Initial reaction: Decided that I'd go ahead and write a formal review of this. Yeah, I didn't expect to read this and there's a bit of a story that I'll tell when I write the full review. This was about what I expected it to be - a bit on the cheese side, had some offenses to offer to the table (misogyny chiefly, but even very few instances of casual racism...fun times, not.) But believe it or not, Travis was probably more tame in this narrative than he was in either Beautiful Disaster or Walking Disaster (didn't mean he lacked annoying points).
Abby on the other hand...
I'll talk about it in the full review. There's a bit to cover, but I'm going to have to rely on what I remember.
Earlier this year (2013), I read what I thought was the last of the "Beautiful" series - "Walking Disaster" and thought something along the lines of "Ugh, THAT'S IT! I'm done, I'm through, no more trying to follow Travis and Abby Maddox because I find them both to be epic insufferable. They're married, this series is finished. I'm not subjecting myself to this kind of fantastical train wreck fraught with misogyny, repetition of things already happened, and other offenses And that epilogue was the most Mary Sue wish fulfillment thing I've ever read. No more. Never again."
"Walking Disaster" was featured not long ago on my personal top 10 worst reads on my blog, actually dethroning "Beautiful Disaster" out of the top ten at #8 on the list. (I think "Beautiful Disaster" is still somewhere in the top 20 if I were to make such a list that long. But I digress.)
Fast forward a number of months later, I realize that the Beautiful series is, in fact, not over. There's a novella, it's about the shotgun wedding that Travis and Abby have in Vegas.
My first instinct was to run. But the funny thing about life is that you could say you will never touch another book in a series or by a particular author, and somehow it comes back to bite you in the bum when you actually end up in a shotgun scenario of your own where you do the complete opposite because you're drawn, in all places and spaces, within a bookstore.
Here's the story: my area has a lot of used bookstores and I was perusing them for good deals with the possibility of getting some gifts for people I love, and probably a good deal for myself if the price was right. I didn't expect to find a copy of "A Beautiful Wedding" in the Bargain Bin at one of these stores. For one, the book just came out the day before - the one I saw in the bin was in used, but good condition. It's a hardback book, you could probably put it on a coffee table. You could also read it in a single sitting (which is what I ended up doing).
But as I picked it up, I couldn't help but think "This is short...but do I really want to do this? I know this is a book that I probably will have problems with, but it's in my hands. I could technically read it at the table nearby."
One of the store attendants told me that someone just brought the book in that morning to sell, and as I flipped through it, really the only thing about it that was odd was a few scuffs with the cover and edge of the book on the outside.
I decided I might as well, because some might be curious to see where the story goes and I wondered what exactly happened at the wedding. It took me inside an hour to finish it, so really - this wasn't long at all, but designed with your usual whirlwind drama.
The story takes place after the fire in "Beautiful Disaster" - where Travis and Abby escape the devastation and on their way to Vegas to have a "shotgun" wedding. But this story purports to describe the "real" story behind their sudden decision to get married.
Abby marries Travis under false pretenses. I figure I might as well say that straightaway, because that's the major conflict (if you can call it one). If you're looking for plausibility as to why, probably not a good idea to try to look too hard into it because you either might start wincing at the terms or laughing because it's not...really possible. Maybe somewhere between that reaction if you're critical of it. Some fans of this series might even be sketchy with that reveal because they might think "OMG, WTF? Abby wanted to marry Travis for that? That's not my happy romantic ending! I thought she *really* wanted to marry him."
Yeah, no. Not at that time anyway.
Abby, filled with anxiety over the whole measure of things, decides to have the shotgun wedding in Vegas so that she can save Travis from getting arrested on behalf of the events of the fire. The guy that Travis fought ended up dead (So, yay? Travis is not only misogynistic, but he's also a loosely connected murderer because he knocked the guy out and no one got him out of the fire? Great! *gives two thumbs up then frowns and turns them down*) The latter reveal comes later, but I'm going to focus on the false terms for a moment.
