Recap #53: The Bride by D. E. Athkins

The Bride by D. E. Athkins
The Bride by D. E. Athkins

Welcome to completed recap #50! We have a fun celebration planned for later, but I wanted to note it here, too. I can’t believe we made it to 50 recaps. We would not be having nearly as much fun with this project without you guys, our lovely readers, and we appreciate each and every one of you. Here’s to 50 more ridiculous books.

Title: The Bride by D.E. Athkins

Summary: Jamie’s thrilled to be invited to her cousin Blaine’s wedding — after all it’s going to be the event of the year. Blaine Harrod, the gorgeous supermodel, marrying the wealthy handsome Preston Alden — it’s a fairy tale come true… or is it? Because things start to go wrong, very wrong.

Tagline: Till death do you part…

Note: As Dove requested, I’ve updated my template, because we now apparently call the Bad Guys Muffin Man. Hey, it makes as much sense as most Point Horrors.

Initial Thoughts:


Now that that’s out of the way, Athkins is already abusing punctuation in the summary and tagline, so maybe we have another Cusick on our hands. I’ve never read this book, and I find weddings absolutely ridiculous, so I’m sure this is going to go well.

[Dove: FYI, Wing organised my wedding. Mr Wing organised my husband. She may find weddings ridiculous, but damn if she and Mr don’t get shit done. Also, I vaguely remembered this from back in day, I knew how it ended, but I couldn’t remember why.]


Chapter one opens with what reads like Muffin Man POV, and you all know how much I love that, but luckily for everyone, it is not! (Or at least it’s written as a secret Muffin Man POV, I suppose anyone in it could be the Muffin Man at this point.)

Anyway, there is apparently a bride and a bridesmaid, and the bridesmaid is famous for her expensive looks and her bad temper. She has been stabbed in the hand by the bride, and blood oozes up. The photographer’s assistants whisper about “she” being crazy, because of course that’s where this begins.

Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: 1 (+1) (Essentially, “crazy” is a blanket term for a bad person with no qualms about killing anyone and everyone. Often because they are “crazy”. Because that’s how mental health works.)

Then there is a weird little line separating out the next two paragraphs, which are only the photography telling them they are outrageous and perfect, followed by yet another line break to separate out the next section. Needlessly dramatic, Athkins.

Blaine Harrod is the bride in this photoshoot, and Alison Dewitt is the bridesmaid. She wasn’t really stabbed, just the jeweled letter opener nicked the edge of her little finger. That is quite a sharp letter opener. Alison then tries to stab Blaine with it in turn, and the assistants rush to pull them apart, though it sounds mostly like they do it because the letter opener is an antique is only on loan to them. The photographer loves their fight.

Later, in her dressing room, Blaine studies herself in the mirror. She’s superstitious that someday the mirror will start reflecting how much a bad girl she is, but instead it just keeps showing her as beautiful. She has her assistant, Clara, send a dozen roses to Alison with her apologies. Clara tells her that she’s pushing her luck, and she’ll go too far some day. Blaine claims it really was an accident, but when she gets into a little staring contest with Clara, Blaine looks away first.

We skip on to Jamie and Mrs Haroldson (Jamie’s mother). Mrs Haroldson doesn’t want to let Jamie spend an entire weekend with Blaine (and her mother, Charlotte). Jamie received a separate invitation from her parents; her parents are invited to the wedding itself, but Blaine wants Jamie to come early and spend the whole weekend at Sandhill. The wedding rehearsal will be Friday, a “maximum party” Saturday, and the wedding on Sunday, which is a lot, but fairly normal. Except then Blaine asks Jamie to be a bridesmaid in the invitation itself, which is not really the time this normally happens. Um. Either this is a super last minute wedding (which is possible), or it is being done all out of order.

So apparently, Blaine used to be Charlotte Blaine Haroldson, and she left their little town, Point Harbour, four years ago. (I suddenly want all Point Horror books to be set in Point Harbour.) Before she left, she was known as “That Haroldson Girl”, the one who was wild, crazy, bad, and just generally not nice, a Pied Piper who used her beauty and compelling charm to “lead their sons and daughters astray.”

Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: 2 (+1)

Black Widow: 1 (+1) (An evil woman that commands the attention of men.)

Blaine left when she was seventeen, and all the adults were relieved, including her own mother, who had just remarried at the time. Only Jamie, thirteen at the time, missed her, and Jamie is thrilled with Blaine’s success. Aww, Jamie, I love how you love your cousin. Blaine never calls home, but she does secretly write to Jamie with all sorts of funny stories about terrible apartments, giant cockroaches, and being broke as fuck, until, overnight, she made it. [Dove: I love the pair of them, good for you, Blaine for succeeding, despite everyone’s expectations, and good for you, Jamie, for still keeping in contact with your cousin.]

