St. Martin’s Press
On Sale: September 2, 2008
The New York Times bestselling author of The Red Hat Club fearlessly takes on mothers and daughters, wedding madness, and midlife passion in this frank, funny, and fabulous new novel.
Georgia, Linda, Diane, Teeny, and Pru have been best friends since high school, and never have they needed one another more. Georgia’s precious twenty-eight-year-old daughter, Callie, has gone and gotten engaged. Usually this would be cause for celebration. After all, this is the South, where dreams of white dresses and wedding bells are as important as finding the perfect hat. But Callie’s intended groom just happens to be a man they went to high school and college with: Wild Man Wade! These women know more about the groom than the bride does. His drunken shenanigans. His wild oats. And all of his conquests as well as his mistakes. They can imagine him in the most inappropriate of circumstances, but not as a son-in-law!
With absolutely hilarious Southern observances and dead-on wit about mothers, daughters, marriage, and families, Wedding Belles will have you laughing and crying whether you live above or below the Mason-Dixon line.
Muscogee Drive, Atlanta. Sunday, April 9, 1972.
“John! Phone!” I hollered from behind the stack of boxes I was unpacking in the living room of our darling little first house. “Phone!” Muffled ringing came from somewhere near the stairs, but my frantic efforts to locate it weren’t working. “Where’d you leave it?”
No response. He was probably out in the rental truck.
Riing. Pause. Riing.
Growing up on College Circle, the only sin worse than leaving the milk out on the counter for one second more than necessary was failing to answer the phone, so I doubled my efforts to find the bleemin’ thing. It had already rung four times. Most people gave up by then. “John! Where’d you put the phone?” I hollered again as I snatched up packing paper and empty boxes and random articles of clothing or linens that had somehow been misrouted to the living room, but no luck.
The ringing stopped.
John’s voice came from right behind me, catching me off-guard. “Don’t worry, honey. If it’s important, they’ll call back.”
I turned to find him holding a box marked “old records” (the playing kind, for those of you born after 1970). “It had to be one of the girls,” I said, nonplussed. “They’re the only ones who have this number.” We hadn’t even given it to our parents yet.
He put down the heavy carton and gave me a hug. “Like I said, they’ll call back.”
Why did men have to be so logical all the time?
As if on cue, the ringing started again.
“Aargh!” I reacted instantly. “Where is it?”
“Right here.” He pulled the phone out of a box by the dining room doorway. “On top of the phone books,” he said, as if it was perfectly logical.
I snatched the receiver with an urgency that amused him. (Thank goodness, just about everything I did seemed to amuse him.) “Hello?”
“I was wondering where you’d gone so early on a Monday morning.”
“Diane! We hadn’t gone anywhere. We’re still moving in. I couldn’t find the phone.”
“Uh-oh. Is this a bad time? Want me to call back? Just say when.”
“No. I was ready for a break.” I gave John a peck and dragged the long cord to the stairs to sit down. “Aren’t you supposed to be at school?”
“My precious little first graders and I have the day off. The pipes backed up in the whole school during the night, so we got a reprieve till it’s all fixed.”
I sensed that there was something large hovering above her small talk, so I reversed roles with her and cut to the chase. “So, what’s up? Something big, I think.”
“Man. You can read me even over the phone. That’s pretty spooky, I have to tell you.”
“Spit it out.”
“Harold and I are getting married.”
No surprise there. Diane had been smitten since they’d met on campus the year before, when she was a senior and he a second-year law student. But I played into her big announcement and did my best to sound convincing. “Oh, I’m so happy for y’all.” Harold was a real smooth talker, but brilliant and attractive, and he seemed to have quite a case on Diane. Yet there was something about him that gave me the creeps. Nothing specific, mind you, so I’d held my peace about it, but enough to sound alarm bells when I thought of Diane’s marrying him. He was spoiled rotten, but so were most of the Baby Boom’s only sons. “When? Where?”
“Saturday, May twentieth. Here in Nashville.”
As usual, I responded aloud without stopping to think first. “Whoa! Seriously soon. Are we on a nine-month countdown, here?”
“No,” she said without rancor. “I know it’s short notice, but I really hope y’all can come then. I’ve already talked to Pru and Linda and Teeny, and that was the date we all worked out.”
A tiny pang of hurt sprang up at the knowledge that she’d called me last, but I dismissed it as unworthy. I covered the bottom of the receiver. “John,” I hollered toward the driveway, only to have him emerge from the kitchen just beside me, startling the bejeebers out of me. The man moved quiet as a cat. I collected myself and lowered my voice. “Diane’s getting married May twentieth in Nashville. Are you free that weekend?”
He pinched his lower lip and narrowed his eyes. “I think so.” This, from the incarnation of the absentminded professor. “I’ll have to check the calendar at the office to be certain, but I’m pretty sure everything will be wound up by then.” He gave me a quick squeeze. “Even if I can’t go, you could always ride up with Brooks and Linda.”
“What?” I pretended to be offended. “Are you trying to get rid of me?”
“Nope.” John shot me a most endearing grin. “I’m trying to hold onto you for a long, long time. So I know better than to come between you and your Mademoiselle Mafia.”
“I have no intention of going to a wedding without you,” I informed him. “Heaven knows what kind of talk that would stir up.” Such was the mindset in those days. Socially, young marrieds were joined at the hip, or people talked.
“Count us in,” I told Diane. “Any particular place you want us to stay?”
I could sense her discomfort in the small pause that followed. “Well, that’s the catch,” she said. “Since I’m paying for this myself, I won’t be able to pick up the tab for your rooms. Is that just too awful?”
