Monday 19 February 2018

A rush down the aisle that delivers froth in spades

Two years ago, Melissa Hill signed a six-figure deal to write crime novels with her husband, but despite critical acclaim for their joint endeavours (written under the pen name Casey Hill), she hasn't given up the day job as a bestselling chicklit writer.

And why would she when her solo writing career has proved so fruitful? Her chicklit novels have sold more than one million copies worldwide.

But it's difficult to juggle two genres and perhaps the prolific Hill has been stretching herself a little too much recently.

Her latest solo effort is typically charming, but there's no denying that the story of The Guest List isn't as substantial as some of her fans might expect.

Cara Clancy is delighted when her boyfriend Shane unexpectedly proposes, and it isn't long before she starts planning her perfect day. It won't be anything like the extravaganza her little sister Heidi indulged in when she got married. Instead, Cara imagines herself walking barefoot up the aisle, saying I do on the beach, surrounded by a small group of family and friends.

It sounds idyllic – at least to Cara and Shane. But neither set of parents feel the same way; they have very different plans for the wedding, especially Shane's rich parents who see it as a perfect opportunity to show off to all their society friends.

When Shane's mother tries to get her way by forcing Cara to sign a pre-nuptial agreement, the bride-to-be begins to think that perhaps she doesn't want to get married at all.

Not everyone is disappointed by Cara's heartbreak. Her older sister Danielle has reasons to be positively relieved that the wedding may be off.

Danielle has no wish to involve her family in her life: she's effectively estranged from them and has spent years living in the US where she has reinvented herself. Cara's wedding had threatened to destabilise her hard-earned equilibrium.

But Danielle's life may yet unravel when the secret she has been hiding for years is revealed to shocking effect.

With The Guest List, Hill has delivered with yet another feel-good tale that's bound to top the bestseller list.

However, there is a but: this is a slight tale that's a little unsatisfying. While the reader may cheer for Cara (and possibly more so for Danielle), there's a sense that maybe the author didn't. The Guest List feels a little rushed – perhaps Melissa had one too many deadlines to meet.

Still, Hill knows her audience well and, chances are, they aren't choosing her books for a realistic slice of life in contemporary Ireland. So for those looking for some escapism, this dose of froth delivers in spades.

Rowena Walsh

Irish Independent

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