I read The Wedding Date last year, Guillory’s first novel, and it was so good! I enjoyed the heat and the focus on food and the story in general, especially how strong and ambitious the female lead was. But when her second book, The Proposal, came out, I wasn’t as interested (sports based romance isn’t my favorite sub-genre, as was reiterated when I read Intercepted earlier this year). And then her third and fourth books came out and I was just so behind! But I always knew I’d read more from Guillory. So when my long distance book club was looking for a Christmas themed book as our December read, I knew this was the one I’d recommend. Plus, it pulled double duty as my choice for the last month’s prompt for the Just One More Pa(i)ge Reading Challenge 2019, “End of Year Happy Days,” or a rom-com/uplifting read. Trying to end the year on a positive note and it worked out nicely with this choice!
When Maddie gets a job doing some fashion work for the Royal Family in England over Christmas, she invites her mother, Vivian, along with her for the Holidays. Vivian is a social worker in CA and, while she loves her job, doesn’t usually take time for herself. Maddie convinces her to come on the last-minute vacation and one her first day in England, she runs into Malcolm, the Queen’s private secretary…and a very attractive man just around her age. They are immediately drawn to each other and end up spending most of Vivian’s trip together. But they’re both too old for “falling in love” and long-distance relationships, right?
This was such a sweet and adorable romance. There were so many things about it that I loved. For example, this is the first romance I’ve read based on 50ish year old main characters and it was so refreshing. It was great to see a focus on how, at any age, romance and sexual desire are present and strong and deserve to be followed through on. Plus, it’s great to read characters whose “drama” is so grounded. They have real life problems and challenges that they have to deal with, but it is done so maturely and with perspective that comes with years. It may not always be the kind of story I want, but in this case, I really liked and respected the representation. And it was important in making the ending believably handled, in both timeframe and action. Very nicely written by Guillory.
The other thing I really liked is that both had had a failed long-term relationship/marriage in the past and were very clear and candid about what they had learned from those experiences and what they were looking for in moving into another one. For example, Vivian’s openness about how she feels about surprises, and then her admittance about why, and how (maybe just a little), those feelings changed when in a healthier relationship, was so gratifying to read – I wanted to cheer every time she spoke her truth with such conviction and was ready to deal with the consequences. Relatedly, I truly loved the accepting way Malcom accepted her truths and advice…especially in the times where his first reactions weren’t perfect/fair/constructive. I think it’s so important to show healthy communication within disagreements, because that’s truly the basis for the strongest relationships.
The last specific thing I want to call out is Vivian’s career path storyline. Oh my goodness, this is one of my favorite things I’ve ever experienced in a story, not in the least because I truly identify with it, but also because it’s not something I’ve ever read, I don’t think. I am 100% pro all feminist ambition in the workplace and WOC especially being in positions of power that they deserve, and as an inspiration to others. But being in a position of power is not everyone’s dream. And it is just as feminist, if perhaps more quietly so, to find the space in the world that makes you most happy, and where you can make a difference, and excel there…without wanting to be the “leader” in that area. And Vivian’s path to that self-understanding and self-acceptance is spectacular. Excellence comes in many forms and hers is so inspiring to, at the very least, me.
Other than that, this was just so fun to read. Although the writing felt just a little unpolished, particularly at the beginning, it leveled out as the story went, and the dialogue even picked up to be quite quick and witty the further into it I got. Plus, I loved England as a setting and Guillory did so much with it! My parents lived in London for a few months and I really enjoyed revisiting (in such an uplifting way) some of my most favorite moments from visiting them – including the Victoria and Albert Museum and fireworks over the city on New Year’s Eve (my favorite holiday!). This novel is perhaps not as overtly steamy as The Wedding Date, but with the combination of the characters’ ages and Malcolm’s British-ness (and job visibility) it made sense. And don’t worry, there is still definitely some steam. At one point in the book, Malcom describes Vivian as “bright and vibrant and sparkling” and I have to say, I think that just about perfectly sums up the whole book.