Chapter two starts with Jamie and her mother arriving at Sandhill. A uniformed man checks everyone’s invitations, and there is valet parking in front of the house. The house isn’t visible from the gate; they don’t see it until they drive around a small pond (with two swans) and through a wall of sand dunes. That’s pretty impressive solitude. Sandhill is a huge house of gray stone blocks and chunks of cedar, with random chimneys sprouting out of the roof and a turret. The windows are leaded, and the house sprawls in all directions.

At one point it was the biggest summer home among the wealthy’s summer homes in the area, but feuding heirs sold it off. The people in Point Harbour generally work for the wealthy people who summer near the ocean; Sandhill is only a few miles away from Point Harbour, but it feels like an entire world away.

Mrs Haroldson drops Jamie off, telling her to be safe and have fun, and then Blaine comes out to greet Jamie. Blaine introduces Clara and Jamie; Jamie is surprised by how witty and sharp Clara is, which she thinks is at odds with her quiet appearance.

Clara heads off to take care of things, and Blaine has to play hostess, so she introduces Jamie to Drew, who is the little brother of one of Blaine’s dear friends. At first, Jamie is upset because she hears “little brother”, but then she sees him, and he’s the most gorgeous guy she’s ever seen in person. Blaine then leaves them alone, and Jamie has to try to make small talk with him. He tells her that the “locals” (and by locals, he means people in the surrounding estates, not the actual locals who live there full time in Point Harbour) think the house is tacky and haunted. I love having a wedding in a haunted house.

Drew tells her that it is haunted by the ghost of a bride. Instead of telling her more of the story, he takes her hand and leads her upstairs. On the way, they run into Kelly, a slender, strong-looking girl with big green eyes. Kelly is Drew’s big sister, and she thinks Jamie is just like Blaine. There’s an awkward moment, and then they talk about how everyone changes their name (though not Drew, who kept Kaminsky as his last name — and not Jamie, either, at least so far). Then they see Preston Alden, Blaine’s fiance, and he is just as gorgeous and rich as Blaine always swore the man she married would be.

Jamie finds him super hot and charismatic and has some dirty thoughts about how he always goes after just what he wants. Kelly introduces them, and Preston holds on to Jamie’s hand longer than she thinks is necessary. While they are talking, a photographer (a small, round man with a fantastic black mustache) comes up to take their picture. In that moment while they wait for it to happen, Jamie sees Blaine staring up at them — at her — with narrowed, angry, evil eyes, and Jamie thinks she has never looked more beautiful, or more deadly.

Okay, just took a break to make myself some hot chocolate with peppermint vodka, because I am cold, my throat hurts, and I think I’m going to need alcohol to get through this thing.

The photographer gets the picture, and suddenly Blaine is smiling as if she had never frowned. No one else seems to have noticed, and Jamie tries to convince herself that she just imagined things.

Kelly goes off to rest, dragging Drew with her (not sure why she needs her little brother to rest), leaving Jamie alone and overwhelmed. Later, she stresses over what to wear to the party after the wedding rehearsal; Clara told her it was casual dress, but it’s taking place in the small ballroom, and Jamie thinks those two things don’t go together. She does manage to take a nap for awhile, though, and wakes up late.

Her mother has packed a Laura Ashley dress for her to wear, but she doesn’t think it will go over very well. (In the 90s, Laura Ashley dresses were kind of casual preppy, long-ish flowered dresses, prairie dresses, cotton jumpsuits, etc.) She wishes she had packed her black jeans or her black leather skirt (that Blaine gave her as a gift). I don’t know why she didn’t just sneak them into her suitcase or into a backpack, hiding them under books or something more mother approved. Get your shit together, Jamie!

She considers skipping everything and hiding in her room, then goes to look out the window at the ocean. She then hears an unearthly cry, like something dying, and it is coming from behind her. She’s in the dark, and when she goes to turn on a lamp, she smells the strong scent of roses.

Before she can turn the light on, she sees movement in the old-fashioned mirror in the corner of the room. As she stares at it, she sees a pale old-fashioned girl wearing a white lace gown and carrying white roses.

Are we going to get actual ghosts?! That would be awesome.

The ghost reaches toward Jamie, and her hand comes out of the mirror, “long icy fingers groping blindly, hungrily.” Okay, that is creepy as shit, though mostly because I can picture it well, not because Athkins has described it well.

