cushion to get me through
    till I find another job, but nothing at all extra to send to the credit cards. So much for wiping out my debt.



    I can hear the kettle squeal downstairs.



    “Come sit.” Bubbles gestures to the Nook, where a plate of golden mandel bread, sort of a Jewish biscotti, awaits, crispy and studded with walnuts and mini
    chocolate chips. I crunch the end off one in an explosion of crumbs. It’s a good one, plenty of texture but not rock hard, solid enough that I know it will
    stand up to a dunk in the hot sweet tea Bubbles has placed in front of me. She sits across from me, and Snatch plumps down at her feet.



    “So. How are you, really?”



    I take a sip of the tea, some exotic Russian blend she keeps loose in a battered red tin. I can taste the comforting flavors of vanilla and chocolate and
    the barest hint of cinnamon. “I’m a little bit adrift. But trying to figure everything out.”



    “Leaving the job, I’m going to guess, was less under your control than you would have your parents believe?”



    I look sheepishly at my cookie. The official press release said that I had resigned to pursue other opportunities, saving me what little face I had left
    and saving the restaurant from my filing for unemployment. My parents had assumed that the memories were just too much there and that I needed a clean
    break. I had not exactly disabused them of that notion. “Something like that.”



    “But you’re better now? Coming out of the fog?”



    “I’m trying, Bubbles. I’m really trying.”



    “Good. That is all you can do. So while you are trying, we will do what we do. After all, the movies never let us down.”



    Bubbles and I have one thing that is our deep, shared passion, beyond sweets. Old black-and-white movies from the thirties and forties. Anything with Cary
    Grant or Katharine Hepburn or Myrna Loy or William Powell, or our favorite, Rosalind Russell. Romantic comedies especially. Even the bad ones, we love. The
    ones that are so dated and absurd in their overall message that it makes them ridiculous. We love the clothes and the homes and the elegance. The
    bottomless bottles of champagne. The quippy banter. We can watch them over and over.



    “That sounds like good medicine to me,” I say, thinking about losing myself in a world long past, where getting left at the altar would be a funny device
    used to get the heroine into the arms of her true love and not the beginning of the unraveling of her mental health and ability to support herself
    financially.



    “TCM is running a marathon today, all of the Thin Man movies in order. I think it starts in about an hour. We’ll watch all six in a row, and only pause to
    make martinis and order Chinese food.” This is not an offer or a request; it is a statement of fact, and every bit of it sounds like the perfect thing.



    “Well, then I will do a little unpacking, and meet you in the den, and we will hunker down for some serious screen time.”



    I finish my tea, grab another piece of mandel bread, and get up from my chair. Bubbles grabs my wrist in a firm grip. “Darling girl, it will all be okay.
    All of the most successful people with the most exciting lives start over at least once. Your grandfather did it twice. You mark my words, sooner than you
    think, this will all officially become the best thing that ever happened to you.”



    I lean over and kiss the top of her silvery head, breathing in the scent of the Arpège perfume she has always worn. “I’m gonna take your word for that.”



    I spend the next hour putting clothes away in the closet that Bubbles emptied out for me and in the small dresser. My wardrobe isn’t exactly expansive,
    consisting mostly of chef’s gear for work, jeans and sweaters for when I’m not at work, and a couple of go-to dresses for evenings out. And, of course, my
    wedding dress, freshly cleaned and in its special garment bag. I hang it way in the back of the closet. Ruth and Jean wanted me to have some sort of
    defacing ceremony, splattering it with paint or burning it in effigy, but I just couldn’t bring myself to ruin it. It wasn’t the dress’s fault. A part of
    me thinks I should be smart and try to sell it; after all, it’s worth a bloody fortune, only worn once, and there has to be another voluptuous bride who
    would want it, but I’m not quite ready for that yet.



    I manage to clear off the bed and arrange all my boxes so that I know what is in them—mostly cookbooks and cooking equipment. I sold my condo fully
    furnished; the guy who bought it was a bachelor and a first-year associate at a law firm who was happy not to have to make any decisions and paid a bit
    extra for me to leave everything behind. None of it had any particular sentimental value, and I was glad to just be out clean. Plus I didn’t want to waste
    money on a mover or a storage unit.



