Ellie Ferguson’s WEDDING BELL BLUES (available at the Naked Reader Press, www.nakedreader.com) is a funny, spicy mystery set around Jessica “Jess” Jones’s sister Maryanne’s wedding. Someone wants to stop this wedding at all costs, but who? And why? And how can Jess resist former lover (and police detective) Colton Dougherty, especially when he’s being so solicitous of her welfare?
Much of the fun of Ms. Ferguson’s work isn’t the plot; it’s the snappy dialogue and the snarky wit that makes WEDDING BELL BLUES so much fun. Like Toni McGee Causey’s debut novel BOBBIE FAYE’S VERY (VERY, VERY, VERY) BAD DAY, while the plot is just fine, it’s the characterization and most importantly the humor that makes this a joy to read.
The plot is as follows: Maryanne Jones is about to marry the love of her life, Brett Boudreaux, and her sister, Jess, is disgusted as you might expect with a pink and fuschia bridesmaid gown. She’s also distracted by thoughts of her former lover, Colton, especially as he’s been on television quite often lately due to a string of high-profile murders. Colton is the only man Jess has ever loved, but ten-plus years ago he did something Jess could not forgive and she immediately cut Colton out of his life, no explanations, no warning, no nothing. And Colton just left — which was an admission of guilt as far as Jess was concerned. (Have I mentioned yet that Jess has a temper and that this is one of her besetting sins?)
Of course these two are going to get together, but what’s more important is how they do it — and I found that realistic, funny, and even touching at times. As they’re trying to re-start their relationship amidst all the troubles around Maryanne’s wedding, things are difficult from the start and get worse and worse — yet Jess never quite loses her sense of humor, and we continue to root for her and Colton, seeing them as flawed humans, yes, but folks for whom we can clap and cheer. (A nice balance, that.)
As this is a novel of romantic suspense, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one other plus — the sex scenes between Jess and Colton are fraught with emotional tension, which is realistic and true-to-life yet funny as Hell. This isn’t as easy to write as it sounds, because most writers don’t even try to do something like this — yet Ms. Ferguson carried this off effortlessly, which bodes well for her future.
Simply put: there are a lot of romances out there. And there are a lot of romances with suspense out there. But there are far fewer romances out there with romance, suspense, and humor — and Ms. Ferguson went three-for-three, holding my interest nicely.
I truly enjoyed this fine debut novel, and I look forward to whatever else Ms. Ferguson writes next.
Grades: For humor — A; for suspense — B; for romance — A, which averages out to a very nice A-minus.
The upshot: WEDDING BELL BLUES is a fun book with nice plotting. If you give it a chance, you will enjoy this a great deal. (In other words, I recommend this novel. Wholeheartedly.)
— reviewed by Barb