She steps forward, and roses spill out of her arms, out of the mirror, and onto the carpet. The room gets cold, and Jamie tries to flee. The door sticks a moment, the ghosts reaches out her second hand, and Jamie flees. She runs down the empty hallway, trying to find Kelly’s room, but ends up at someone else’s door. A “tall, dark girl with short, sleek black hair” answers the door and Jamie gasps about ghosts and mirrors at her. The girl is startled, understandably, until Kelly, who is in the room with her, says that it is Jamie, Blaine’s cousin, and they should let her in. The girl is Alison, and Jamie is shocked to see her, because there’s a rumor that there is a feud to the death between her and Blaine.

Really? A feud to the death? That is a thing that supermodels are doing, feuds to the death? Oh, Athkins, so dramatic.

Jamie tells them about the ghost, Alison calls her dramatic just like her cousin, Jamie snaps at her to take things out on Blaine, not Jamie, and eventually Jamie starts to feel ridiculous, like maybe she was dreaming after all. She tells them about the roses, and Kelly lights up, because if she smelled roses, it proves she did see the ghost. I am not sure “proof” means what you think it means, Kelly.

Kelly finally tells her the story about the ghost bride. When the house was built, back in the late 1800s/early 1900s, the owner’s only daughter fell in love with the gardener in charge of the rose gardens, but she was supposed to marry some rich snob. The girl’s mother paid off the gardener when she learned about her daughter’s love, and he left; she then locked her daughter in her room, and for night after night, they could hear her crying. When it stopped, they found her dead, dressed in her wedding clothes. No one could find cause of death, she still haunts Sandhill, and her name was Rose. Of course her name was Rose.

Kelly even thinks that Jamie is staying in Rose’s old room, even though Alison points out that they redid the entire place when they turned it into a hotel. Alison also thinks it’s just some rumour that Blaine came up with to get a little extra publicity.

Alison and Kelly bicker a little, then set about giving Jamie a makeover. She ends up wearing velvet pants and a cropped cashmere top with sparkling thread woven through it. I’m amazed that she can wear clothes sized for supermodels, personally, but Jamie is perfectly happy.

Downstairs, there is a glittering dome of chandeliers and mirrors, a deep red carpet, great entry doors, a stage that will be filled with flowers, and a huge white satin canopy.  Clara hands everyone a rose, then guides them to where the bridesmaids are supposed to wait. Drew has been hanging out with them, telling them gossip about the wedding ceremony, but Clara sends him away. The others are joined by a small, dark, vivacious girl who looks a little younger than Jamie; she is Stephanie Alden, and Clara is glad to see her, but they’re still missing a bridesmaid.

(Also, Athkins keeps describing these women as “dark” which makes me think she’s hinting at them being characters of color, maybe black women, but she never actually goes there. Damn it, Athkins.)

They’re missing Patricia Anne Thomas, and Stephanie giggles at this, and gives them even more gossip. Apparently, Stephanie is Preston’s younger sister, and she says their parents chose Patricia for Preston to marry, because she’s vaguely related to them, and therefore they could keep the money and the “blue, blue blood” in the family; Preston dated around (“fast and fabulous” which just makes me want to go watch the Fast and the Furious movies instead of read this book), and Patricia waited patiently for him, but then he met Blaine and fell in love, annoying his parents to no end.

Patricia, of course, walks up during this story, but Stephanie is not at all embarrassed to be caught gossiping about her. Jamie thinks that Patricia, who is also blonde and blue eyed, is a bleached-out copy of Blaine. They’ll walk in this order: Alison, Patricia, Kelly, Jamie, and finally Stephanie as the maid of honor. The ushers and best man (who is Mr Alden’s father) will be with Preston at the altar. Stephanie complains about Preston not having hot friends as the groomsmen, Clara interrupts her to tell them how to carry their roses, which are standing in for their bouquets the next day (they have to hold them just below waist height), and Patricia and Alison snark at each other a little.

Clara says that traditionally the bride doesn’t participate in the rehearsal, which is not at all what I’ve ever heard (or seen, with all the more traditional weddings I’ve been a part of), but even if it is true, Blaine has no plans to sit out the rehearsal; she thinks some of the traditions are just silly superstitions. For someone who thinks her mirror is suddenly going to start showing the world how evil she is, you’d think she would take superstitions seriously.

Even though it is only rehearsal, and the ballroom isn’t fully decorated, Jamie gets excited and nervous when she takes her turn. She thinks it feels absolutely magical, and understands why the brides feel like princesses in fairy tales. Do they? Do they really? [Dove: I did not feel like a princess in a fairytale. But then, if I did, I would have probably be marrying a man I met the day before, who I’d possibly never kissed. So actually, getting married feels much better than a fairytale princess.]

Preston watches the bridesmaids appreciatively, which reads as lecherously, really. Preston, you are super, super gross. Jamie is overwhelmed by him, and she thinks really perverted thoughts about him. She then sees Patricia glaring at her, eyes full of hatred.

