There's nothing like a wedding!
The joy, the fun, the memories—the stress. As a wedding planner, Anne Richardson has seen mothers of the bride turn into Momzillas, and she's determined not to do that when it's her daughter's turn to get married. But once Laney gets engaged, all bets are off. Anne becomes obsessed with giving Laney the perfect wedding she herself never had. And that wedding needs to be held in Icicle Falls at Primrose Haus, the perfect setting.
Roberta Gilbert, owner of Primrose Haus, has been hosting events at her charming Victorian for thirty years. She's an expert on weddings, but not on mother-daughter relations. When her daughter, Daphne, comes home and decides to help with the business, the receptions become truly memorable—and not in a good way. Then there's the added complication of Roberta's gardener, who seems more interested in Daphne than he is in planting primroses...
Tying the knot is a business that has everyone tied up in knots!
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Sheila Roberts lives on a lake in the Pacific Northwest. Her novels have been published in several languages. Her book, Angel Lane, was an Amazon Top Ten Romance pick for 2009. Her holiday perennial, On Strike for Christmas, was made into a movie for the Lifetime Movie Network and her novel, The Nine Lives of Christmas, was made into a movie for Hallmark . You can visit Sheila on Twitter and Facebook or at her website (http://www.sheilasplace.com).Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Anne, Wedding Planner and Mother of the Bride
I don't care what my daughter thinks she wants. We are not having daisies at the wedding. They stink."
Anne Richardson pinched the bridge of her nose in an effort to stop the headache that was forming. She loved being a wedding planner...most days. But difficult clients did suck some of the joy out of her job. Everyone talked about Bridezillas, but in Anne's opinion Momzillas were ten times worse. And she was sure that Seattle had ten times more Momzillas per capita than any other city in the country.
"I mean, really," Laurel Browne continued. "Would you want daisies at your daughter's wedding?"
No, but if her daughter wanted daisies Anne would order them. Laurel was stepping over the line. Actually, she was stomping over the line.
Anne flashed on an image of Laurel as a giant mutant monster in a mother-of-the-bride dress, trampling a field of daisies. "Well," she began.
"I am not paying for daisies," Laurel said, her voice rising to a level that had Anne moving her phone away from her ear. "In fact, I no longer want to go with that florist at all. I thought I made it clear yesterday when we were in your office how subpar I think these floral arrangements are."
Oh, yes, more than clear. And that had started Wedding War III with her daughter. (Wedding War I had been fought the very first week over the colors the bride had chosen. Laurel had lost that one. Wedding War II had been over the venue and she'd come out the victor. Now she was pushing to win more wedding territory.)
"Of course, I understand your feelings completely," Anne said. But not her behavior. She had her daughter's special day in a choke hold.
"I should hope so," Laurel said huffily. "I am not paying you all this money to organize a wedding where I have to sit in a pew and smell daisies while I watch my daughter take her wedding vows. In fact, I sometimes wonder what I am paying you for."
To be your verbal punching bag? Anne ignored the jab about money. A wedding planner had to be thick-skinned. She also had to be a diplomat. Anne succeeded at both, which was why Memory Makers Weddings and Events was still in business after eighteen years.
"We do want your daughter to be happy on her special day," she said. At least one of them did. "So I'm going to suggest a compromise."
"What kind of compromise?" Laurel asked suspiciously.
"We could have the florist add daisies to the bridesmaids' flowers and the bridal bouquet, and that would make Chelsea very happy. Then the flowers for the church and the table settings could be totally different, say yellow and white roses." She'd wanted to suggest that the day before when Laurel and Chelsea were in her office but hadn't been able to wedge in the words with mother and daughter going at it so vociferously. They'd left, still fighting.
"Hmm," Laurel said thoughtfully. "That might work."
"And really, this florist will do a lovely job for you. She's always open to suggestions." Or, as in Laurel's case, commands.
"Well, all right. Let's see if she can do that. Tell her we want something unique. Roses aren't enough. I want something with flair."
Flair. Who knew what that meant? But Anne promised flair to the max—for a reasonable price, of course—so she and the florist would have to become mind readers and translate the vague request into specific arrangements. Maybe Laurel would like her to spin some straw into gold while she was at it.
"Lord help me," she said with a groan after ending the call. "What did I do to deserve Laurel Browne as a client?"
"Happy Friday the Thirteenth," teased her younger sister, Kendra, who was busy making a spreadsheet for a new client.
"That woman is out of control." But then, this sometimes happened with younger brides whose parents were footing the bill.
"Sounds like you've got it handled," Kendra said.
"Yet another wedding crisis averted."
Kendra smiled. "Laurel has no idea how lucky she is that she has you for her wedding planner."
Obviously. "I am good."
And she'd proved it time and time again, organizing every imaginable kind of wedding, from medieval fairs to events in which the bride and groom parachuted onto the site where their vows would be exchanged. She never tired of planning weddings.
