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Thursday, April 8, 2010

Always A Bridesmaid by Elaine Hopper

Always A Bridesmaid by Elaine Hopper
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short (144 pages)
Heat: Sweet
Rating: 4 Books
Reviewed by Fern

Hell has finally frozen over. After nine long years, Breanna Parker has come home to be her sister's maid of honor. Just her luck that the first person she runs into is her ex-fiance, Troy Youngwolf—the man who eloped with her ex-best friend and broke her heart. Now a widowed father and sheriff of their Florida home town, sexy bad boy Troy wants another chance and won't take no for an answer. However, every time Breanna looks at Troy or his little girl, her heart breaks anew. She can hardly wait for her sister to get hitched so she can escape back to her urban family in Ft. Lauderdale. The risk is too high that Troy may discover her most closely held secret, one with the potential to destroy them both…perhaps this time forever.

Always A Bridesmaid is a story that has many elements I love in a great romance. You get the tortured hero and heroine who share a linked, yet painful past. You get so much emotion it causes your stomach to lurch and your heart to ache. And you get a journey that requires love, understanding and, by the book’s completion, forgiveness. It’s delivered in a fantastic package, and I found myself falling in love.

From the moment I met Breanna and Troy, I was smitten. Engaged eight-years before, their love and futures together came to an abrupt end when Troy made a mistake, had one too many drinks following an argument with Bree, and slept with her best friend Meg. The consequences prove dire when Meg became pregnant and Troy was forced to make a decision. Upon eloping with Meg, he not only broke Bree’s heart but he forced her to keep something very important secret – she was pregnant too. The shock of Troy and Meg’s actions aborted the pregnancy and despondent and lost, Bree left her town, her family, and everything she knew for a fresh start. Now, she’s returned for her sister’s wedding and a lot has changed. For one, she’s determined not to allow Troy into her heart. And for another, Troy is now a widow following a very tragic automobile accident that killed Meg.

Their chemistry and hurt is so heavy it’s suffocating, so much so that I found moments too difficult to read and had to turn away for a moment. How can you face someone you’ve never stopped loving, yet, hurt you so deeply? The answers don’t come easy. There is a whole lot of healing that has to take place before the wounds can heal, and that means time, patience, and understanding. This is the beauty of the work and what draws the reader in and keeps them enthralled. It is a wonderful example of storytelling, and I loved how Ms. Hopper pulled me along.

However, even with the adoration I felt for the work, I found myself struggling to understand and relate to several of the secondary cast members, as well as Troy, Bree, and Meg. Through all the heartache and back story, you are never told exactly what happened following the night Troy and Meg spent together. As pregnancies do not evolve over night, I kept wondering if Troy and Meg kept their encounter a secret (the stories indicates they must have, as they eloped with no prior warning and shocked Bree and the town) and if so, how Troy or Meg could have possibly lived with themselves. Meg and Bree are reported to have been best-friends since childhood, so I wondered exactly how it came to pass that she ended up in the arms of the fiancĂ©e of the one person she never should have betrayed. I also wondered about the dynamic of the friendships between them, as Troy and Meg didn’t discuss any of this with Bree but simply married on the sly and hurt her so terribly in the process. The absence of these facts left, what I feel, was a gaping hole in the plot. There were also issues I had with Bree’s family and their ready acceptance of Troy’s past and insistence that she give him a second chance. All things considered, I found it highly unlikely, even as unexpected truths regarding Troy and Bree’s father are revealed.

Yet, even the above mentioned, I did enjoy Always A Bridesmaid. It’s not often I’m choked by emotion and connect so deeply with characters. Ms. Hopper has a gift for writing strong, memorable scenes and will wring every single emotion from your heart. All of the characters are well rounded, funny, and bring something to the table. I loved Bree’s strength and stubbornness, as well as Troy’s sense of honor and acceptance that there was only so much he could do to prove himself to the woman he never stopped loving. He knows he made a mistake but did what he felt was best and right at the time. He never loved his wife as he loved Bree, but he cannot regret what occurred with Meg as he loves his daughter and would never trade her for anything.

Those who love the kind of stories that tug at your heart absolutely must read Always A Bridesmaid. It is a fantastic story, and it’s only because of my investment in the characters that the above mentioned issues stood out to me so starkly. This is the first story I’ve read by Ms. Hooper but it will most assuredly not be the last.