Again, my mouth went into gear well before my mind. “Your daddy’s not going to give you a wedding?”
Her answer was a clipped, “No.”
I shoved the foot in my mouth up to the knee. “But Diane, why? I thought he liked Harold.”
“He does. He’s not paying because I haven’t told him, and I don’t intend to.”
Baffled, I pushed further. “But why?”
“Because if I told him, he would tell Mama,” she said, more than a little defensive. “Then she would insist on coming, and I do not want Mama to ruin my wedding, so I am doing this without them. And don’t you dare breathe a word of this to anybody but the girls, or you’ll break my heart and betray our friendship.”
Whoa! She meant business.
“My lips are sealed,” I reassured her. Diane had had enough grief to last a lifetime from the endless embarrassments caused by her mother’s drinking and her father’s failure to intervene.
“I won’t tell, I swear. And neither will John,” I hastened to reassure her. “And we’ll be happy to pay for our own motel room.” The last thing Diane needed was hassle from anybody. “I’m so proud of you for doing this on your own, but will you let us help out, at least a little?”
“Thanks, but no.” Her tone eased. “It’s going to be very simple, much to my pretentious in-laws’ chagrin.” I was happy to hear the mischief return to her voice. “I’ve saved up enough from my teaching for a dress and a few invitations for our work and school friends. And they’re helping out with a covered-dish reception in the campus chapel’s fellowship hall.”
“No attendants, then?”
“Oh, for heaven’s sake, I said simple, not Spartan. Of course y’all will be attendants. But no bridesmaid’s dress nonsense. Just wear your favorite church outfit. Harold’s groomsmen will have on suits and white shirts.”
“Sounds like a plan to me. Heck, I wish we’d done that.”
She chuckled. “You couldn’t, and you know it. Nana would have keeled over dead if everything hadn’t been according to Emily Post.”
She was right. But my other grandmother was another kettle of soup entirely. “Did I ever tell you Granny offered us two hundred dollars to elope?”
“Only about a dozen times, but you can tell me again if you want to. I’ll try to act like I haven’t heard it before.”
It was my turn to laugh. “So, when do you want us there? Friday?”
“There’s not going to be a rehearsal, but anybody who wants to come up early and have dinner out somewhere, Dutch treat, is welcome.”
“No rehearsal? Good for you!”
“Yep. No Wedding Witches for me.” Then she answered the question I’d thought, but hadn’t asked. “I know this seems sudden, but we talked it over and decided we wanted to be married, not have some big wedding. And Harold could really use some help finishing law school. His parents are almost tapped out, and he’s already working two part time jobs. So we decided to tie the knot as soon as possible so we can move in together and start saving right away.”
Diane was a “good” Southern girl, and in 1972 “good” Southern girls did not move in with their boyfriends unless they were hippies, in which case they were no longer good Southern girls, but hippies.
“Makes perfect sense to me.”
From Publishers Weekly:
The Atlanta chapter of the Red Hat Club—Georgia, Teeny, Diane, Linda and Pru—meets again, sharing tea and sympathy in Smith’s wry sequel to The Red Hat Club Rides Again. A frantic Georgia takes center stage as she deals with the disturbing news that her 27-year-old daughter, Callie, is engaged to 60-year-old Wade Wild Man Bowman. Wade, a successful florist, is also a recovering alcoholic and a divorced father with adult children and a warehouse full of baggage. Georgia tries to halt the nuptials, but her interference leads to unfortunate repercussions. Pru, meanwhile, becomes an instant grandmother when one of her son’s ex-flings turns up, gravely ill, with a sweet little girl; and Linda endures an annoying visit from her widowed cousin. Smith’s fizzy exploration of enduring friendship and family signals more changes ahead for Georgia, her family and the red hat matrons. Fans of the series will enjoy and look forward to the next. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
A bad case of wedding-bell blues has colored Georgia’s Red Hat world when her daughter Callie announces her engagement to Wade—aka “Wild Man”—Bowman, a divorced man old enough to be her father. The fact that he actually is her father’s best friend is only one of the complications unnerving Georgia, who all too clearly remembers the alcohol-infused, womanizing college days that earned Wade his nickname and reputation. As visions of Wade’s youthful indiscretions dance nonstop through Georgia’s head, she enlists the help of fellow Red Hat friends Teeny, Diane, Linda, and Pru to help her find a way to stop the wedding. However, when Callie finds out the lengths to which Georgia is willing to go, she decides that it’s her mother who must be stopped instead. As Callie’s wedding nears, Georgia must learn how to make peace with her friend’s past for the sake of her daughter’s future. Another heartwarming and hilarious installment in Smith’s beloved Red Hat series. –Carol Haggas
Lesa Holstine – Library Journal:
Smith here finishes her “Red Hat Club” trilogy (The Red Hat Club; The Red Hat Club Rides Again), reuniting narrator Georgia Baker with her four best friends, women who meet monthly at Atlanta’s Swan Coach House Restaurant to celebrate life. They support one another, cheer for one another, and help each other through the good and bad. This time, Georgia is the one who needs help; her brilliant 28-year-old daughter has announced her intentions of becoming the third wife of her father’s best friend from college, “Wild Man” Wade. Georgia, a true drama queen, has a detective investigate her future son-in-law’s past. What could go wrong during all the parties, snooping, and a wedding with a groom older than his mother-in-law? Smith’s latest, filled with humor, a few tears, and some prayers, will delight her fans. The warm, satisfying story will also find new readers, who can easily catch up with Georgia and her friends. This enjoyable book is recommended for all public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ5/15/08.]