Harper Collins / April 25, 2013 / $1.99 digital
The moment love-phobic Marla Jacobs discovers that the shop next to her Little White Wedding Chapel is to become a funeral parlour, she declares all-out war.
Marla’s chapel in the sleepy Shropshire countryside has become a nation-wide sensation, but the arrival of Funeral Director Gabriel Ryan threatens everything Marla has worked for. She can picture the scene: wedding limos fighting for space in the street with hearses; brides bumping into widows; bouquets being swapped for wreaths
Marla’s not going down without a fight. She enlists a motley crew of weird and wonderful local supporters, and the battle lines are drawn. But, as soon as Marla meets her nemesis, she realises just how much trouble she’s really in. His gypsy curls and Irish lilt make her stomach fizz—how is she supposed to concentrate on destroying him, when half the time she’s struggling not to rip the shirt off his back?
American ex-pat Marla Jacobs has worked hard to make The Little White Wedding Chapel the quirky national sensation that it is, despite the fact that the Vegas-style chapel resides in a most unlikely location—the sleepy English countryside. The marriage business is booming, and the icing on the cake? There's a new cupcake bakery setting up shop on their street. With every bang of the hammer and clang of the workmen out front, Marla envisions a union of sorts, the beginnings of a beautiful relationship between the bakery and the chapel. She can practically taste the scrumptious wedding cake samples and daily sweet treats they'll all be enjoying with their afternoon tea courtesy of their new neighbor.
Gabriel Ryan is the youngest son in a long line of undertakers back home in Dublin, but after the death of his beloved father this past summer, he's found himself adrift without the heart to go home. On the heels of another more recent death, that of his best friend Dan's grandmother, Gabe quickly realizes their town needs a man with his particular set of skills, especially since the nearest funeral parlor is nearly forty miles away. Using the money from his share of the family business back home, Gabe enlists Dan's help and gets to work on setting up his new business, but hopes to remain largely unnoticed while filling a more discrete need for locals in rural Shopshire.
And just like that you can begin to see the train wreck coming...
“Cupcakes. It was supposed to be cupcakes, Emily. Not dead bodies.”
Emily grimaced. “Maybe there's some mistake?”
Nope. No mistake. Just a different kind of neighbor. A neighbor that could kill their business. Literally.
Marla's head spun with the implications of going from the sublime to the ridiculous in terms of her new neighbors. None of them were good. Wedding limos fighting for space in the street outside with hearses. Brides bumping into widows. Wreaths instead of bouquets. And how many happy couples would run the risk of ending up with a party of sobbing relatives huddled in the back of their wedding photos for all eternity?
Suddenly, for Marla and the chapel staff “Til death do us part” has an entirely different ring to it...
Readers may be surprised to discover that Undertaking Love author Kat French is the alter ego of Kitty French, author of the popular BDSM erotic romance Knight and Play (Knight #1).
Told in the third person, Undertaking Love tells tales of love and woe for an extended cast of characters, each with some sort of connection to The Little White Chapel. This contemporary romance offers an equal measure of hilarity and heartbreak, with subplots involving various couples like BFF/chapel employee Emily and her husband Tom's baby quest and how it's nearly destroyed their six-year marriage, Marla’s mother and her numerous ex-husbands, and the ever sharp and delightful Dora and sweet Ivan, married since the war and still in love as ever in their golden age. But, the heart of this story is the constantly thwarted romance between Marla and Gabriel.
Despite the growing animosity, Gabriel thinks that just as marriage and death are facts of life their businesses are as well; therefore, they should be able to co-exist. But when he tries to make his point, it's clear Marla's not seeing eye-to-eye or going down without a fight.
For his part, Gabe doesn't expect to lay eyes on Marla and know at once that this redheaded firecracker of a Yank, who can’t stand the sight of him and is determined to make his business DOA, is—without a doubt—going to be his forever love.
Commitment-phobic Marla finds herself in over her head in business—and in love—and hilarity ensues. There's a town meeting gone awry, an online petition that incites violence, and as if that's not enough, added into the mix comes even more trouble in the form of Gabriel's conniving, love-struck receptionist Melanie and Marla's recently acquired foppish, arrogant reporter boyfriend, Rupert. Each has serious ulterior motives and causes far more trouble than they are worth for the unsuspecting Marla and Gabe. At times, Marla's distain for her situation is downright snort-worthy and adds a bit of comic relief.
It didn’t help that it took all of her concentration not to imagine that it was Gabe rather than Rupert who reached for her in bed; so much so that she’d started to insist on sex with the lights on and her eyes open. As a consequence, Rupert now had her pegged as something of a sex maniac, and no doubt imagined that a spot of public groping would get her all steamed up. He couldn’t have been more wrong.
“Rupert…” she twisted her fingers into the back of his floppy hair and yanked it. Hard. “If you don’t get your hand out of my skirt right now, I’ll stab you with my steak knife.”
She felt him still momentarily as he glanced at her fingers curled around the silver handle of the knife on the table.
“You naughty, naughty little minx,” he croaked. “I’m going to punish you severely for this when you get home.” He sank his teeth into her earlobe, but removed his hand from her skirt. Marla breathed out and eased her grip on the knife, not even sure herself how much she’d been joking.
In sharp contrast, although Marla denies feeling anything more than lust and hate every time she and Gabe are together, eventually she can’t deny it feels just right.
More intimate than any sex she’d ever known, Gabe’s kiss laid him bare and vulnerable. His tongue stroked hers, learned her mouth inside and out until she dug her nails into his shoulders and murmured his name in shock. She’d waited forever to be kissed like that, and she hadn’t even known it.
Unfortunately, with their businesses hanging in the balance, it can never be that simple. Undertaking Love is a fast-paced, humorous, very British contemporary romance with numerous subplots that dovetail and complement one another nicely. Each adds its own bit of laughter and tears and helps depict the highs and lows of life, love, and yes, even death in a small, quirky English town.
Learn more about or order a copy of Kat French's Undertaking Love (out today):
Tina Allen has spent over a decade successfully avoiding publishing her romance novels by teaching reading and writing, pimping books as a librarian and writing/editing for others. Tina is now gleefully reading, writing and reviewing romance atBookCrack.com. She can also be found tweeting about her adventures in authorhood @book_crack.