ARC Review: The grooms wore white, by Charlie Lyndhurst

“He’s totally a diversity hire. No way she’d have given him the job if he wasn’t…” she waved, not wanting to say the word “you know.” 

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Publisher: Hera Books

Release date: 7th April 2022

Pages: 386

Representation: LGBTQIA+ (Gay men, Lesbians, mentions of Bisexuality)

Trigger warnings: Homophobia, online abuse, suicide mention, adultery, alcohol abuse. 

Summary: Jason is a gay man. He’s also a wedding planner, set on making every couple’s dreams come true. Mel hasn’t had a life outside of raising her children-and looking after her half-absent husband- for the past 25 years. Harriet ‘isn’t homophobic’-she just doesn’t think that gay people should be allowed to marry. Three different lives intertwine as they all try to figure out how to make their life what they want it to be. They’re about to learn the hard way that It doesn’t matter how much you plan something, it doesn’t always go as you expected.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

The grooms wore white promises us an invite to the wedding of the century, but falls flat before the ceremony ends.

Note: I am a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, so therefore feel able to talk about this book with such a critical eye.

Normally I start reviews like this by highlighting what I liked about them, but this one is a little difficult. It was lighthearted, cute and had some important messages thrown in. I wish I had words to describe it other than just okay. It was okay. The story was okay. The writing was okay. How was that book? It was okay, I guess. I didn’t hate it. I didn’t love it. It’s received two stars because just being okay doesn’t make up for the variety of issues I found with it. 

It was wildly inconsistent; one scene characters were being openly homophobic and then the next they were progressive. Businesses went from being overrun with customers to having none because the next scene needed it, certain things were problems for a few chapters and then seemed to disappear from the book entirely, whilst other problems would appear and characters would claim it was one of the biggest issues of their life and they’d never been able to stop thinking about it. Age caps were also mentioned multiple times by the same character, and at one moment she found them disgusting but barely a chapter later she thought it was cute. It was a strange lack of secure characterisation for such a character-driven novel.

It feels like an LGBTQIA+ book written for the enjoyment of straight women, rather than representing members of the community. At every wedding-whether there were two grooms or two brides-one of them wore a skirt and the other a suit. Someone had to be walked down the aisle. They were regularly disappointed they couldn’t have the wedding in a church. Every couple was either extremely heteronormative, or the pink, glitter and rainbows gay man stereotype. Are there couples like that out there? Yes. But for a book that tries to preach love and tolerance, it sure likes shoving people into boxes. This is doubled down by Mel saying that she “knew” her son was gay since he was four, since “what other four year old boy asks for my little pony?”. Reading this made me want to throw my phone across the room-the “progressive, ally” mum doing nothing more than buying into homophobic, misogynistic, stereotypes, and it being played off as funny and adorable.

When I pick up a book marketed as an LGBTQIA+ romance-especially with that name and cover-I don’t expect to spend ⅔ of it reading about straight couples-especially not when one of these straight women is extremely homophobic. The wedding planning and LGBTQIA+ couple seemed to be nothing more than a subplot to the romantic lives of two middle aged straight white women.

Slight Spoilers in this section:  The book never actively dismissed her views, instead letting her get away with being a bigot until she changed her mind. I understand it was from her POV, so it was the character and not the author believing these things, but there were no consequences for the character. She woke up one day, decided she wasn’t homophobic anymore and that was that. Even the members of the LGBTQIA+ community in the book shrugged it off after she’d been directly and personally abusive to them about their sexuality. She was offered a redemption arc that involved no effort on her part, and belittled the struggle victims of homophobia face. It’s a common rhetoric that people should “be the bigger person” and forgive their abusers, and this book follows that; acts as if we could solve our problems by letting those that hurt us back into our lives.

Despite the happy ending, the entire thing left me feeling uneasy. It was definitely a cute, easy read, but it tried to jam its way into a representation that felt flat. 

Its shining glory: At moments it was rom-com worthy, and gave us the idea that everyone can find love no matter what. No matter how bad a person you are-or think you are-there’s someone out there for you.

Its fatal flaw: Nothing seemed to weave together correctly; it was both stagnant and abrupt. Lots of different things happened, a lot that were never mentioned again; but at the same time the plot didn’t seem to move anywhere and the characters didn’t seem to be evolving.

Read this if: You like romance books that centre around personal development and growth, but you also want an easy read. You like books with extremely varied POV’s.

Skip this if: You want a book that deals with consequences and authentic representation. You don’t like books with multiple POV’s. 


2 responses to “ARC Review: The grooms wore white, by Charlie Lyndhurst”

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