"Compensating," her mother had said when she'd first started doing it at church for free twenty years ago. If she was indeed making up for her own less-than-stellar wedding, she was doing a great job of it. She didn't plan weddings for free anymore, and her mother passed out her business cards as if they were chocolates. Even with her sister's help she often had to turn away business.
Too bad she hadn't turned away the Brownes, she thought, looking out her office window at the dripping Seattle sky. If Laurel reminded her once more that she was paying a lot for this wedding, she was going to pull out her eyebrows. And Laurel's, too.
The phone rang again. It was Marla Polanski, another Momzilla, wanting to know if Anne could change her daughter's wedding venue. It would be the third time. "We found a place up in Icicle Falls," Momzilla Marla raved. "It's a beautiful Victorian house with the most elegant gardens and a fabulous staircase Gwyneth could come down. I'm sending you the link right now."
"Okay," Anne said, "but you may have to adjust the size of your guest list." A house wouldn't hold as many people as the Kiana Lodge, the current venue of choice. A big, spread-out place across Puget Sound from Seattle with lovely grounds, it was a popular choice for many of her clients.
There was a moment of silence. Then Marla said, "Oh. Yes, that is an issue. Well, Gwyneth will simply have to pare it down a little because this place is exactly what we want—much more intimate and with so much charm. Anyway, I think they can handle up to a hundred."
That meant cutting their guest list in half. Anne hoped Marla would do the math. "Why don't you talk it over with your daughter?" she suggested.
"I will, but meanwhile book this place. I see they have the second Saturday in August open, and I don't want someone else to get it. We can always change back to the lodge."
"I suppose so," Anne said dubiously. "Meanwhile, how about we keep the lodge booked until you're sure?" If they let go of their date they'd never get it back.
"I don't think we'll be needing it," Marla said in a confident voice. "I really want Gwyneth to be married up in Icicle Falls."
The customer was always right, even when she was wrong. "Of course," Anne said and hoped that was what Gwyneth wanted, too.
She'd barely ended the call when flowers from In Bloom arrived. "Cam's already begun the Valentine's Day spoiling," Kendra observed, looking at the huge vase crammed full of pink roses. "I wish he'd give lessons to Jimmy. All I'm going to get is my usual chocolate rose. Not even a box of chocolates."
"He's just trying to help you stay on your diet," Anne said.
Kendra frowned. "I don't want to stay on my diet on Valentine's Day." Or any other day, which was why she was still complaining about the extra twenty pounds that refused to fall off. "It's not fair that you got the skinny genes."
As if Anne didn't have to give those skinny genes a boost with regular visits to the gym. She decided now was not the time to mention that to her sister. Anyway, Kendra wasn't fat. She only thought she was.
"I bet Cam's taking you someplace fabulous for dinner tomorrow," Kendra said, her words tinged with sisterly envy.
"No, he's not. We're staying in and he's cooking."
Kendra heaved an exaggerated sigh. "Why did I pick such a Neanderthal?"
"Because he can fix a broken toilet?"
"There is that," Kendra admitted with a grin. "I guess I'll have to settle for ordering pizza since I'm sure Jimmy completely forgot about the big day." Her cell phone began to sing—"Born to Run," her husband's ringtone. "Hey, babe, what's up? Yeah? Are you serious?" Kendra gasped. "And here I was thinking you'd forgotten."
From the way her sister was smiling Anne could tell that Jimmy had managed to come through for Valentine's Day.
"Well, what do you know," Kendra said after she'd ended the call. "We're spending tomorrow night at the Four Seasons. I wonder which of the kids he had to sell to afford it."
"Probably both of them." Considering that the Four Seasons was one of Seattle's most luxurious hotels. "So I don't want to hear any more whining ever again about how your husband doesn't get it right on Valentine's Day," Anne said, pointing at her sister.
If she wasn't married to such a great guy herself she would've been jealous.
But she was married to a great guy, and come June they'd be celebrating twenty-five years together. They still hadn't settled on what they wanted to do, but at the moment an Alaskan cruise looked tempting to Cam.
Speaking of tempting, she thought the following day as she stopped by Le Rêve bakery on her way home from running errands. Their chocolate mousse cake would make the perfect finish to the steak and baked potatoes Cam was serving up.
Actually, the perfect finish had more to do with the lacy red bra and panties she was wearing under her black blouse and jeans. Eye candy that Cam would enjoy unwrapping.
Back at their 1906 traditional on Queen Anne Hill she found him out in the remodeled kitchen, comfortable in jeans and a T-shirt, putting together a tossed salad. Salad, grilled meat and baked potatoes—that was the extent of his culinary skills.
