Lina Santos is an up-and-coming wedding planner in Washington, D.C. But right before her own trip down the aisle, her fiancé jilted her—and to make matters worse, he didn’t even have the courage to tell her himself. He had his brother, and best man, do the job.
Three years later, Lina has gotten over Andrew and moved on with her life. The only potential snag is that she’s about to lose the low-cost office space she’s been renting, and rates in the District are sky-high. When a five-star hotel in D.C. invites her to apply for the job of in-house wedding planner, it seems like the perfect opportunity, but there’s just one problem: Lina has to put together a proposal with a member of the hotel’s marketing team, and that person just happens to be Max, brother of her ex-fiancé. She’s held a grudge against him ever since she read Andrew’s text, which indicated that he’d decided to dump her after a conversation with Max. (Having partied a bit too much, Max has no memory of their talk.)
Impulsively, Lina decides that she’s just going to pretend she’s meeting Max and Andrew for the first time. (Yes, Andrew’s there too—he and his brother work together.) The men are stunned enough to play along. It turns out that Andrew will be working with the other person who is up for the job, and the best of the two proposals will win.
Max and Lina never knew each other that well, since he lived in New York while she was engaged to his brother. Obviously, this being a romcom, they will be wildly attracted to each other; this is the kind of novel where the couple is stranded on a wedding location-scouting trip in a rural area after a car break-down and they wind up having to share a hotel room. But both characters (the book is told in first person, alternating between Max and Lina’s points of view) are sincere and likable, with realistic struggles—Max always feels like he’s played second fiddle to his brother, while Lina has worked hard to keep her emotions in check at all times:
“Having learned my own harsh lessons when I was a wide-eyed innocent, I now know the rules well: We must never let our emotions get the better of us; doing so is either a sign of weakness, one that diminishes our well-earned respect, or a mark of combativeness, which will cause people to say we’re irrational. And as women—women of color, more specifically—we simply can’t afford to be perceived in those terms… Strength is a state of mind, and I’m willing it into existence.”
Lina’s extended Brazilian family provides entertainment throughout—especially her feisty cousin Natalia, who is about to get married herself (with Lina planning the event, naturally) and provides plenty of comic-relief moments. Readers who enjoy the enemies-to-lovers trope will want to cozy up with this sweet romance.
Shortly after I finished reading The Worst Best Man, I was walking my dog when I happened to find a copy of Lucy Foley’s The Guest List in a Little Free Library. Coincidentally, The Guest List also features a wedding planner. She is one of five main characters in the novel who switch off narration duties.
I read Foley’s The Hunting Party just last month, so it was fresh in my mind. As a result, I was hyperaware of the fact that The Guest List is, in essence, the exact same book as The Hunting Party. To wit:
- THP takes place in a remote estate in the Scottish highlands; TGL is set on a remote island off the coast of Ireland.
- In both books, we learn that a murder has been committed, and the novels alternate between “Now” and “The Day Before.” We have no idea who the victim is—that will be revealed much, much later on. (Though if you’re a seasoned mystery fan, you’ll no doubt figure it out fairly easily.)
- The suspects are mainly a bunch of spoiled, privileged, extremely hard-partying Brits, but there are also two caretakers (THP) or the two owners of the island’s folly, who also serve as chef and wedding planner (TGL).
- It’s a big occasion: New Year’s Eve (THP) or the wedding of a celebrity, Will Slater, and his influencer bride, Jules Keegan (TGL).
- The guests are a close-knit group with a long history, but one of the narrators is an outsider who doesn’t know the others well, because she’s accompanied her boyfriend (THP) or husband (TGL) on the trip.
- Everyone ingests copious amounts of alcohol and drugs, causing tongues to loosen and long-buried secrets to surface.
- There’s a huge snowstorm (THP) or a windstorm (TGL), adding extra danger and suspense.
The biggest difference is that The Guest List is full-on bonkers, with crazy coincidences and such an over-the-top ending that even I could scarcely believe what I was reading, and I consider myself an expert on this genre. If this is the kind of book you like, well, it’s definitely a lot of it.
I hope Foley’s next book will not hew so closely to the formula she’s established with these two novels. But who knows, maybe she’s already crafting a new story about a clique of wealthy Londoners who travel to an unusually luxurious sheep farm in rural Wales to drunkenly celebrate Easter, where one of them will be murdered in the middle of a hailstorm.