While she watches the rest of rehearsal, Jamie tries to figure out if Blaine and Preston really love each other, or if it is all about the money, power, and chemistry between them. Clara starts and stops them, there are jokes, even Preston’s father joins in on the fun.

Finally, they go through one more walkthrough. This is a lot of rehearsing for a wedding. Jamie is ready to be done, and hopes that Drew is ready to party. While the minister is going through the part where he asks if anyone knows of any reason they shouldn’t wed, Jamie looks up and sees the silk canopy  being to move on its own, and then it rips down the center, spilling out dead doves in a “lifeless, grotesque shower onto the bride.”


Jamie tries to push Blaine out of the way, but the doves fall onto them too fast. Preston gathers up Blaine, who is freaking the fuck out (I mean, understandably!), and then the rain of dead birds stops. Stephanie breaks the silence, saying that she guesses it is bad luck for the bride to be in the rehearsal, and Patricia laughs hard at that.

Preston then snaps at Clara because the birds were supposed to be for the wedding and not the rehearsal. UMM, they were also supposed to be alive, I assume. Do you think they just died because they were used too soon?

[Dove: Dead birds. 🙁 I has a sad.]

Clara suggests that Blaine should lie down for awhile, but Blaine says it was probably just an accident and they should go on to the party. Stephanie and Jamie head out together, and Stephanie says that she doesn’t think it was an accident, they had to have been killed before they were put up there or everyone would have heard them while they rehearsed. Jamie first thinks of the ghostly bride, but pushes that away, and asks if Stephanie thinks Patricia would do it. Stephanie says  no, but she doesn’t sound very convincing.

Kelly brings them gossip that the birds had all been smothered, and dead a long time. No one knows who put them in the cage, though, and normally they don’t go in until right before the ceremony because things can go so wrong. Probably not this wrong, though. Jamie has a run in with Patricia, but finds Drew, who brings her a drink. She thinks it is champagne at first, which she doesn’t actually like, but it’s actually seltzer and lemon, the “drink of models everywhere,” Drew claims.

They talk even more about the dead birds, and that does make sense, but I am already bored of the wedding talk, even with dead birds. Patricia complains more about Blaine, and says that as soon as her face goes, she’ll have no career; she also claims that Blaine is only marrying Preston for his money, so she’ll have an easy life. Jamie defends her cousin, but Patricia is just nasty.

I hate the hot chick! (And she hates me.): 1 (+1) (Because girls can’t be friends, AMIRIGHT? For some reason, this girl, who is utterly desirable in the looks department, hates the ever-loving fuck out of our protagonist. And, despite claiming to not care, our protagonist makes digs about her all the time.)

Black Widow: 2 (+1)

Then Kelly talks about how even if she is just marrying him for his money, who cares, because he’s hot and it’s a good deal — and Alison used to think so. Oh, good, more women who are going to fight over a dude.

Drew and Jamie take off, and he asks if she likes to watch; she demures, but says she knows he does. This is waaaaaay kinkier than I expected, and absolutely out of nowhere. He leads her through a maze of corridors, and then up a dark staircase — and up and up and up. They end up in a shallow, hidden alcove that looks down at the ballroom and the glittering party far, far below. Apparently all the ballrooms have tiny box seats covered by curtains, which make them look like windows. Jamie loves watching the people from above, and so does Drew. If this wasn’t a Point Horror, I would expect a kinky little sex scene here. Especially when he holds her and starts talking about his theory that people used to meet their forbidden lovers at the parties, because they could see without being seen as long as they stayed in the shadow of the curtain.

(I am probably going to write some sort of sexy story about a set up like that, so thanks for the inspiration, Athkins.)

Jamie, of course, thinks about the ghostly Rose, and whether she met her lover in the hidden box. But then she and Drew are cuddled together (and I think snogging, though Athkins doesn’t actually write about it), and she forgets about everything else, until the lights go out. [Dove: To be honest, this scene did read as them getting up to more than kissing, just the book was trying not to acknowledge it at all.]

Drew wants her to just ignore what’s going on (so they can keep making out), but Jamie looks down and sees tiny flares of matches and lighters. She thinks it is pretty, and I agree.

But then Drew pulls away from her and asks if she can smell it — I expect him to say roses, but nope, he smells smoke. Somewhere, there’s a fire.

Just as he says it, someone down below shouts it out. It is already growing thick, and Jamie is terrified.

Drew and Jamie try to run, but it is even darker in the corridor, with even more smoke, and someone down below shouts for them to stay where they are. How did anyone even see them if it’s that dark? Jamie begs Drew to stay put and shut the door, because if they get lost, they could get trapped. But if they stay where they are, they are already trapped, so … what are you going for here Athkins?

