By Anya Shukla
As a romance connoisseur, I first started reading this much-hyped book several months ago… and got as far as the first 10 pages. But I knew I had to finish the novel for this list. If “The Wedding Date” was good, I could use my review to paint a hero’s-journey-style redemption arc; if it was bad, I’d employ my signature snark.
I read “The Wedding Date” after I got my wisdom teeth out, so it’s possible this review tainted by painkillers and lethargy. While the main characters snacked on cheese and crackers in their meet-cute, I tragically slurped on a smoothie, wrapped my head in an ice pack, and criticized the heck out of them.
TW: sexual violence
Review: Jasmine Guillory’s “The Wedding Date” checks many traditional romance novel boxes: a book full of tropes; a juicy third-act conflict; and a stunning trainwreck of a breakup, complete with a lack of communication and a plot twist no one (but also everyone) saw coming.
The story seems straightforward. Girl (Alexa) meets boy (Drew) in a stalled elevator. Boy asks girl to be his fake girlfriend for an upcoming wedding. Cue: a hemorrhaging of frequent flyer miles, emotional vulnerability, assumptions (and you know what they say about assumptions), several rude and/or racist men, food-related inside jokes, and so much more.
“The Wedding Date” does shove past the centuries-old stagnancy of everyone-in-this-romance-book-is-white by centering on an interracial couple. Yet Guillory’s stilted dialogue and uncomfortable character choices turn her dreams of diversifying the genre into a nightmare. Rating: 1/5 stars.
What I Loved: I could easily visualize each scene: Drew and Alexa snuggling together on the elevator, their closeness at the wedding, the tension in the air after their first real fight. Guillory describes each moment with clarity and detail. (Somehow, the description in “The Wedding Date” is leagues better than the dialogue.)
I also valued the focus on Drew and Alexa’s interracial relationship, a dynamic not often seen in the whitewashed world of romance. Alexa (a Black woman) doesn’t find their courtship easy: she faces racism from some of Drew’s acquaintances and relatives. Their comments, among other things, drive a rift between the happy couple. Yet in the end, the two don’t let the naysayers define their relationship. The characters prove to readers that everyone can find their happily ever after.
What I Didn’t Love: First off, the novel’s convoluted dialogue. “Well, I would much prefer that you win me than him, even though I am indeed not a thing to win, so I guess we agree there” (pg. 122). I’m... sorry? Do people living in the 21st century talk like this?
Admittedly, this quote is extreme, but the rest of the dialogue isn't much better. Most of the book’s conversations would sound natural if found in a movie or real life. In a novel, however, they read as awkward and rambling.
Second off, Drew. I don’t understand why anyone would be interested in him. Sure, he’s attractive, but he has the personality of a raw turnip. Case in point: after Alexa and Drew have been seeing each other for a while, they attend a party where he keeps introducing her as his friend. When Alexa calls him on it, he explodes: “Really? You have that low of an opinion of me, just because I didn’t introduce you to people as my girlfriend?... When you decided to push back our dinner reservations by an hour last night because you were on the phone with your buddy Teddy writing one fucking sentence together for forty-five minutes, did I call you a controlling bitch workaholic who doesn’t pay attention to anyone else’s feelings? No, I didn’t, but I sure as hell could have” (pg. 498).
Take a second to really soak that in.
At this point, these two have seen each other almost every weekend since they met, spent thousands on plane tickets to see each other almost every weekend since they met, and gone to a wedding together (as a fake couple, but still). Their history means Alexa has the right to be upset. And Drew’s reaction is to call her a “bitch”? I’m sorry, what?
Near the novel’s end, this crisis has (way too quickly) been resolved, and Drew tells Alexa that he loves her. Then he prompts her to reciprocate: "Don't you have something else to tell me?" (pg. 582). My notes on this incident read: “WHY WOULD YOU PROMPT AN ‘I LOVE YOU’ LIKE THAT I HATE DREW SO MUCH HE IS THE WORST PERSON EVER AND SHOULD SERIOUSLY STOP PLEASE.” Dude. If she doesn’t want to say it, she shouldn’t have to say it.
And none of this even compares to the fact that after Alexa tells him that “we can’t do this anymore” (pg. 506)—basically breaking up with him—Drew initiates sex with her. (She does give verbal consent, but at one point, she’s also crying so hard she starts hiccupping.) Alexa (and by extension, Guillory) later tries to play this scene off as “intimate” (pg. 520) and “personal” (pg. 520) but I personally find it to be awful behavior on Drew’s part.
In writing this novel, Guillory puts the... radish that is Drew on a pedestal. Yes, he’s a white guy who upends the romance genre. Drew listens to Alexa’s needs as a person of color; he sees her as a full human being. But that doesn’t make up for his terrible boyfriend behavior.
A Quote I Would Like On Goodreads Because It’s ICONIC: “Come to the wedding, be my sandwich, protect me from poisoning and disaster. It’ll be your good deed for the year. And it’s only May—look at you, getting your good deed for the year done before the year is half over!” (pg. 39).
Up next on the BIPOC Book List: "The Undocumented Americans" by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio.