ORDER A COPY: Undertaking Love
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publishing Date: April 26, 2013
eBook: (no page numbers – approx. 275)
Rating: 3 stars
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?
Gabe Ryan thought he found the perfect place to set up shop. His family has been in the funeral business for decades, but he has moved away from his family in Ireland, and it was time to open his own business. When his friend had to wait several hours for an undertaker to arrive from a neighboring town when his grandmother died, Gabe knew that this tiny secluded village needed him. He found the perfect location in the middle of town and was finally ready to open. He hadn’t thought to take a closer look at his neighbors before a beautiful but very angry redhead shows up to tell him that he needs to pack up and move out.
Marla Jacobs has worked long and hard to make a name for The Little White Wedding Chapel. It is a novelty to have a Las Vegas type wedding chapel that will provide whatever theme you desire for your special day. After all her hard work, she is not about to lose everything because what bride wants to have her wedding pictures in front of a hearse or dash out of the chapel, rice flying, right into the arms of a crying widow. The Undertaker next door will ruin her business and she is determined to get rid of him first.
Marla’s Chapel brings in a lot of tourists for the Village which means a lot of tourist dollars for the local businesses. So she decides she will get the whole Village behind her in getting Gabe to leave Town. With the help of a local paper, it quickly turns into a media circus and Marla is getting more attention than she bargained for.
This is one of those books that calls to you and says “you want to read me.” I was very interested in reading this book, and I will confess that I was enjoying the Marla and Gabe connection and there was a lot of potential for fun and fighting between the Chapel and the Funeral Home, as well as more side stories on quirky chapel weddings.
But there were so many other things going on which distracted us from the main story, such as Marla’s friend and co-worker, Emily, who was trying to have a baby and her husband and her marriage was breaking up from the pressure of not conceiving. That added some interest. But then we also add in Marla’s jealous boyfriend who wants Gabe away from Marla and Gabe’s receptionist with a crush on Gabe who wants Marla away from Gabe. Both of those significant others realizing the pull between Gabe and Marla and are doing their best to keep the fighting going between the two businesses. Added further were some additional side characters of the overly gay friend Jonny at the Chapel, the old couple who help out around both businesses and Gabe’s best friend Dan who has an affair with Marla’s friend Emily. It was just too busy with characters it reminded me of those old movies where you look down a hallway of doors and someone is walking into one door and popping out a different one.
It was just too many extra characters and there was not enough confrontation between the two businesses, and not enough Marla and Gabe to make you understand why Gabe was declaring his love for Marla so soon. In fact most of the issues had to do with Marla trying to get support to make Gabe move. If she wasn’t fighting to send him away, they were pretty good neighbors.
I liked the elderly couple that worked for both business and who have been together for 65 years. They were a nice addition, but I think the jealous boyfriend and receptionist were too much, and the author could have chosen one over the other.
She also made Marla commitment phobic since both her parents were married over a dozen times each, and then she is surrounded by as many distressed relationships as good ones. If I was Marla, I wouldn’t be seeing anything making me want to jump into a relationship either.
It was a good story premises and good writing, but too many side characters. Someone should have told her to cut down the additional characters and focus more attention to the supposed conflicts between the businesses and/or more Marla/Gabe.
Received ARC from netgalley.com courtesy of the publisher. Thank you.
“I now pronounce you husband and wife,” Jonny declared, then threw back his hood and hurled his fake scythe to the floor to join in the thunderous applause.
The ghoulish congregation were packing the chapel almost to its spooky rafters, and from her standpoint at the side of the room, Marla had a clear view of the pure love in Alaric’s heavily kohled eyes as he pulled his new wife into his arms. The Herald photographer whizzed from position to position in the background, keen to capture the wedding from every angle. She could see why: it would certainly make an eye-catching splash. The whole production had been like Gone with the Wind crossed with The Addams Family — it throbbed with a vein of true love that challenged Marla’s mistrust of marriage in a way that few of the more conventional weddings she had organized ever had.
Outside on the chapel lawns, ghoul-faced guests posed by the fake rusty railings and blood-splattered mock headstones that Jonny had organized to create the perfect “fright night” backdrop for the photos.
“You haven’t got a coffin, have you?”
Marla shook her head at the guy who lay on top of on the fake graves. “Sorry, no.”
“I bet they would,” Alaric said, eyeing the funeral parlour.
A whoop went up around the crowd.
“I’ll ask them! They can’t turn a bride down on her wedding day.” Gelvira hitched up her scarlet velvet skirts and ran out across the pavement, hotly followed by her new husband and a motley trail of ghouls and ghosts.
Marla watched in horror, well aware that she didn’t stand a hope in hell of halting the stampede. She could only cross her fingers and pray that Gabe wouldn’t be there at this hour on a Saturday afternoon. He shouldn’t be. She knew that much, because she’d surreptitiously checked the sign on the door earlier. It was well after four, so God willing he’d be off in the pub with his jack-the-lad mate. Or sleeping in one of his coffins to avoid the sunlight. Or whatever else it was he did for kicks in his spare time.
The small flicker of hope died as Gelvira and Alaric disappeared through the black and silver doorway. Damn it! Why was he still open? Marla leaned back against the porch and groaned. Just when it had all been going so well.
Several minutes later the wedding party spilled back out onto the pavement. Gelvira’s boobs frothed over the top of her corset as she laughed and led her gothic troupe back over to the chapel.
“Man, this is the best day of my life!” Gelvira flung her arms around Marla in delight.
“He’s bringing over a couple of coffins in a minute. Can you fetch loads of those black rose petals, please? I want to lie down inside one in my wedding dress.”
Inside the chapel, Marla could have screamed with frustration as she grabbed one of Emily’s huge rose displays from the altar. She took her temper out on the flowers as she yanked the petals off, managing to prick her finger on a thorn in the process.
Bloody Gabriel Ryan. Why couldn’t he have just said no?
She sucked the blood from her finger and watched through the window as Gabe, assisted by one of the bridal party, deposited the first coffin onto the grass and strode back over to his lair to fetch a second one. He’d fit right in with this crowd, she thought, not quite able to take her eyes off the sight of his retreating demin-clad backside.
Once they’d set the second coffin on the grass, Gabe shook Alaric’s hand. His eyes flicked over the groom’s shoulder to Marla as she struggled through the doorway with a huge cardboard box in her arms. Even amongst the impressive display of gothic cleavage that surrounded him, her relatively demure back lace dress clung to her curves in a way that rendered it indecent. Gelvira giggled up and down with excitement next to him and waved her arms at Marla.
Gabe clocked Marla’s gritted teeth through her smile as she headed their way. He grinned, happy in the knowledge of how much it would grieve her that her guests had chosen to call on his help.
“Marla. This is an unexpected pleasure.”
Here eyes flashed with ill-concealed fury. “Thank you, Gabriel. For your help, I mean.”
He could see that the outwardly cordial words cost her dearly. He leaned over to lift the box from her arms and took the opportunity to whisper in her ear.
“See? I told you. Good things can happen when we work together.”
Her heard her sharp intake of breath and winked imperceptibly as he pulled back and upended the petals over the laughing Gelvira, who had climbed into the coffin.
“Bluey, no!” Emily’s frantic shout rang out across the grass as the over-enthusiastic Great Dane bounded past her out of the side doorway of the chapel to join in the festivities. He made a beeline for the coffins and jumped straight into the empty one next to Gelvira on the grass.
“Here, boy!” Marla called out, aware that the sheer size of her fur boy was enough to spook most people. Even spooks. But Alaric, thankfully, fell instantly for the big hound with his droopy jaws and comic sense of timing. He stole a top hat from one of the guests and placed it on Bluey’s huge head, as someone else unwound their black tie and place it around the dog’s neck. To everyone’s amusement, Bluey posed solemnly between the happy couple in their coffins.
“One for the album,” Gabe murmured to Jonny.