They stay on the balcony, and Jamie sees a shimmering figure high above the crowd, “hovering there like a flaming angel.” Jamie thinks of it as an avenging angel, and asks if Drew can see her, too. He can.

Jamie decides it is the ghostly bride.

Down below, other people see her, and someone shouts that she’s come back for revenge and is going to kill them all. Well that is needlessly dramatic.

The lights come back on, and the bride disappears. What’s more, there’s no smoke in the air. Just as she realises that, the firefighters burst into the small ballroom.

We skip ahead (though don’t change chapters) to Kelly, Jamie, and Alison getting ready for bed. Kelly complains about the false alarm, and the fact that the firefighters couldn’t even find out what caused the smoke smell. (Kelly wears an elaborate bathrobe; Alison wears plaid flannel pjs and fuzzy socks.)

Kelly thinks everyone believes in the ghost now, while Alison is, always, skeptical. The hotel manager and the firefighters say that it was mass hysteria, and Jamie suggests that it was some kind of prank. Kelly isn’t convinced, though; it has to be a ghost, because they searched all over and found nothing in place to make it appear and hover and disappear the way it did.

Kelly is super into the idea that the ghost bride is haunting Blaine’s wedding.

Another time jump to much later that night. After she left Kelly and Alison, Jamie tried to sleep, but couldn’t. Finally, she called to have the hotel manager take the mirror away, but she still isn’t comfortable in her room. She spends some time wondering who would want to hurt Blaine, and first settles on Patricia, because Patricia absolutely hates Blaine and keeps disappearing during the events, but there’s no other real proof. She then wonders if Stephanie and Patricia are only pretending to be enemies and are really working together to prevent the wedding and save the family honor.

She then considers Alison, and recaps what we know, that Alison and Blaine don’t get alone, and also that Kelly let the information drop that Alison once wanted to marry Preston.

Finally, she wonders if Blaine is doing everything herself because she wants more publicity. She pushes that thought aside because she can’t believe her cousin would do it. Then she dresses quickly in all black (including the black jeans that not too long ago she was wishing she had packed), and heads out of her room. The hotel seems to be empty.

Continuity? Fuck that shit: 1 (+1) (Because why stick to what was said last chapter? Or even last sentence. Make it up as you. If your lead character says it, it MAKES IT SO!)

She doesn’t see anyone until she finds the night manager at his desk, reading. Jamie doesn’t want to talk to him about what she’s doing or where she’s going to go, so she sneaks over to the phone booth and calls in a fake claim that someone is stuck in the elevator. That’s pretty shitty. Also, phone booth.

Once he’s out of the way, Jamie races toward the small ballroom. It’s surprisingly unlocked after everything, and she cautiously looks inside. There’s no smoke smell left, and she doubts she’ll be able to find any clues, because the cleaning crew has done such a thorough job. She makes her way upstairs, after being lost for awhile, and just when she’s about to open a door, it starts to open on its own. She tries to slam it shut, but doesn’t quite get it.

It’s Drew, not some ghost. He apologises for scaring her, and says that he’s not being a good ghostbuster. She admits that she’s up there doing the same thing, too. He tells her he hasn’t found any clues, and that when he asked the hotel management about the ghost, they said they had never heard the story.

They go and get breakfast together, and toward the end of it, Blaine comes down to the dining room wearing gray sweatpants and an old red sweatshirt over a white turtleneck sweater. Even in sloppy casual clothes, she still looks completely together and at ease.

They’re talking a little about whether Jamie is having fun when Patricia joins them, too. She comes bearing a newspaper, which has the headline: HOT, HAUNTED WEDDING. That is some headline.

Patricia snarks about how many pancakes they’re eating, and how Preston doesn’t want the publicity that they’re getting. Blaine snaps at her and takes off, inviting Jamie to join her at the gym later. Jamie snarks at Patricia, then leaves, and Drew goes after her immediately.

We skip ahead to gym time, and Jamie is thinking sexy thoughts about all the sweating and thrusting and tightening that’s happening. Jamie is kind of a pervert, and I love her for it. She does a full workout on the weight machines, and it leaves her feeling strong and amazing, which is awesome, but she’s also super judgmental toward another woman there, who she thinks of just a “trophy wife”. Fuck off with that noise.

Jamie heads off to the hot tub on her own, and she finds it wonderful. She is not wrong. Hot tubs are a delight. This one overlooks the ocean, which sounds amazing. I would like to be there now.

Preston startles her, and then joins her in the water, because now the hot tub looks better than the sauna. Preston, you are being a creep. He calls her cousin and yet there’s a lot of flirting subtext to it. So, guess we earned that incest tag again here, too. Awesome. [Dove: He is just a massive creep.]