But he had other, more valuable skills, and he gave her a sample of what was going to happen later when he pulled her against him and kissed her. Oh, he was a luscious thing. Six feet of beautiful muscle, dark hair with a few silver highlights sneaking in to make him look distinguished and a mouth that could melt a girl with one kiss. She'd been hot for him way back in high school, and nothing had changed.
"Did you resist the urge to go by your office?" he asked.
"Yes, smart guy. After yesterday I need a break. I swear, Laurel Browne is enough to make me want to set my hair on fire with a unity candle."
He snickered. "Well, I guess you can't blame the woman. It's a big thing when your kid gets married. Speaking of kids, guess who called a couple of minutes ago."
"Laney." In spite of the fact that their daughter was ostensibly sharing an old house in the Fremont district with a girlfriend and no longer lived at home, she stopped by a couple of times a week and texted or called Anne every day. Sometimes to say hi but usually because she was experiencing a crisis or seeking advice or had news to share. She'd had a fight with her boyfriend, Drake. Or the tips at her barista job had been crummy. Or—and here was good news—she was going back to school next fall. Now she wanted to get a teaching degree so she could teach art as well as create it. Anne had smiled at that. Cam could finally quit worrying about whether Laney would ever be able to earn a decent living.
"Close but no cigar," he said. "It was Drake."
"And he was calling because?"
"To tell me he's going to propose tonight. Did you know they'd been looking at rings?"
"No." Anne felt the slightest bit hurt. Why hadn't Laney told her?
"He's taking her to the Space Needle to pop the question."
"He can afford that on an auto technician's salary?"
Cam shrugged. "Where there's a will there's a way. The guy is a saver. Anyway, don't be surprised if they show up here later."
Hmm. Maybe it was time for a plan B. Anne began to unbutton her blouse. "What if we had plans for later?"
Cam's gaze was riveted on her breasts, wrapped in red lace. His voice turned silky and he ran a hand up her arm. "Never put off till later what you can enjoy right now," he said, slipping off the blouse. "Red, my favorite color."
"I know," she said.
He tugged playfully on the waistband of her jeans. "What have we got under here? More red?"
She slithered out of her jeans and showed him.
"Oh, yeah. That's what I'm talkin' about." He pulled her close once again and nibbled her ear. "How do you do it, babe?"
"Stay as beautiful as you were back in high school?"
"You're so full of it," she murmured, sliding her fingers through his hair.
"No, it's true. You're still the most beautiful woman I've ever seen."
Then he hadn't looked around much. Her nose was too thin and her feet were too long. Gray hairs were invading the brown ones at such a rapid rate she was having to increase her visits to her favorite salon on The Ave, and she had a colony of cellulite growing on her thighs. Those flaws didn't seem to bother him, though.
They sure weren't bothering him at the moment. He picked her up and hoisted her onto the kitchen counter. "Let's start with dessert tonight."
"You mean the cake?" she teased.
"I'm not dignifying that with an answer," he said and kissed her.
Oh, yes. Happy Valentine's Day.
Later, as they ate steaks off the grill and toasted each other with champagne, she was still feeling the glow from their lovemaking. Her husband had magic hands, and he sure knew how to make Valentine's Day memorable.
This one was going to be extraspecial. Cam was right; Laney would either call or come by to show off her new ring. What a perfect ending to the day, celebrating love with the next generation of family.
Her baby, her only child, was getting married, and to her high school sweetheart, just as Anne had done. Technically it was more a case of marrying a post-high school sweetheart, although the two had been friends for years. Anne and Cam had watched Drake change from a skinny, pimple-faced boy with tats and crazycolored hair to a responsible young man who was ready to settle down. She could hardly wait to help Laney plan their wedding.
Of course, they'd talked a lot about weddings over the years. How could they not, considering what Anne did for a living? It had started when Laney used to play bride as a small child, dressed up with a pillowcase for a veil and a bouquet of some silk flowers Anne used for crafting. When Laney was in high school, she used to joke about wearing sneakers under her wedding dress like the bride in the old Steve Martin movie Father of the Bride. (Naturally, they'd watched that, along with My Best Friend's Wedding, Runaway Bride, Made of Honor, 27 Dresses, My Big Fat Greek Wedding and any other wedding movie that came down the pike.) Hopefully, Laney had forgotten the tennis-shoe idea.
Anne could already envision Cam escorting their daughter down the aisle at Queen Anne Presbyterian, surrounded by flowers, Laney wearing a beautiful wedding gown, her long, chestnut hair falling to her shoulders in gentle waves. Anne's vision conveniently ignored the tattooed artwork running up Laney's neck and covering her right arm.
"There is such a thing as overkill," she'd said when her daughter went for her second tattoo, but Laney had just laughed and kissed her and skipped off to the tattoo parlor to commemorate her twenty-first birthday with more body art. Why, oh, why did her daughter have to take everything to extremes?
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