Honestly, folks, I’m scared to take a reading-breath, I’ve had SUCH a run of great books since New Year’s and Holiday’s Three Little Words gets on that list too. Not that I’m complaining, but as an introvert and pessimist, I do wonder: when will the reading ball drop?
So, Holiday’s #3 of Bridesmaids Behaving Badly: I wasn’t super-keen going in because, while I enjoyed #2, it didn’t rock my world. I liked it well enough and I especially liked Holiday’s smooth, easy-as-pie prose. There were also intriguing little moments with Gia Gallo, one of the quarto of girlfriends that make up Holiday’s series and this is Gia’s story and the intriguing Cajun chef in whose restaurant heroine Wendy and hero Noah dine in It Takes Two. Gia is gorgeous, a model, and a mess when it comes to food. She’s got a problem with it. In Three Little Words, we learn that, at days-away from 30, her body isn’t doing the skinny-model thing it used to and Gia’s having trouble coming to terms. Groomed from girlhood to compete in the pageant circuit, Gia doesn’t know what else she can be, what else she can do. She puts her existential crisis on hiatus at the novel’s start, however, because she‘s on her way to deliver her friend’s, Wendy’s, wedding dress to her Pink Palace Florida wedding. With a fitting scheduled, Gia has to get there ASAP.
When the novel opens in NYC, Gia’s arguing with an airport official as he tries to explain that a major snowstorm has halted flights. Hero Bennett Buchanan, the groom’s best friend, on his way to Florida with the rings, witnesses and internally scoffs at Gia’s entitled hissy-fit. Initial impressions aren’t good on either part, but New York City snowstorms are the mother of Gia and Bennett’s reluctant travel alliance. In the novel’s course, they spend time at Bennett’s restaurant, Boudin, the night in his loft, on a train to Baltimore, where the storm follows and deters them once more, and into a Mini-Cooper which they drive all the way into the arms of the wedding party. In between their inauspicious hardly-meet-cute and the Floridian Pink Palace, they forge a reluctant friendship, surrender to their physical attraction, and fall in love. But the course of true love and weather-fraught road romance never did run smooth …
Holiday has crafted the perfect romance: with the unifying structural principle of the shared journey. As a result, Holiday paces the give-and-take, the reluctance-and-eagerness dance of the romance in as engaging a manner as a romance can be. Moreover, she crafts two characters whose goodness, vulnerability, and weaknesses offer enough opposities-attract friction to keep it interesting and carefully-dropped instances of shining-through compatibility to keep things hopeful: tense, hopeful, and invested, that’s what the best of the genre offers and Holiday has achieved it. She infuses Gia and Bennett’s exchanges with wit and banter, with honesty and an opening-up of themselves to the other, with tenderness and pain; their physical exchanges are beautifully crass and raw, but honest, organic to who they are as individuals and what they’re coming to mean to the other. And, rarer in romance than it should be, she shows them as the helpmeets they can be to each other when they achieve their HEA.
The struggle is real because Holiday layers setting, narrative ARC, and distinct personalities with an opposites-attract icing that works to create conflict. Gia is a no-strings gal and Bennett is an all-out strings guy. This is the novel’s surface: commitment-adherent and commitment-phobe, the stuff rom-coms are made of. I think the novel is more interesting than that. That Gia and Bennett will be together is not that difficult to work out: they’ve got the “feelz”, it’ll happen. There’s a delightful blow-out fight, but the reader can tell it’s only a matter of time. What I really enjoyed about the novel is how two people at existential cross-purposes fall in love. Since his misspent youth, Bennett has been on a mission to live differently, to do better, to give rather than take and destroy. His personal survival is a victory, hard-won, well-deserved. Gia, on the other hand, feels she is purposeless. Modelling, what she’s always done, is what she knows, but it’s not a purpose she can get behind anymore. How Bennett mitigates his missionary zeal, achieves reconciliation, with Gia’s love and help, and how Gia, with Bennett’s love and help, finds a way to reevaluate her relationship with food from enemy to sustenance and to be in the world with her own defined purpose, is what makes the novel great. With Miss Austen, we agree that Holiday’s Three Little Words is evidence that there is “no charm equal to tenderness of heart,” Emma.
Jenny Holiday’s Three Little Words is published by Forever. It was released on January 29th and may be found at your preferred vendor. I received an e-ARC from Forever, via Netgalley.