Jamie heads off to the sauna, where she’s amused by the rules, one of which is not to leave any newspapers or magazines in it because they might spontaneously combust in the dry heat. Gee, I wonder if someone is going to get locked inside the sauna.

Preston turns again, because he got bored all by himself in the hot tub, but he says he didn’t expect to find her in the sauna. This time, he actually asks if she minds him joining her, and of course she says she doesn’t.

The sauna gets really hot, and Jamie starts to get woozy. That is a side effect for saunas, especially when you’re not used to them (and for hot tubs, too, really). Preston tells her in some countries they sit in the sauna and then go roll in the snow. Mr Wing likes to sit in the hot tub and then leap into a cold pool, which is the same idea. It is very invigorating.

Jamie tries to leave and, SHOCK, the door won’t open, no matter how hard the two of them push it. NO ONE SAW THIS COMING.

Jamie freaks out immediately, worried that she is going to spontaneously combust. Jamie tries to talk herself down, and then frantically looks for something to help pry open the door. Preston tries to stay calm, telling her that they haven’t been in there long enough to be hurt by it, but he doesn’t sound convinced by his own words. They shout for help, but no one comes to help them. Preston eventually tells her to stay still, don’t move unnecessarily, and she ends up on her hands and knees, struggling to breathe.

They end up fighting over Jamie talking about how they’re going to die and she thinks this has to be an easier death than burning alive, which I guess is on her mind because of the alleged fire the other night.

Just as they’re both giving up, someone opens the door. And there are Blaine and Alison, who freak out, but also get them help. Once they’ve been given water and a chance to heal a little, Blaine keeps asking Jamie whether she’s sure the door wouldn’t open, because it opened easily when Blaine got there. She’s raging, and Jamie is wary of her icy anger, because it makes her unpredictable. Clara comes to check on Jamie, and tells her she should be resting, but Jamie is feeling better and is tired of sitting still. Blaine snaps into happiness, and wants to go out with Jamie, blow off everything she’s supposed to do, and go party. Clara calls her on it, though, because she has a formal dinner that she can’t miss. Clara is not ever intimidated by Blaine, who backs down from their standoff yet again. So much for Blaine’s infamous temper and control, right?

Later, Jamie joins Drew, Alison, Kelly, and Stephanie again, and they talk a little about all the bad things that are happening. Stephanie thinks they are all signs that the wedding shouldn’t happen. Alison leaves after that, but Kelly laughs. Kelly has a theory that Alison likes to start trouble — like this conversation — and then get out of the way once trouble starts.

Jamie gets called away to take a phone call on the hotel line. Even though earlier she saw Blaine wink at her, and thought that Blaine was going to sneak out to party that night, she doesn’t ever consider that it might be Blaine on the phone. Instead she assumes it is her mother checking up on her.

On her way to the phone, she sees Alison talking to the man who owned the doves. She watches them head upstairs, but then gets interrupted, and when she looks back, they’re gone.

It is, of course, Blaine on the phone, and she tells Jamie to meet her at the side entrance in five minutes, and to not tell anyone. I like it, but why wait five minutes. Just have her come meet you before anyone notices she’s acting weird!

She heads straight for the side entrance, but just as she gets to the door, she feels like someone is watching her, even though the hallway seems empty. She steps outside, and is nearly run over by a car, but it is just Blaine, coming to pick her up. Blaine is absolutely acidic about the perfect mansion with all its perfect people, and all the pressures that are sitting on her shoulders.

They roar through the village, and I want to be racing around at night in a sports car, tearing in and around the beach, with the  moonlight on the water.

Blaine slows down when they drive past her old house, but doesn’t stop until they reach the pier at the end of town. Yay, a pier! It’s deserted, the concession stands boarded up. They walk for awhile, and then Jamie asks if Blaine ever misses Point Harbor. She doesn’t, but she admits that she never forgets it, either. She also admits that she knows how lucky she is; Jamie is loyal, talking about how hard she worked to get out, but Blaine points out that lots of people work hard without getting anywhere. This is kind of depressing, but so, so true. Thanks, Athkins.

Blaine then talks about a poem she once read about the world ending in fire or ice and which is the worst way to end, to burn or to freeze. (She is, of course, talking about Robert Frost’s “Fire and Ice”.)

Jamie says that she’d rather freeze, at least at this point. Blaine would rather go by fire, and talks about how it must be like being trapped in the sauna, but worse. Even though Jamie asks her to stop talking about it, Blaine goes on to say that everyone says it is easy to freeze or to drown, but it’s difficult to burn.

I feel you, Blaine. There’s far too much realism in this book after all the weirdness and poor decisions.

