Silly romance two-fer: A pair of mini-reviews

While traveling for a few days this past week, I read two romances that were very silly — one silly but entertaining, and one silly and annoying. Which is which? Read on…

Four Aunties and a Wedding by Jesse Q. Sutanto: This is the silly and entertaining one! Four Aunties and a Wedding, the follow-up to Dial A for Aunties, continues the hilariously ridiculous adventures of Meddy, a wedding photographer, and the four aunties who dominate her Chinese-Indonesian family. In this sequel, Meddy is finally about to marry the man of her dreams, but when she overhears her own wedding photographer plotting a murder and realizes that there’s going to be a mafia hit on her big day, she and the aunties spring into action to foil the evil plans. Shenanigans ensue — kidnappings, spontaneous Tai Chi, komodo dragon fascinators, and marijuana-laced cocktails, to name but a few of the outrageous obstacles that interfere with Meddy’s dream destination wedding.

This is a light, fast read, and I enjoyed it overall, but did find myself getting annoyed eventually by just how over-the-top the plot became, how the aunties and Meddy jumped to one false conclusion after another, and how these ridiculous circumstances completely ruined the wedding day. Fortunately, Meddy’s groom is far more understanding and loving and, well, just plain perfect than any ordinary man might be, so the couple gets their happy ending… and so what if zipties, druggings, and assassination attempts get in the way?


Rating: 4 out of 5.

Definitely Not Mr. Darcy by Karen Doornebos: Obviously, that leaves this book as the silly and annoying one! This Austen-inspired romance centers on a 39-year-old single mother whose business is failing. In desperation, she makes the obvious choice — to go to England and participate in what she thinks will be a documentary about Regency life, but turns out to be (drumroll, please…) a Regency-themed reality dating show. The prize is marriage to a wealthy British hottie (and $100,000), and Chloe is determined to win. To get to the prize, though, she must live in total Regency style, meaning chamber pots, no technology, food-based cosmetics, and constant chaperonage. This book was published in 2012, and feels a lot like an Austenland retread — and also feels pretty dated, in terms of attitudes toward relationships and female competition.

The plot really doesn’t make sense, the Regency affectations are applied inconsistently and weirdly (for example, the woman playing the role of Chloe’s chaperone is very pregnant, and has agreed to give birth Regency-style… WHY?). There are slapsticky misadventures, mistaken identity, and plain old nonsensical decisions. I finished the book, and I suppose it held my attention enough to make me want to see how it turned out, but I can’t say I recommend this one.


Rating: 2 out of 5.

And there you have it! Fun romance, not-so-fun super annoying romance… and now I’d better switch up my reading for a bit and tackle something with a bit more there there.





Streaming time: Fire Island (Hulu)

Fire Island is a light, joyful summer movie, released on Hulu in early June, about a group of friends enjoying parties, dancing, hook-ups, and flirting during one wild week on Fire Island.

It’s also a Pride and Prejudice retelling. Seriously. And it absolutely works!

Fire Island is a sweet, funny rom-com about a group of five friends, a found family of gay men who lovingly refer to one another as “sisters”, looking for… well, not necessarily love, but certainly flings during their week of partying and escape from their real lives. Here on Fire Island, they can be loud, proud, outrageous, and despite the social and racial divides that insert some uglier moments (racist snobs are still racist snobs, even on Fire Island), it’s a haven as well as a vacation.

Noah (played by screenwriter Joel Kim Booster), the main character, and his best friend Howie (played by SNL’s amazing Bowen Yang) are the stand-ins for Lizzie and Jane Bennet. Howie is too sweet for this setting — he’s never been in a relationship, and he’s looking for love. When he encounters the puppy-dog cute Charlie, the awkward cuteness of their attraction is just adorable. But Charlie is accompanied by his friend Will, a dour, unpleasant sort of guy who thinks our group of five is uncouth and not their kind of people — and once Noah overhears Will’s nasty comments, Noah’s opinion of Will is sealed.

The two flightiest of the group are perfect in the Lydia and Kitty roles, and the Mary Bennet character is hilarious. Comedian Margaret Cho plays the wealthy friend whose house they crash at each summer — she’s not a ridiculous character like Mrs. Bennet, but she is very funny in her attempts to constantly mother her group of boys.

I loved all the Pride and Prejudice moments — the story follows the bones of P&P quite well, but not so much that it feels forced or shoehorned in. Certain beats get dropped altogether (Charlotte Lucas, Mr. Collins, Lady Catherine), and that’s fine. There’s enough there to add a twinkle to the storyline, and for an Austen fan, it’s really fun.

That said, I think the story would work perfectly well as a rom-com in its own right for those who aren’t there for the Austen of it all. It’s funny, but also has great scenes of friendship and emotional connection and sadness… although the mood never stays down or serious for long.

Fire Island is rated R and there’s plenty of raunchy sex talk, implied sex acts, and super skimpy clothing. As with all movies, consider your comfort level with R-rated movies. (I’d take this type of R over a violent movie any day…)

I’m so glad I finally watched Fire Island! It’s a fun summer movie that lifted my spirits on a chilly autumn day… and delighted my inner Austen nerd immensely.