Amanda Ashby’s opening meet-cute to her new series, Sisters of Wishing Bridge Farm, won MissB over. Heroine Emmy Watson works hard to retain ownership of her deceased Aunt Ivy’s farm by turning the Connecticut venue into a wedding site and herself a wedding planner. Not everything has gone as planned, however, and she’s at the airport, waiting to pick up the best man whose local-inn accommodations were flooded by the groom’s gormless brother. There’s nought to be done, the best man’ll have to stay with her. Unfortunately, the airport terminal also coughs up a ghost from Emmy’s past, her one-week-end-stand, Christopher Henderson. Ashby’s talent for witty writing is evident in the re-meet-cute, as Emmy echoes Casablanca‘s Rick: “Of all the arrival gates in all the world, he walked into this one.” It turns out he not only walked into her arrival gate, he’s walking into her first wedding planner’s job as – the best man. Christopher too is non-plussed by seeing Emmy again, especially when she whisks him into her truck and drives away. As a travel writer, he’s seen some weird stuff, but this is a first: “He’d been in a lot of strange situations on his travels, but as far as he was aware, this was the first he’d ever been kidnapped by a wedding planner.” Ashby’s witty writing and pop-culture references engaged MissB and she looked forward to the novel.
Though the opening was rom-comedy cute, Ashby build her h/h on the bedrock of serious stuff, adding much-needed gravitas notes. We learn more about Emmy and Christopher and begin to understand why their week-end-stand wasn’t extended. Emmy is deeply attached to the farm and the town of Sunshine (MissB knows, yes, this is so cheesy). Emmy’s loyalty to town and farm is in keeping with Emmy’s character: “Emmy … was sensible and quiet … She made jam and patchwork quilts. Witty rejoinders really weren’t her forte … if capable had a cheerleading squad, then she’d be on the banner – with stars around her name.” Again, more evidence of Ashby’s talented writing and an understanding for the reader that Emmy is introverted and conservative. Christopher is the opposite, a restless adventurer. But Christopher’s peripatetic penchant stems from a loveless, violent childhood: ” … it was all for this. To be successful. To do something important with his life. To not turn out like his father.” Ashby established her h/h on an opposites-attract trope and threw in a good dose of hurt from their original encounter. It turns out Christopher asked Emmy to travel with him and she refused, having just learned of her beloved Aunt Ivy’s cancer.
So, there’s hurt on both sides and a desire for very different life goals and styles. On those bases, Ashby’s romance had a lot going for it. Sadly, it didn’t live up to MissB’s initial expectations. Ashby’s writing remained witty and engaging throughout. Her descriptions of the wishing bridge were downright elegant and lyrical. But her narrative had other problems, problems that slowed it down and left Miss B. restless to finish rather than eager for it to go on and on. For one, Emmy and Christopher spend more narrative time in their heads than together. They think about each other a lot and lust after each other a lot, but don’t really interact that much. Secondly, despite the mind-lusting, when the love scene finally rolls around, the bedroom-door closes. Miss Bates doesn’t have a problem with “kisses-only” romance that builds on that singular desire, like many great inspie romance writers do (she’s looking at you, Sherri Shackelford, Karen Kirst, and Lacy Williams, and she misses you). But to have two characters mind-lusting and then close the door. Not enjoyable.
MissB’s third reason for not totally endorsing Ashby’s Falling For the Best Man is vague, but she’ll take a stab at it anyway. Ashby’s romance felt, to MissB at least, as if the writer was caught up in the writing of it in a way that neglected the characters coming alive. It felt as if there was something there that was trying to burst through the prose. Vague – sorry. In the end, Miss B. can say that Ashby is a rom-writer with potential and she’d be most curious to see what she can do in the future. For now, however, she and Miss Austen say that Falling For the Best Man is “almost pretty,” Northanger Abbey.
Amanda Ashby’s Falling For the Best Man is published by Entangled Publishing. It was released in January 2017 and may be procured from your preferred vendors. Miss Bates received an e-ARC from Entangled, via Netgalley.