    “Just in time.” Bubbles pats the couch next to her when I get to the den, and I snuggle in. She hands me one of the crocheted throw blankets that she made
    as a young bride when they were all the rage, and I tuck it around me. The television, a fancy flat-screen we bought her for her eightieth birthday a
    couple of years ago to replace her ancient tube television, has all the bells and whistles: a Comcast Xfinity X1 DVR, a Blu-ray, a DVD player, Apple TV.
    I’m in charge of her technology lessons, and she has become very adept at managing Netflix and Hulu and Amazon Prime, in addition to On Demand programming
    and all the shows she records and the large DVD collection she has amassed over the years. Snatch succeeds in hauling his lumpy carcass up onto the couch,
    in a fresh sweater that looks like a tuxedo jacket with a jaunty felt gardenia sewed into the buttonhole, and burrows in next to Bubbles, who scratches his
    head and makes him wiggle and grunt happily.



    Then she takes my hand in hers, and as soon as the MGM lion roars, I can feel my shoulders unclench just a little bit, and my breath is slightly less tight
    in my chest, and before long, for the first time in I can’t remember when, I’m feeling at ease in the world and thinking that, if nothing else, I’m home.

Reading Group Guide

Questions for Discussion

1. Sophie is bound and determined to have her dream wedding, even though she knows it goes beyond the scope of her means and requires that she hide the expenses from her fiancé. What do you think it says about someone who is that committed to a type of event that they will put themselves in financial straits in order to make it happen? What did it make you think about Sophie?

2. Sophie is very determined to keep herself hidden away after her public embarrassment. Would you have handled it the same way? What is the most publicly embarrassing thing that has happened to you?

3. Bubbles gives Sophie a safe place to land when her life falls apart. Why do you think Sophie chooses to move in with her instead of her parents? Who would you move in with in a similar scenario?

4. Sophie adores the movies of the 1930s and 1940s. How can you see those movies influencing her life, good or bad? What do you think it says about her that she is so much more drawn to those old films than to contemporary movies?

5. Do you think Sophie should be giving out wedding advice for money? Do you like or agree with the advice she gives? If you needed a second source of income, what sort of advice website would you launch?

6. WeddingGirl.com brings Jake into Sophie’s life. Why do you think she is drawn to him? Were you excited for her or concerned that he was going to be trouble? Have you ever met someone randomly online and ended up knowing them in real life?

7. The Cake Goddess coming into the neighborhood means trouble for the already troubled Langers, and puts Sophie in the awkward position of wanting to help the failing business, without really being committed to it for the long run. Mark calls her out on getting Herman’s hopes up. Do you agree with his side of things, or do you think it was right for Herman and Sophie to fight for the business?

8. The cake competition was bound to put Sophie back in the public eye, even if she was only assisting Herman. Do you think she was ready? If you were going to make a cake based on your hometown, what elements would it have?

9. Were you surprised to discover Mark is such an accomplished cook? Did it alter your opinion about him?

10. Were you glad that “Jake” turned out to be Mark? Do you think that he and Sophie are a good match? What do you think their wedding will be like? And who will bake the cake?