Abby doesn't tell Travis that he might be suspect wanted for questioning in this whole...situation. Instead, she lies to him, wants to get married then, and the two hop on a plane ride straight to Vegas, complete with a fake Elvis. Abby's in a big, big rush to get this wedding overwith so that Travis can be cleared of any kind of wrongdoing, since the wedding is their coer. Travis's brother Trent texts Abby with updates about the situation to see if Travis can get cleared. There's a lot of plot holes and suspension of disbelief entailed in all this, and I had a difficult time believing it.
Even when Trent points out the stupidity of that plan, Abby's like "Don't tell me it's stupid." =_____=
Travis does suspect Abby's hiding something, but mostly he thinks she's on edge about the wedding and might get cold feet. He observes her at one point crying as she talks to Trent on the cell, but he doesn't know what's going on. In other measures, Travis is still his charming misogynistic self in some terms. He even considers an attractive Chinese girl and thinks (paraphrased) "If I were my old self and not with Abby, I would totally bang this chick." Yeah...nah, he hasn't changed at this point of the story. But maybe I wouldn't expect him to because of the timeline. At least the character's are consistent, but thinking about the events of the fire, there are some stretches in the timeline taken here.
Anyway, wedding details. Abby gets her dress, Travis hires an Elvis, the two say their vows in a chapel. Abby even receives a "beyond the grave" letter from Travis's mother. It's a pre-written letter to Travis's wife about her "special" boy and telling Abby in so many words to take care of him.
This will make me sound somewhat heartless, but I thought that was total cheese the way it was done. I know there are some terminally ill people who write letters intended for their sons and daughters, and that's heartfelt, I get that. But honestly, there's no way that Travis's mother would know how her son would turn out to be, and I wasn't getting the motivation for his mother to write to his wife here. It was just...the strawberry on the very forced portrait that we get of Abby and Travis being "meant to be" together. I think McGuire still struggles to establish character motivations and background in her writing, and it was evident in this and other factors through the work, so it didn't sell me.
There were some really dry sexy times written here, didn't really do much for the character intimacy. At one point, Travis asks her about why Abby was crying and talking on the phone at the boutique she bought her dress (she didn't see him watching, as they conveniently were around the same place). Abby easily fields off his inquiry with something else. The issue is never brought up again.
No, I'm not kidding. So Travis never knew that Abby...really lied about her reasons for marrying him so quickly.
Potential plot conflict point dropped for the sake of love.
Later on, Abby goes with Travis to get "Mrs. Maddox" tattooed on her back, and America shows up briefly in the scene to curse Abby out about having a *real* wedding. The narrative fastforwards about a year later some time after that to show Abby and Travis having a traditional wedding in the Carribean. Travis is noted around this time to have his anger issues under wraps because he "hasn't punched anybody" in a while according to Abby. Meh.
Kara makes a brief appearance in this book, as does Shep and some of the other characters, but they're more background noise for the story than anything else.
I think in the sum of things, there's problems peppered through this narrative that are technical in the suspension of disbelief for the turns of events. I took issue with the very few presentation of the characters of color here - what with the aforementioned Chinese girl and the presentation of a limo driver who addressed Travis as "Mistah Maddox", but then spoke without a dialect for the remaining phrase. The limo driver was never mentioned for race, but upon context clues...seriously? I don't know how to take that personally, and it made me want to facepalm more than a few times.
Overall, about what I expected for the novella. I take it fans probably won't care. Me, I'm just on my floating solitary cloud for not believing in the happily ever after. I've read more endearing stories that were just as short with more sweetness while not trying to shove the romance down my throat. *holds up umbrella*
At least the characterization was consistent, and Travis was considerably more tame in personality since his anger and antics were pulled back significantly. Not a true progressive reformation for the guy, and honestly, that could've been shown even more in this novella. Abby was more of the sketchy party here (and one could make an argument that there's some subtle female condescension in that). Travis ends up being the good guy, and she ends up being the...well, not honest one. And that was an opportunity missed to actually put forth some palpable conflict to deal with the honesty issue between them, but it just bulldozed its way to the happy ending without consequence.
In sum, short read, but still full of problems for what it offered.
Overall: 1/5 stars