Before they can leave, a car pulls up with Preston, Patricia, and Alison, all who have come looking for Blaine. She and Preston fight about her leaving early, and Blaine threatens to basically leave him standing at the altar the next day. Eventually, they both calm, and Preston talks Blaine into going back to Sandhill with him to get some rest. He asks Jamie if she can make her own way back, which seems pretty sketchy, really.

Unfortunately, Jamie doesn’t know how to drive the Porsche, so Alison kicks her out, and she rides back in the Mercedes with the others. Alison drives even faster and more reckless than Blaine did, and Preston says she’d better slow down because there’s a bad curve coming up. Again, I am so shocked that Alison immediately ends up crashing off the edge of the cliff. By the time they get to the spot she went over, there’s the smell of gasoline, and the car bursts into flames. This doesn’t happen nearly as much as it does in books and movies.

Blaine tries to throw herself over the edge to go save her, but Preston holds her back. Jamie stares down at the car, which burns “hotly, brightly, a beautiful, fatal fallen star” and in the distance comes the sound of sirens.

Much later, they make their way back to Sandhill, and Blaine is angry and guilty because they didn’t try to save Alison. Patricia points out that the police said it looks like she died on impact, and there was nothing they could do. They then talk about how weird it is that there weren’t any skid marks and they never saw the brake lights kick on, as if Alison didn’t even try to slow down — or, I’ll add, as if she couldn’t.

Drew rushes out to greet them and make sure that Jamie is okay. Jamie then gets Patricia talking about the lack of skid marks and brake lights, and Patricia says that she thinks Alison wanted to die because Alison loved Preston once, too, and what better revenge, what a perfect wedding gift, to kill herself in front of the guy who dumped her the night before his wedding.

UMMM. Patricia, that is a shitty, shitty thing to say.

Then there’s a quick scene to scene jump between everyone who should be getting a couple of hours of sleep in before they deal with the next day:

Jamie can’t sleep, because she’s thinking too much about the ghostly bride, the sauna, and the car that became Alison’s funeral pyre.

Kelly can’t sleep, even though the hotel doctor (… I’m still skeptical that the hotel has a doctor) gave her a pill; she felt obligated to take it because she’s the grieving best friend, but she doesn’t want to sleep, maybe never again, because she wants to be ready for whatever bad thing happens next.

Clara tells Preston that Blaine is sleeping when he comes looking for her, and asks if he is going to call off the wedding. He says no, that Alison wouldn’t want that. Clara starts to touch his arm, but then stops herself because she’s an employee.

Blaine listens to them from inside her room, shaky and bitter and angry. Then she smells smoke, turns her head, and gasps out, “You! No! What are you doing here.”

Patricia sits brushing her hair and bitterly thinks about how none of this would have happened if Preston had just married her the way he was supposed to. She thinks about all the dreams she had for them, and how things could change, and after everything, maybe he won’t even marry Blaine after all.

Stephanie sleeps, and she has easy dreams. Athkins then gives us this: “She slept the sleep of the young. The naive. The innocent. Or of the profoundly guilty, who have no conscience at all.”

Ooooooookaaaaaaaay then, Athkins.

Jamie joins Blaine in her room a few hours later. Jamie is doing her make-up, which she calls the art of lying, because she is turning herself into a beautiful, blushing bride. Kelly joins them, broken hearted, and asks how Blaine can go through with it and be so calm. Blaine says she’s not calm, she’s just in control, but then she goes to hug Kelly, because she’s hurting too.

Clara brings her flowers from Preston, and a little package that also turned up. There are lots of reports around the gate, but no one has been allowed onto Sandhill except for actual guests. As she opens the package, she asks Clara if there has been any other news about the accident; it is a silver frame, and she flings it down, bursts into tears, and then goes on a rampage.

Preston rushes in to hold her, calm her, and apologises for sending the flowers. It’s not the flowers that set her off, though, it’s the picture in the frame. It’s a picture of Alison and Blaine from the wedding shoot at the beginning of the book, but Blaine’s side has been singed and scorched, and there is a note that says it should have been her.

You mean someone tampered with Blaine’s car in an attempt to kill Blaine and not Alison? I am shocked I tell you.

Preston says he’ll take the frame to the police, and Clara says there’s a detective onsite already who wants to ask more questions about the accident, but as agreed to wait until after the wedding. Him being willing to wait seems unlikely. Apparently, someone tampered with the brakes of the car. Again, SHOCK.

Later, Kelly rushes into Jamie’s room, because she’s decided to get ready there, since it is too hard to be in the room she was sharing with Alison. (Though why they were sharing, I’m not sure; there is more than enough space and money for each person to have separate rooms. Unless Kelly and Alison were hooking up, which I’d be down for, too.)