Customer Reviews

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Wedding Girl 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Anonymous 11 months ago
Romantic and funny. This is the second book I have read by this author and I enjoyed both. I’m definitely a fan and will select more to read in the future.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Could not believe it as the story progressed. This isn't "You've Got Mail" meets anything. She has literally stolen 90% of "You've Got Mail" (including character names and bits of original dialogue). I passed it on to my friend who is an attorney specializing in copyright law and she was equally appalled. There is nothing transformative about this (throwing in a few recipes doesn't qualify as transormative) so it isn't even covered by the laws that protect fanfiction, and it CERTAINLY isn't fair use. Thankfully, I come from a fairly connected family publishing-wise and we are alerting Warner Brothers.
KrittersRamblings More than 1 year ago
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings A combo of You've Got Mail and Father of the Bride with a fantastic baking twist - and be warned once you start this book, you won't want to put it down til the last page! Sophie is left at the altar in the first chapter and not only does she lose her groom, she also loses her way in her career and ends up back at her grandmother's home to regroup and find a new direction. Through an interesting meeting she becomes a wedding advice person via email and gets back into the business in her hometown bakery.
FeatheredQuillBookReviews More than 1 year ago
Stacey Ballis gets the party started immediately in her latest novel, Wedding Girl. Sophie Bernstein is a beyond talented pastry chef. She is getting married to an equally talented guy, sommelier Dexter Kelley IV—DK to his friends (and Dex to Sophie). This will be the wedding of the century. The bride-to-be and her groom personified work at Chicago’s two Michelin-starred restaurant: Sale et Sucre. The reception will be at one of Chicago’s iconic turn-of-the-century mansions. There will be a smoking room for the cigar crowd and anterooms for intimate conversation. The attention to detail continues when the entourage is escorted back to the first floor library for breakfast and the all-night snacks buffet. Sophie is an image of rapture and beauty in her stunning, custom-crafted Vera Wang gown. There’s only one problem, where is Dex? On the day when Sophie plans to cross her line from maiden to happily ever after bride, imagine her horror when she learns Dex won’t be coming. Rather, he has fled to the islands with another woman—the woman who he really intended to marry and the rest to put it quite bluntly, is history. The aftermath of the debacle sinks in for Sophie. She is in debt beyond her eyeballs, her once coveted job sucks and the once happy-go-lucky, overflowing cup of positive now holds the remnants of a jaded and cynical view of her being. She is forced to give up her condo before foreclosure makes the decision for her. She opts to move in with her beloved grandmother, Bubbles, and begins her journey back to where it is she is destined to go in life. She has lost her job and is the subject of pity in many eyes of her beholders. Sophie realizes it’s time to rally and start over. She finds a job in a local neighborhood bakery, Langer’s Bakery, making it clear to its owner, Herman Langer, that she is not committing to anything long-term. She just needs something to keep the creditors at bay until she figures out her next step. When bride-to-be Amelia happens into the bakery in a quandary of what to do for her wedding cake, she leaves ecstatic after not only receiving the perfect cake recommendation, but solid advice of do’s and don’ts for her upcoming wedding. Unbeknownst to Sophie, Amelia has a brilliant idea to set up a website for Sophie. She may not realize it quite yet, but Sophie has a knack for dishing out terrific advice when it comes to planning the perfect wedding...even if the outcome of her wedding was a colossal train wreck. Stacey Ballis has hit it out of the park with Wedding Girl. Her tenacious and colorful persona through the development of main character Sophie Bernstein is fantastic. She fires on all pistons when it comes to credibility. The whimsy of Sophie and her tightknit community of a Jewish family unit is delightful and lovable and it brings the reader to a place where family is the centerpiece of molding a balanced and wonderful life. She steps the reader through chapter upon chapter whose titles are named after some of the constant and iconic black and white movies in time. There is a sublime notion of romantic melancholy that builds to a terrific crescendo at story’s end without selling the plot down the river before the reader arrives at the proverbial end. This is a great romantic comedy and it will entice anyone who is in search of ‘...and they lived happily ever after...’ Thoroughly enjoyable read and Ms. Ballis’ writing ability makes the outcome seem effortless!
SW57 More than 1 year ago
This started out as a left at the alter story, but progressed into somewhat of a You've Got Mail type of story. It kept me guessing until the end! Solid main characters & quirky side characters. Great story!
Bethany05 More than 1 year ago
This happens to be the first book I have ever read by Stacey Ballis and I am hooked. The attention to detail was incredible, the character development was amazing and I loved the plot! I have never read a true foodie piece of fiction and I can't say enough about it! The description of the foods and recipes were to die for. Pastry chef Sophie was planning the wedding of her dreams, she spared no expense from the flowers to the food. Dexter was the man of her dreams and this wedding would be a true depiction of that. Little did she know that as she was getting ready to walk down the isle (literally) her soon to be husband was no where to be found...And then they located him (I will not give away all the juicy details). Fast forward to where Sophie ends up after all of this debacle takes place... She moves in with her adorable Grandmother, Bubbles. What a sweet woman! And with the debt she amassed she needed a job ASAP! One day she was picking up dinner items for Bubbles and she lands a job working at the friendly neighborhood bakery. Yes, it was a step down from what Sophie is used to but she needs to make a dime to pay back her mountain of debt and she would prefer to stay out of the public eye at the moment. This story has so many fun twists and turns - Sophie makes a great friend after taking an order for her wedding cake, she has awesome friends who will support her in any way, she takes on a part time job that becomes a fun passion, and maybe even meets a hot guy or two along the way. From Chapter 1 to the end, Stacey does not disappoint. I can't wait to read more by this amazing author!