Title: The Little French Bridal Shop
Author: Jennifer Dupee
Published: July 2nd 2021
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary
Rating: 2.5/3 stars
When Larisa Pearl returns to her small seaside home town to manage her beloved great aunt’s estate, she’s an emotional mess. Larisa has just lost her job and her boyfriend and she’s struggling to cope with her mother’s failing health. But as she walks past the bridal shop window, a beautiful ivory satin wedding gown catches her eye…
Now, to the delight of everyone in town, Larisa is planning her wedding. She’s bought the dress, made floral arrangements and set the date. The only thing she doesn’t have is the groom. How did this happen? All she did was try on a dress and let her fantasy take flight.
Lost in a web of her own lies, Larisa must first face some difficult truths, including her mother’s fragile future, before she can embrace her family, straighten out her life and open her heart to finding love.
It was love at first sight for me and The Little French Bridal Shop. Featuring one the most beautiful covers of the year to date, complete with an attractive title, I was keen to delve into this debut novel. The Little French Bridal Shop is a heartfelt, heartbreaking, life affirming and quirky read about human relationships.
The Little French Bridal Shop follows Larisa Pearl, a woman who must return to her seaside home town following the loss of her Great Aunt. Larisa returns home with a great deal of emotional baggage, she is now unemployed and she has recently suffered from a relationship breakdown. This is coupled with her mother’s health issues. Larisa is struggling to deal with her mother’s dementia. As Larisa searches for a welcome distraction from her problems she decides to visit a local bridal shop. After browsing and trying on dresses in the bridal boutique, Larisa ends up coming home with a wedding dress. The problem is, Larisa has no groom. Soon the rumour mill begins in Larisa’s home town. The local community believe that Larisa is preparing for the wedding of her dreams. Things quickly spiral out of control for Larisa as arrangements are made for a wedding that doesn’t have a groom. As the lies start to increase, Larisa knows she is in above her head. Larisa knows she must confront the truth, surrounding both her made-up wedding and her mother’s failing health.
The Little French Bridal Shop is the debut novel from Boston based author Jennifer Dupee. With an intriguing synopsis and a great set-up, I thought that I was really going to like this one. I tried very hard to enjoy Jennifer Dupee’s first novel, but unfortunately it fell short for me.
Firstly, I have to say the small-town American setting did appeal to me. The location base featured in The Little French Bridal Shop had a kind of Virgin River feel. I liked the vivid representation of the boutique shops, little cafes and country sites. I think this aspect of the novel is definitely one of its early strengths and it did serve to pull me in. Dupee does a good job of illuminating her setting base for her audience.
Homecoming books and second chance love/life stories are always appealing to contemporary fiction readers. The Little French Bridal Shop easily falls into this category. However, if you are expecting a light and fluffy tale, you may be disappointed. I selected The Little French Bridal Shop from my pile of review books as I was looking for an easygoing escape tale. Unfortunately, I think I judged this one too quickly and I was surprised to discover that the story inside featured a lead with lots of emotional baggage, who is also a big liar! Larisa is the central character of The Little French Bridal Shop and while she drew some sympathy from me in regards to her job loss, relationship breakdown and parental care/health issues, I was quite shocked by her behaviour. With the lies stacking up and the false wedding situation spinning out of control, I was quite annoyed that this character seemed to keep up this silly charade longer than it should have done. This aspect of the story seemed to really annoy me!
There is a love lost and found aspect to The Little French Bridal Shop involving a old face from Larisa’s past. There are plenty of problems and obstacles to overcome in this area. Larisa is preoccupied with her own personal issues, especially in regards to the burden placed on her father to care for her ageing mother. While the male love interest of this tale has his own concerns, in relation to his faltering marriage and the care of his eleven-year-old triplets. Dupee works hard to build in a will they/won’t they style romance for these two.
Much of the central story is directed towards Larisa’s anxiety surrounding her mother’s illness and demise. Dupee does treat the dementia aspect of her novel with the respect, dignity and understanding that this health area deserves. This was the novel’s high point. I could appreciate the pain the cast impacted by this debilitating illness had to contend with, especially Larisa’s poor father, which was made very clear by Dupee.
It was hard to stick close to this one. My mind did falter while reading The Little French Bridal Shop and I will admit to skimming a great deal of this tale. I was hoping to see a big realisation or wake up call for the lead, which provided me with the fuel to continue reading until the end. The Little French Bridal Shop reaches a satisfactory close. I wasn’t enamoured by Jennifer Dupee’s debut, despite the initial excitement over the cover, title, appealing small town setting and quirky set-up. Although I didn’t respond overly well to this one, I would be interested in picking up a future title from Jennifer Dupee.
The Little French Bridal Shop by Jennifer Dupee was published on 2nd July 2021 by Allen & Unwin. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The Little French Bridal Shop, Jennifer Dupee, visit here.
*Thanks extended to Allen & Unwin for providing a free copy of this book for review purposes.