Any Man of Mine
Avon, April 26, 2011, $7.99 (print and digital)
What happens in Vegas . . . doesn’t always stay there. Autumn Haven’s Las Vegas “to-do” list said to catch a show and play the slots—not wake up married to a sexy jerk like Sam LeClaire. The first moment she saw him eyeing her like a luscious piece of the dessert buffet, her usually responsible self told her to run. And she did—right into the wildest fantasy weekend of her life. But Monday morning jolted her back to reality, and before she could say “pass the coffee,” Sam was gone.
Now a successful wedding planner, Autumn hasn’t clapped eyes on the heartbreaking hockey superstar for over two years . . . until she organizes his teammate’s “Special Day,” where Sam makes a big play to pick up where he left off! But she has vowed any man of hers plays for keeps. Is Sam the man for her or does she banish him to the sin bin forever?
Weddings Then and Now
From what I gather, I had a fabulous wedding. Though it was long ago, friends and relatives continue to talk about it. As an embarrassingly young woman in the days before themed or destination weddings, when dresses like mine (and Princess Diana's!) featured leg of mutton sleeves, cakes were vanilla and covered in buttercream and silly pastel buttercream flowers, my mother took charge...and no prisoners. I knew I’d lost the battle early on, when my choice of color for the invitations was nixed. Why I bothered to ask that my bridesmaids be allowed to wear black, I don’t know, but at least I was able to walk down the isle carrying a bouquet peppered with glorious deep blue irises.
Even though my husband and I were basically guests at our own wedding, and weren’t thrilled being on display to 150 guests, many of whom we’d never met, the food was spectacular—it was a Jewish wedding, after all—wine and spirits abounded, but not before the ceremony so as to avoid drunken fathers, uncles, and cousins, the band was terrific, and the cake to die for. My mother may have turned into a drill sergeant, but she put on an amazing affair, teaching me many things in the process, most importantly how to gain a power position in negotiations. She’s five feet on a tall day, and rather than sitting in the chair across from the caterer—and florist, and every other purveyor with whom we met—she stood up and leaned over his desk until she got her way. If wedding planners existed back in the day, they would have had nothing on my mom.
For somebody who reads romances for a living, I’m surprisingly unsentimental about weddings, even my own. But some of the acoutrements have always fascinated me...like cake decorating. I grew up a Valley girl, but my aunt lived in the city, and I begged my mother to let us visit the famed Farmer’s Market whenever we visited so I could stand at the window of the no-longer there Humphrey’s Bakery and watch them decorate cakes with pink elephants in champagne glasses for as long as I could. The speed with which they created these confections amazed me; perhaps only TLC’s Cake Boss is quicker.
Today I can’t get enough of Amazing Wedding Cakes (when Cake Alchemy created the Dale Chihuly-inspired creation you see to the left, I had a mini-foodgasm). As for my own wedding cake, because this was the mid 1980s, choice was limited. There were no whimsical Mackenzie Childs-style wedding cakes back in the day, and having iris-colored buttercream flowers was not an option. So we opted, and my mother agreed, for a white on white wedding cake. As for the actual cake itself, because this was a Jewish wedding (remember the imporance of food), our cake wasn’t the generic white with lemon filling. Instead, we had a deliciously memorable chocolate cake with mocha filling and miniature chocolate chips from Hansen’s Cakes. I had no idea at the time how famous the bakery was; my mother said they made delicious cake, and after sampling their offerings, that was good enough for us.
Oh, how times have changed! What struck me most while reading Rachel Gibson’s new contemporary was the heroine’s occupation. She’s a wedding planner. And the scene in which a new client talks about her wedding dreams is brilliant. I’ve excerpted it below, but you need to read the entire scene for the full impact.
'I want a renaissance faire wedding. With a castle and moat and magicians.'
Autumn looked down at the tip of her ballpoint pen and forced herself to write renaissance faire in the theme heading. It was a little after six on a Saturday night, and she was in her office planning the Henson/Franklin wedding. Renaissance, apparently...'You have to keep in mind that the venue you’ve chosen is fairly small...I don’t know if we have room for a moat.'
