Book Review: Three Holidays and a Wedding

Three Holidays and a Wedding
Uzma Jalaluddin and Marissa Stapley, 2023

New Release! A copy of this book was provided by Netgalley for the purpose of review. 

I joke sometimes about how modern romance novels of a certain type are more movie pitches than books. This one definitely started out that way, but by the end, it was at least a corny movie I think I'd enjoy. I guess the authors know what they're doing there, both have had projects optioned for film or TV according to the bios in the back. 

In the first chapter, we meet Anna. Anna is ready for her perfect Christmas with her boyfriend's perfect family, she has to be. Otherwise her perfect boyfriend's perfect family won't be happy if everything doesn't go perfectly. 

If you guessed that Anna's boyfriend is like a parody of "the guy who is bad for our heroine," you'd be right. But after a whole scene of me wincing at everything he says, he leaves ahead of her because she has to complete a work project (to keep the job she hates in order to keep up the facade of her perfect life) before she can catch her flight to Toronto for Christmas. 

Meanwhile, we meet our second main character. Maryam is shepherding her whole family toward her sister's 12/26 wedding in Toronto and she's stressed beyond belief. 

Maryam and Anna end up sitting together on the plane and unexpectedly bond when some frightening turbulence shakes something loose in both women, causing them to reassess whether they're really happy with the way their lives are going. A major storm redirects the plane and everyone on board is stranded in a tiny Canadian town which is apparently a ridiculous multi-cultural melting pot because it's built around the Christmas film industry and film people be like that and Canadians are all nice and wonderful people. It's all very silly and sugary. We can move on. 

While stranded, the two women each strike up new romances: Anna with a mysterious charming stranger who turns out to be a movie star and Maryam with her childhood crush who was attending her sister's wedding. Wait, you didn't think this was an LGBT book, did you? Nope, this is a Hallmark-ready story about two women who rediscover themselves with new boyfriends that also features a token lesbian couple as very minor characters. 

Maryam's romance feels a lot more real, not just because she and Saif have known each other a long time, but because their characters feel more like real people than Anna and Josh. While both new beaus are fantasy-land perfect for our girls, Saif is perfect because he's patient and kind and understands Maryam's role in her family and her struggles, while Josh is perfect because he just wants to be with someone "real." So both Anna's love interests are ridiculous caricatures. 

Anywho, why is the title "Three Holidays and a Wedding"? The book is set very specifically in the year 2000 (although establishing this fact seems to be relegated to a few jokes for the audience and otherwise ignored) because that was the year that Christmas, Hanukkah, and Ramadan overlapped. 

Maryam, Saif, and her whole family are fasting and preparing for Eid, which complicates the whole "being stranded" thing. They're also missing the lead up to her sister's wedding, which should be a big, Bollywood-style affair for this Pakistani family. Anna is struggling with the holidays because although she loves Christmas, she also used to celebrate Hannukah with her stepmom, and she's been feeling bereft since her father's passing a few years prior. Christmas is actually the least important holiday for any of the major characters, even as it's important for the setting and the other people in the town. 

All ends well for all our leads of course, Maryam and Anna together even manage to save the sister's wedding and put on an event for the town on a ludicrously short timetable (montages to the rescue?)

By the end, I thought this book was nothing brilliant, but very sweet and silly with a few welcome moments of actual poignancy. Like I said at the start, not a bad choice for a movie.