I was interested in Ellen Sussman’s A Wedding In Provence because I love the intersection of travel stories and relationship stories. There’s something delightful in these stories of old and new friends in gorgeous surroundings (and ok, there’s usually a handsome stranger someone where in the wings). Barbara O’Neal’s The All-You-Can-Dream Buffet is pretty great in this genre . (When I hear this kind of novel called a “beach read,” I feel sad for the speaker, because they’re missing out on some wonderful fictional friends.)
A Wedding In Provence tells the story of a late-in-life wedding in the French countryside. A divorced mother of two grown daughters falls madly in love with a widowed cowboy, and they decide to marry at her friend’s inn in Provence. Although the story opens in Provence, after Olivia and Brody have met, fallen in love, and decided to marry, we see their romance unfold in memories and references, and quickly learn that even a happy relationship is not without complications.
Olivia’s two daughters, both reeling from very different relationship woes, and both stifled in their accepted family roles as responsible daughter and wild child, are attending the wedding. And Brody’s recently-separated mother, and his confirmed bachelor best friend, Jake. (Matching up wedding guests is a bit of a trope, but don’t worry, Jake is not paired off with one of the single ladies at the wedding party.)
The wedding day itself suffered a bit from Fictional Wedding Syndrome, where one can decide to drive to the farmers’ market one morning to buy supplies, and have a gorgeous handmade chuppah ready by evening. But, realism aside, a story about sourcing the correct tablecloth color, shape and size would be a little dull, so let’s go with a magical wedding instead.
There was one odd note in this wonderful character-driven novel. The novel tells the story of this late-in-life romance and a wedding in the countryside, and in the middle there’s a surprising rough sex scene. No veil of romantic euphemisms here, it was jarringly gritty and detailed, and then back to describing the rustic menus enjoyed at the inn. I wouldn’t call it offensive just, um, unusual.
Overall, a collection of warm and complex characters in a beautiful setting.