Tour’s Books Blog

June 29, 2009

BOOK REVIEW: Killing Bridezilla by Laura Levine

  • Title: Killing Bridezilla
  • Author: Laura Levine
  • Type: Chick Lit
  • Genre: Mystery
  • Sub-genre: Amateur sleuth
  • My Grade: C+  (3.5*)
  • Rating: PG
  • Warnings: none

Laura Levine writes the Jaine Austen mystery series featuring writer for hire, Jaine Austen. She does ads, resumes and whatever else comes her way to make ends meet in Hollywood. Levine herself is a former comedy writer and it shows in the timing and style of the humor of her books. Here she gets to mine the humor of the painful high school years when Jaine is called by her personal HS nightmare, Patti Devane, and offered a very badly need $3,000 for writing her wedding vows – a rewrite of the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet a la Friends. Re-write Shakespeare? Jaine really wants to say, “Hell NO!”, but the reality of her bank account has her mouth saying, “Of course!”

Jaine is optimistic that class bitch Pattie has become a civilized human being. The maid that answers the door quickly puts that hope to rest by saying, “Another one?” Sure enough, Pattie still has the charm of a pit viper and an uncanny sense for a person’s weak spot. In addition to Jaine, she has 2 classmates as her attendants, Denise and Cheryl (Cheryl gets thrown out for being ‘fat’ and Pattie hires an actress to replace her), another is acting as caterer (Veronica), and she’s marrying yet another classmate, Dickie Potter, whose marriage – to yet another classmate, Normalynne – she broke up when the two got reacquainted at the class reunion. She wants the ‘lamb less lamb-y’, the shrimp ‘less fishy’ and the roses more ‘rose-y’. Pattie is the archetype liposuctioned, bust enhanced, self adsorbed Bel Air bitch. One wonders how she lived so long without someone shoving her off a cliff.

Pattie still has the gift for getting to Jaine, making her feel self-conscious and unworthy, just as she did in high school. Before she knows it, her mouth is in auto mode and Jaine lies about having a ‘neuro-surgeon fiance’. He’s French. The evil gleam in Pattie’s eye says she knows it’s a lie so she invites Jaine and her ficticious fiancé to the wedding. Jaine does what any woman in Hollywood would do, she hires a fiancé for the party, but with her finances, she can only afford an hour of his time. After endless rewrites of the vows and one disastrous rehearsal – where the groom’s mother tells of the bride’s mother – (she attended mostly to eat the food) and now, no fiancé of any kind and one $90 corkscrew wedding gift later she arrives alone while her hired escort/fiancé is dealing with a broken down car.

‘Françoise’ shows up as Jaine chats with Pattie, and they join guests in the courtyard for the big ‘balcony wedding scene.’ Torches light the yard – and Jaine manages to set fire to the best man’s toupee just before vows, Brad/Fançoise gets revealed for what he is – plus his paid for time expires and he must leave and Jaine longs to run after him to avoid more embarrassment. Then Normalynne shows up drunk and tells Pattie off, and just as things settle down and the vows go on, Pattie leans over the balcony and falls in a statue of Cupid, his arrow piercing her heart. Naturally, Jaine assumes it wasn’t just an accident. She’s right.

Killing Bridezilla has no shortage of suspects – pretty much everyone who knew Pattie loathed her, with good reason, especiall her former classmates. Jaine’s questions, learning much more about her classmates than she expected, and it all leads her to back again to ‘the scene of the crime’ and who was it the gardener saw on the balcony. I found the ending believable enough that I wasn’t yelling, “You’re kidding me!” at the book.

Levine deviates from the usual chick-lit mystery trope in that Jaine has no cop/PI boyfriend. In fact, she has no boyfriend at all. She does have the requisite gay neighbor, a must in Southern California settings and the stunning girl pal who tries to talk a little sense into her, but doesn’t share her adventures. The books have all the other chick-lit trappings with the typical breezy, light on depth and substance, but long on style, humor and improbable luck. Fun, funny and actually a decent mystery, though Jaine’s ‘sleuthing’ is a tad convenient, but again, that’s characteristic of the stumbling, accidental sleuth in this genre. The nearly 300 pages slide by quickly and effortlessly.

Now here is one of the problems with Laura Levine – she writes her books like TV scripts where first you have an imagined scene in the character’s head and then the ‘real’ scene is shown. The other stylistic issue is the emails that her father (a flake) and mother (a shopping channel addict) both send her when they squabble, which is all the time. One of these quirks in her style would be sufficient for the reader to deal with. Two gets annoying. Both tend to disrupt the flow of the plot. You can never assume what you just read is what happened. Only as you continue reading do you know if it’s real or yet another imagined sequence in Jaine’s head. It amazing how far a little of this shtick goes in a book. I find it annoying on TV shows, but written, it’s worse. It is, unfortunately, Levine’s hallmark style. You like or you don’t.

Jaine has one personality trait I can identify with, aside for her food addiction, she’s not a morning person. “… think Lizzie Borden with PMS.” I have been told this about sums it up for me.

Who would enjoy this book: Fans of Gemma Halliday, Elaine Viets, and Rhonda Pollero.

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