'...Oh. Well how about snake charmers and jesters?'
'...I’m not sure we can get the permits for exotic animals at your venue.'
'Bummer...Juggling dwarfs. We saw that at a faire in Portland.'
Autumn hoped the bride was talking about little people who juggled as opposed to little people who were juggled. It was probably the former, but she’d heard of stranger things. 'We might have better luck getting jugglers if we didn’t put height restrictions on them,' she suggested.
Carmen turned to her groom, Jerry. 'What about pirates?'
After finishing the scene and wiping my eyes from laughter, I couldn’t help but first to reminisce on my own wedding, then immediately move on to some of today’s weddings as reflected in pop culture on reality shows such as Say Yes to the Dress, Bridezillas, and David Tutera, whose My Fair Wedding marathon my daughter recently watched while home for spring break.
If you’ve not seen it, on My Fair Wedding, Tutera takes the tacky wedding plans of about-to-be brides and transforms them in three weeks’ time into more tasteful events. He changes wedding and bridesmaids gowns, venues, table settings, flowers, and lighting so that delusional brides can experience their Swamp, Phantom of the Opera, or Bling weddings without embarrassing themselves. Bridezillas, in comparison, follows wedding-crazed brides determined to experience their quite often white-trash extravaganzas to the fullest. These brides bully members of their friends and family, harass vendors, and harangue grooms, all in service of their “perfect” wedding. This is reality TV at its most embarrassing, all that’s missing is Jerry Springer as host.
My personal wedding show favorite has for years been Say Yes to the Dress, set in the tony Manhattan bridal boutique of Kleinfelds, owned in part by actor/entrepeneur Wayne Rogers. My wonderful husband actually joins me week after week as we watch women and their entourages select their perfect wedding dress. While neither of us can fathom anyone choosing one of Pnina Tornai’s outrageous—and outrageously expensive—see-through-corset gowns, we are constantly amazed at the family dynamics that go into the buying of bridal gowns. Entourages of fifteen jealous sisters, old-world grandmas paying for gowns worried about showing too much décolletage, daughters and dads whose relationships seen abnormally close, spoiled brides who think nothing of keeping the store open after hours, moms who push their taste onto their daughters, brides who cannot make up their mind even after trying on fifty gowns...the show has it all, and we can’t get enough.
Gibson’s book is more than wedding planning, though. Autumn Haven’s whirlwind romance to Sam LeClaire turns to shit the morning after they elope when he simply disappears without a word, then gets worse a week later when his lawyer contacts her for a divorce. Even more appalling is that he asks her for a paternity test a month later, when the scared and alone young woman is certain Sam will actually do the right thing.
In a way Sam reminded me of Cam Quinn, an all-time favorite hero of mine, from Nora Roberts’ Sea Swept. Both are great-looking sports celebrities spoiled by fame, money, and easy sex. As a result of a young boy in each of their lives, both eventually realize they need to put their childish ways aside and become real men, with all the responsibility that entails. It takes longer for Sam to “get it” than it did Cam, but it happens in a slow and believable way.
To me there’s nothing sexier than a grown-up man. Almost a decade ago I quoted an article by Hugh O'Neill for Men's Health magazine in an online column I wrote. In his article about Old School Heroes , he wrote: “Old School is plain old zest for being a man, for the whole gender-rich story. It embraces both the swagger of the Y chromosome—the strength, the lust, the appetites, the right to an opinion—and the obligations that come with cojones. To Old Schoolers, duties aren’t burdens at all; they’re reveille, rousing the better parts of us.” (emphasis mine)
I married my husband years before I knew how sexy I found Old School men, but he’s one of them. Lucky me.
For more about this book, visit www.rachelgibson.com.
Laurie Gold cannot stop reading and writing about romance—she’s been blabbing online for years. She remains a work in progress. Be one of the few who visits her at Toe in the Water or follow her may-be-too-political-for-you tweets at @laurie_gold.