Title: The Marrying Kind
Author: Ken O’Neill
Cover artist: Sheri
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
Buy link: The Marrying Kind
Length: Novel/264 PDF pages
Genre: Contemporary GBLT/Romantic Comedy
Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
A guest review by LadyM
Review summary: I’m borrowing a clairvoyance hat from Steven’s mother to predict that this book will reach many readers, become a wonderful gift among friends and even the awards are not out of the question.
Blurb: Wedding planner Adam More has an epiphany: He has devoted all his life’s energy to creating events that he and his partner Steven are forbidden by federal law for having for themselves. So Adam decides to make a change. Organizing a boycott of the wedding industry, Steven and Adam call on gay organists, hairdressers, cater-waiters, priests, and hairdressers everywhere to get out of the business and to stop going to weddings, too. In this screwball, romantic comedy both the movement they’ve begun and their relationship are put in jeopardy when Steven’s brother proposes to Adam’s sister and they must decide whether they’re attending or sending regrets.
I was initially attracted to this book because the blurb reminded me of the movie Wedding Wars (the similarities remain superficial), because this is the author’s first book and the theme of the book could not be more relevant. I am glad to say that the book surpassed my every expectation.
This is not a romance, but it is romantic and it is a book about love – love between partners and family love. While the theme is serious, the narrative tone is light and humorous which actually helped the message of the book – it never felt preachy and the serious parts had much more impact. The story is also heartwarming and touching. You will laugh and, if you are anything like me, you will sniffle a bit. The characters are fantastic – three-dimensional and believable. You know these people.
The story is set in 2007, before New York legalized gay marriage. The narrator is Steven Worth, a 33-year-old neurotic, self-deprecating, dilatory columnist for the Gay New York Times. He is in a six-year relationship with Adam More, a hardworking wedding planner. He enjoys their happy domesticity and likes cleaning and cooking for his man. The men are in love, content, surrounded by supportive friends and family. They even played matchmakers for their siblings – Steven’s brother Peter and Adam’s sister Amanda.
But, Adam lately suffers from bizarre nightmares; he is distracted and rarely smiles. Steven is concerned until Adam comes home one day to announce that he is giving up his wedding business. He’d had enough of planning other people’s weddings. Until he and Steven can legally wed, he will not plan or attend another wedding or buy wedding gifts. Steven uses his column to invite other GLBT people in the business to join the boycott and the response is overwhelming. But then Peter and Amanda announce their wedding and things get complicated. Hilarity and heartbreak ensue.
At first, Steven and Adam enjoy the attention and the free time they can spend together, but soon they have to face the consequences: people getting fired, Adam’s declining business, turbulent relations with family and friends. Steven has more and more trouble to reconcile the cause with family obligations and Adam’s behavior turns obsessive, so much so that he starts hurting their mutual friends. These things start affecting their relationship and even threaten to destroy it.
There are so many things that worked in this novel that this little review cannot possibly cover them all. I adored Steven’s voice and the way his memories of his childhood and relationship with Adam gave us almost a complete picture of their lives. He is an endearingly neurotic, honest, witty narrator with a few lingering hang-ups from his youth and complex, but loving relationships with his family. His love for Adam clearly jumped off the pages. Also, from Onda, Steven’s Romanian-American mother, to Brad, his first boyfriend and boss, from Amanda, Adam’s sister, to Gail, Steven’s colleague and best friend, O’Neill’s characterization is fantastic. As I said at the beginning, you know these people or, at least, you know people like them: a middle aged man obsessed with weight and youth like Brad or a relative – both exasperating and charming like Onda. Trust me, I live a border away from Romania and, yes, people like her do exist. In addition, humor is such a cultural and personal affair that it’s tricky for an author to reach a wide audience successfully. I am happy to say that O’Neill’s humor worked perfectly for me, even though I live on a different continent.
I have to admit that I couldn’t see how the author would resolve the central conflict. The little things – little hurts and snubs – pile up until both men have to ask themselves: Where do you draw the line when facing injustice? Do you stay true to the cause that is essential to your life or to your family which was always supportive to you? What are you willing to sacrifice? Obviously, something’s got to give. While the cynic in me wanted to protest (feebly) that things rarely work out so well in real life, that people are rarely that understanding, the romantic in me thought that O’Neill chose the perfect ending for his book and his characters. I loved it! Especially after one particularly moving scene towards the end of the book that will surely tug at your heartstrings and underline the painful injustice gay couples suffer every day.
I have one niggle that kept me from giving the book the highest rating. While I never doubted men’s feelings, I found Adam’s transformation from how Steven initially described him to obsessive activist a bit hard to swallow. Perhaps his point of view would have helped there, but then The Marrying Kind wouldn’t be the same book. Still, I would have liked to know what was happening in his head. I suspect that this book will get even better on the second (and third) reading though, so don’t be surprised if you come back one day in the near future to find the rating raised.
At first, I wanted to include a few quotes in my review to illustrate the humor and wonderful little touches that made this book so appealing (like references to the men’s favorite movies, etc.), but I decided against it so you can experience the complexity of the book yourself. The Marrying Kind is a humorous and heartfelt story that speaks about serious issues in a very accessible way. I can’t imagine a better way to spend a few hours. And, if you want to help marriage equality – give or lend this story to someone. I am looking forward Mr. O’Neill’s next book.
Highly, highly recommended.