Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Book Review: Planning for Love by Christi Barth

Title: Planning for Love
Author: Christi Barth
Series: Book #1 in the Aisle Bound series
Release Date: 1 August 2012
Number of pages: 226 pages
Publisher: Carina Press
Purchasing Info: Goodreads, Author's Website, Amazon, Carina Press, Read an excerpt

Grade: 3.5 stars

Novellus bonus!
Goodreads appetizer:

~ Hopeless romantic Ivy Rhodes and anti-Cupid Bennett Westcott request the pleasure of your company for their disaster of a courtship ~

Wedding planner Ivy Rhodes is the best in the business, and she's not about to let a personal problem stop her from getting ahead. So when she's asked to star in the reality TV show Planning for Love, it doesn't matter that the show's videographer happens to be a recent—and heartbreaking—one-night stand.

Bennett Westcott admits he didn't handle his encounter with Ivy very well. But looking at her beautiful smile—and great body—through a camera lens every day? He can't be faulted for suggesting they have some no-strings fun.

The more time they spend together, the more Ben realizes Ivy isn't the wedding-crazed bridezilla he'd imagined. But if he doesn't trust himself to make a relationship last, how can he convince Ivy to give him another chance?

My Thoughts: I am a sucker for wedding romances. Have always loved wedding themed movies, even if they weren’t such great quality films I very much enjoyed getting a behind the scenes glimpse at the wedding industry and how wedding planners and all the little fairies work behind the scenes to provide the bride and groom with their perfect wedding. So when I glimpsed the cover of Planning for Love my interest was piqued, then I read the blurb and I was hooked and when I saw it was the latest novel of Christi Barth, whose two novels (Act Like We’re in Love and Cruising Toward Love) I enjoyed, I knew I would be reading it.

The blurb gives you a fairly good idea of what you can expect of Planning for Love: lots of pastel coloured frosting and wedding bells with a side of sexy banter and sweet romance.

Ivy is the perfect wedding planner: not only is she crazy organized (in her agenda she has “Pink tabs for showers, lilac for engagement parties and deep purple for weddings”), can keep her cool even when faced the most disastrous wedding problems, but most of all she is the kind of person who believes in romance and happy ever afters 100%. She was such a sappy romantic, seeing the world through her rose coloured lenses that she even sounded a bit like a Disney cartoon heroine, with birds braiding her hair and her constantly bursting into song and Hallmark card worthy lines.

Ben on the other hand was black to Ivy’s white (or rather rose& lilac combo), the complete opposite of Ivy. He is the epitome of commitment phobic. Not only he can’t and won’t commit to a woman, he doesn’t even spend more than a few weeks in a city. Paired to his revulsion of relationships and romance is his profound disillusionment and cynicism.

“All kidding aside, I don’t believe romance is evil.”
“Really? ’Cause you do a pretty convincing impression. You see a guy walking down the street with a dozen roses, and you all but whip out the holy water, garlic and crosses.”

Christi Barth couldn’t have created two more different characters. Just a line which perfectly portrays their different outlook on life (and love):

“I don’t know how anyone can stay dry eyed at a wedding.”
“Easy. Know the divorce stats.”

I loved the easy bantering repartee between Ben and Ivy, it was fun and so sexy. Come to think of it, it was Ben who was sexy. He was dripping with sexual innuendos which at times were chuckle worthy but at times so hot I had trouble swallowing:

“We could tiptoe around for another hour, throw back a few more drinks. Give us both a chance to relax…and realize how exhausted we are. Instead of wasting that time, let me say that I want you. I want us to go upstairs to my room, right now. I want to take you, fast and hard. While you’re still coming down, I want to lick every inch and spiral you right back up to the stars. Then, if you’re still game, I really do want you on top.”

Christi Barth gave a whole array of wonderful secondary characters, whom I can’t wait to read more about! There was the sexy British charmer playboy, the considerate and warmhearted delicious cake-maker baker, the flashily dressing gay fashionista friend along with the Ice Queen redhead, the sassy sugaraholic best friend florist just to name a few of the most memorable ones. They were all unique and interesting, and the group chemistry was one I wouldn’t mind experiencing in person it was so entertaining:

Why on earth was Daphne putting on lipstick and belting the oversized jersey?
“Or is there a hook-up potential here I don’t know about?”
“What?” Daphne abandoned her obsessive preening and whirled to face Ivy. “Of course not. This is our crew, our regular guys. We’re all in the trenches together. I wouldn’t touch any of them if they came laid out and oiled up on a silver platter.”
“Oiled up, huh? Methinks the horny lady doth protest too much.”

Despite the melting chemistry between Ben and Ivy and the colourful palette of supporting cast the story moved rather slowly, and it took a dive for me at the big quarrel Ben and Ivy had at the anniversary party of Ivy’s parents. I just thought it so out of character for Ivy the perfect wedding planner to ruin a happy couple’s (especially her own parents) night by airing the dirty laundry in front of the festive party. (And it’s also a personal pet peeve of mine, I just don't like public scenes.)

I had ambivalent feelings regarding the resolution of the big crisis: I thought that Ben realized his feelings in no time at all, two days to face his feelings and make a whole emotional u-turn is way too early for a commitment phobic guy like him. Though I loved the way he made his declaration to Ivy, and his words were sigh-inducing:

“My joy is standing right in front of me. You are my joy. The question is, will you be my wife?”

I found that proposing marriage after having lived 30something years as a commitment-phobic with no transition through dating, living together, etc was unrealistic, especially seeing how cynic he was about the institution of marriage. I get that he realized he loved Ivy and didn’t want to spend his days without her, but why couldn’t he propose dating/moving in together instead of proposing right away? Sorry, this is another one of my personal pet peeves.

Despite the resolution I think Planning for Love has one of the best last lines (if you know the hidden meaning after having read the book):

“I never planned for love,” Ben said. “But I’m so damn grateful you did.”

Verdict: Planning for Love is the whole package: from the blissful cover to the delicious description and the aptly chosen title you know that you’ll get a deliciously sweet and romantic love story that will make you feel warm and fuzzy and sigh with happy contentment.

The hero is dreamy and his commitment phobia very realistic, while the heroine’s like a strawberry creamy cupcake with pale pink frosting: she is so sweet you might even get toothache. These two were truly fire and ice opposites and though their time together was fun and sexy I’m just not convinced of their longterm happiness and wedded bliss. I don’t get it why they couldn’t have a “happy for now” by being together in a committed relationship, which would have suited much more the character of the hero instead of this rushed proposal and wedding plans.

Christi Barth’s writing flows smoothly, there are enough details to give you a technicolor setting with well fleshed out and interesting characters and the quick repartee in the dialogues will keep you entertained and chuckling.

I can’t wait to read the next Aisle Bound novel and revisit the characters I grew to love in Planning for Love.

Plot: 7/10
Characters: 8/10
Writing: 8/10
Ending: 7/10 - with a different, less rosy ending it would have gotten a higher rating
Cover: 10/10 - the cover is perfect, so frothy you can almost taste the bubbles in that apricot champagne!

Review originally posted at Book Lovers Inc.

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