An experience of Small Town USA, a bucket list, plans for a fake wedding, childhood sweethearts, a veterinary practice, and a man dying of cancer. The combination creates poignant family scenarios laced with the wisdom of the ages plus a sweet romance, all touched by the race against time. Just a touch of suspense.
For the past two years, Emma Tate’s family knew her dad’s time with them was limited. An MRI revealed a brain tumor for which treatments could only slightly slow down the growth. At the time of discovery, Emma was engaged to Chase. But the serious turn of events woke her up to the realization that her reasons to marry him were all wrong. She didn’t really love him as she should. If she were honest with herself, the serious crush she had had on Jake Sawyer in high school had only diminished a little. But she never really felt certain that he had ever returned her sentiments. Jake was her brother Liam’s best friend. He probably thought of her as a little sister. Then a few years ago, he left the area. She was sure he hadn’t felt anything for her at all. Now he’s returned. And today of all days, he shows up in her kitchen to fix a leaky sink…right after she had just found her dad’s bucket list. Nearly all the items on the list were crossed off except for the one item on the top of the list, “Walk Emma Down the Aisle.” This was one last thing she could do for her dad. But how?
Jake Sawyer noticed how upset Emma was when she entered her house. He asked her if something was wrong. She explained about the bucket list. Jakes idea surprised her; he offered to become her pretend groom. He wanted to help Emma, but did he really think ahead about the implications of a fake wedding? They lived in a tiny community. There were no secrets here. But they went ahead and planned a wedding for autumn, Emma’s favorite season of the year. It was only a little more than a month away. With her father’s imminent decline looming on the horizon, the planning took on the aspect of a race against time, while Jake and Emma avoided the reality of the supposed “happily-ever-after.”
In the meantime Emma’s best friend, Lily, knows the truth and agrees reluctantly to help plan the Fall wedding. Her real concern was for Emma when the fallout hits her. Then Emma’s brother Liam got the truth out of Jake one day. Will he keep their secret, or throw a monkey wrench into the whole works?
This is a novella, not a full length novel, so I didn’t expect thorough development and growth of characters. However, the full cast of players such as Emma and Jake, Lily and Liam, Emma’s mom and dad, some of the town’s major players quickly grew on me so that by the time the wedding day neared, I was screaming in my head, “Make it real, you dopes!” I couldn’t stop reading the book. I knew how it would inevitably end, but I wanted to know how they would get there. It’s a good thing it’s a short book or I would have lost sleep trying to finish the story. I wasn’t disappointed either. The ending is absolutely lovely. This is a well-written novella, in which I felt eventually that some of the characters were my friends.
The second thing I enjoyed about this novella was the familiarity of the setting. Events occur in a small town up north, whereas I grew up in a small town up north. There were moments I felt reminiscent of my childhood days when they referenced drives around the state to see the Fall colors, and the feel that the town was just one big family because everyone knew everyone else’s business. Second, autumn is one of my favorite seasons too. Like Emma, I always enjoyed Fall harvest festivals since we were also a farming community. I have always loved the fresh crisp air of autumn, the hints of summer winding down and the leaves turning color. The author’s vivid descriptions of the season made it come alive for me. There are moments where the frantic pace slows down, a hush comes over the family and friends as they soak in a quiet moment. They become vignettes to cherish and remember afterward. The author skillfully creates an atmosphere of contentedness during these rest periods amidst the rush of wedding preparations.
My favorite part of the novella was the ending. While it may have been a bit predictable, it was perfect for this story. I had become so wrapped up in the dilemma Emma faced that the ending was just the right solution to the conflict. This is going to be one of those stories that I will be able to read several times without getting bored because there are so many elements that resonate with me. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have. I highly recommend this book.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from NetGalley on behalf of Zondervan Fiction. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”