About Books #41: Wedding Bells at the Dog & Duck

There’s a certain kind of lovely cliché about wanting to get married. And then the other person just… Doesn’t. Or they do, but they have doubts, or fears, or… And if you add that “cliché” to the wonderfullness that is Max and Ellie? Well, you end up with Wedding Bells at the Dog and Duck. Sort of 🙂

I was offered an ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for a review. All opinions expressed are strictly my own.

The book

“Ellie Browne is looking forward, with her partner Max, to hosting Christmas Day lunch at The Dog & Duck, but heavily pregnant now and with a snowstorm brewing outside, it seems that things might not go quite to plan.

After the dramatic events of the holiday season, Ellie settles into her new life at Max’s country mansion Braithwaite Manor, juggling work and family as best she can. When she’s asked to help organise a summer wedding for one of her best friends it’s only natural that her mind turns to her own, non-existent, wedding plans!

With Max decidedly lukewarm on the whole subject and other family complications threatening to disrupt life further, Ellie fears there’ll never be wedding bells at the Dog & Duck after all.”

Dixit goodreads 🙂

Now, this summary is really deceiving in at least one way. Namely, that the book basically begins with an immediate reference to the fact that Max isn’t so much lukewarm on the subject of weddings. Rather he’s been turned down by Ellie. And his “being turned down”-ness doesn’t quite stop at the beginning of the novel either. Quite frankly, even when I wanted to shake him to get some sense into his head (because let’s be real, with a newborn baby that would be quite a bit harder for Ellie), I kind of understood where he was coming from.

Actually, here’s another way in which this summary is deceiving: Wedding Bells at the Dog and Duck is a lot richer than just that one plot. There’s Ellie’s parents, there’s Max’ sister Katie, there’s Max’ ex, Sasha, there’s Ellie’s ex Johnny, there’s Ellie’s bffs Josie and Polly. Seriously, every single character we’ve been introduced to so far? They have quite a busy start of the year going on.

The opinion

I liked this series better with each book of it I read. Now, considering it started off as “there’s really something missing but I don’t know what”? That’s not necessarily saying a lot. The author actually managed to round up (or start, in some cases) each of the character’s story lines in a very satisfactory way.

And I even managed to finally pinpoint it! What exactly it was that was rubbing me the wrong way about Ellie! I’m not quite giving any spoilers, because things like this also happened a lot in the first two books. But, basically, Ellie seems to deal with everything in one of three ways:

  1. Clichés
    “and the rest, as they say, is history” when referring to herself and Max’ relationship
    “after some time and with a bit of careful mediation from me, they came to understand each other a bit better” to Max and his sisters relationship.
  2. Hindsight is 20/20
    Throughout the books, I’ve so far counted at least 11 occurences of Ellie thinking she’s not been there enough for her friends. At which point she resolves to do something about that soon. And then we get to the next occurence of her thinking this. It’s that bit of self-absorbedness that I was talking about when reviewing Winter at the Dog and Duck as well.
  3. Alcohol
    I mean, I know she literally says that she didn’t miss drinking at all, during her pregnancy? But she then spents the rest of the book drinking in just about every other scene. As in: she actively uses making drinks, drinking drinks and just generally: drinks to avoid problems, solve problems and think about problems.

Now, I did say that this series grew on me throughout the books, and that was largely thanks to the way Ellie grew as a character as well.

(By the way, if she and Max Golding should get married, she would be called Ellie Golding. A realisation she has in the book as well. Is it bad I thought that was really funny, somehow?)

But as I said – Ellie did grow as a character. We still don’t get to see her and Max have anything resembling a real conversation. We also don’t quite know why they like each other. Again: I do understand Ellie’s doubts . At one point she states that she keeps fearing that her and Max only have an attraction and that it will fizzle out. Quite frankly, that is all we are shown, as readers.

And in more likely news: the author also grew as a writer throughout this series. Where I felt that this story had potential in the first book? You can see that the execution has actually improved a lot from Winter, through Summer into Wedding Bells at the Dog and Duck.

The rating: 3.5/5

While this was definitely not my favourite chick-lit ever, I do maintain that there’s a lot of potential in this series. Wedding Bells at the Dog & Duck was without a doubt my favourite of the three books and also the one where Jill Steeples got to show her ability best. I don’t know if it’s that she had more characters to focus on? Whether she was just improving as a writer? But this last one? I have no hesitation in recommending if you want a fluffy read that has some nice plot twists. Again: it’s not just about Ellie and Max anymore!. Don’t expect your world to change, do expect a couple of cosy hours of escapism.

-Saar