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Always the Bridesmaid
by: Whitney Lyles
Review by Shannah Biondine

A veteran bridesmaid, Cate Padgett knows all about crushed cakes, bad toasts, embarrassing relatives, wilted bouquets, and former suitors showing up to potentially ruin a bride's special day. But her own days aren't all that special. She has a cat she reluctantly inherited from other tenants in her apartment building, a commitment-phobic boyfriend who takes her for granted, a car in constant need of repairs, and a budget she's forever stretching to meet the expenses of dyed-to-match shoes, wear-them-once bridesmaid gowns and useless accessories.

Readers get a vivid picture of modern wedding culture, with its heavy focus on ostentation and materialistic excess. The author has written in a savvy style that lends true verisimilitude for a Twenty-Something living the Southern California lifestyle.

Where I found the story disappointing was that it offered little besides such surface details. Cate is always busy and yet doesn't seem immersed in anything that matters. She's forever in romantic surroundings, yet there's no passion in her life. She learns one of her friends suffers a "newlywed crisis" on the honeymoon, and wonders if the new bride focused so intently on the wedding ceremony that she forgot it actually signaled the start of a marriage. That's a significant distinction, and had "Always the Bridesmaid" explored questions like that, the novel might have provided food for thought. But it's not that kind of book. This one's strictly food for catering.

Whitney Lyles displays clever wit and crafts a handful of priceless scenes, the sort we all long to see played out at any wedding besides our own. There are definitely wry chuckles along Cate's flower-strewn path. The novel works best as allegory. From the title and front cover to the closing paragraphs, readers are meant to simply wonder if Cate will stop collecting abysmal outfits in assorted colors and finally take a trip down the aisle in white. If the curiously clueless Cate will finally wake up to the obvious: old friend Ethan is the man for her. This a quick read offering temporary diversion for those who enjoy escapist fiction. Fun, no-calorie fluff.

Always the Bridesmaid ranks
* * * stars

Published by Berkley Books, Format: Print, 320 pages
ISBN 0-425-19513-9


Shannah Biondine writes fantasy and romance for LTDBooks and Double Dragon Publishing. Her paranormal romance "Sleight of Mind" will debut at Whiskey Creek Press in July 2004. Shannah won the 2002 Eppie for Best Fantasy/Paranormal Romance and has been a Dream Realms and Prism finalist as well as Romantic Times Reviewer Nominee. She lives in Ventura County CA with her family and writes full time.
Her author site is www.homestead/com.biondine

Rating Scale:
* * * * * = Un-put-downable, excellent reading!
* * * * = Good value, interesting reading.
* * * = Had potential, but could have been better.
* * = Slow, difficult to read, could have been improved.
* = Imminently forgettable.


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