Kelly keeps up a running commentary about how Alison and Blaine started at the same time, and their careers took off at almost the same time, and how even though they have strong personalities, they always managed to be close, even when they fight. She also talks about how Preston likes models, and even Kelly wanted to date him at some point, before he and Blaine got together.

Kelly then does Jamie’s make-up, and makes her look amazing. They have a nice moment together.

Skip to Patricia, who is thinking about how her mother doesn’t believe in make-up, because real ladies don’t wear a lot of make-up. She puts on hers carefully, then realises she should have dressed first so she doesn’t smear it. When she gets dressed, she does smear her lipstick, but with her hand, not the dress, and it leaves a crimson gash across the back of her hand and in the corner of her mouth. Odds of Patricia putting on a wedding dress right now?

Skip to Stephanie, who is annoyed by her mother picking at her. She thinks about how she’s been ready for this for hours, days, and years, and she’s never had so much fun in her short, spoiled, sheltered life. I’m so tired of this story and its head hopping that I am not even going to give counts for the red herrings she’s throwing up left, right, and center.

An unnamed dude paces around a room, stressed and full of energy, and reminding himself over and over that he is in control.

An unnamed woman also thinks about how she’s ready, and then Clara comes to get her.

Blaine walks down the long hall, Clara behind her, holding the train of her dress. Stephanie is giddy, the rest of the bridesmaids subdued, and she can’t stop thinking about Alison.

The women walk down the aisle one at a time. The wedding begins without anything happening, but Jamie is completely on edge, waiting for something to happen. When the minister hits the point where he asks if anyone knows why they shouldn’t be married, they should speak up, the doors slam shut and the lights go out, including most of the candles.

Then comes the scent of roses and fire.

Kelly screams that the ghost bride is there, and sure enough, she comes walking down the aisle, wearing white and a heavy veil; there’s a ghastly glow coming from her clothes. She objects, because Preston is already married to her. She confronts him, because he left her there to die all alone. She throws back her veil and her dress bursts into flames. This sounds like Hunger Games levels of dramatic presentation.

Preston runs away, Patricia races after him, and Blaine stands staring down at the bride. Clara hands her a towel, and she uses that to wipe off her face, revealing — ALISON.

We skip forward to hours later, and Kelly is demanding answers. We finally get some. Clara is not really Blaine’s assistant, but she has degrees in chemistry and physics, and she does research for a large environmental firm. Her little sister went to New York to be a model and an actress; she was the third person who shared a room with Alison and Blaine back in the beginning. Her modeling name was Dover, after her childhood nickname, which was Dove. Oh, dear, recapper!Dove is never going to let this go. [Dove: GIMME BACK MY NAME!]

Dove met a handsome older man, he fell in love with her, wanted her all to himself, asked her to keep it a secret when they got married. They went to a remote island, and they were driving to the place where they would be married, when Preston lost control of the car and it went over the edge of a cliff. Preston was thrown clear, but Dove was killed. Preston ran back to his life, leaving Dove’s body to be discovered later, burnt almost beyond recognition.

Eventually, Clara found a journal that detailed everything between Dove and Preston, and that’s when Clara figured out a plan to make him confess. Alison was eager to join, because he had just dumped her and asked Blaine out, and Blaine said there was no way she’d actually go out with someone who treated her best friend so badly.

They planned the entire wedding from hell, which is why Blaine didn’t want any children in the wedding. They planted the ghost rumor with Kelly because she would spread it around, and they used special effects to make the ghost mirror work. It wasn’t supposed to be for Jamie, though, but for Preston. They didn’t kill the birds, but instead used stuffed birds that had been dead a long time. The bird handler was really Alison’s magician friend. The sauna was also a mistake, they thought Preston was alone.

Preston has now confessed to what he did, and whether or not he’s charged, they are satisfied that everyone knows the truth about Dove now.

Stephanie turns up and apologises to them, because she’s the one who has been leaking everything to the newspapers. It was the most exciting thing that had ever happened to her, and she was giddy to share it.

Blaine wants to spend more time catching up with Jamie, but for now Drew and Jamie take off together, because the party has just begun.

Final Thoughts:

Oh, crap. You guys, this story is absolutely ridiculous, but that ending is pretty damn awesome. I love that it is friendship and sisterhood that brings justice, and I want to see so much more of their adventures together. The pacing is off, and the head hopping was annoying as hell, and only used to make things more dramatic and to plant red herrings, but the actual ending is fucking fantastic, and the setting is wonderful.

Okay, Athkins. I’ll give more of your books a try.

[Dove: That… wasn’t so bad! I was expecting it to be awful, because we have The Cemetery by her, and I’ve been avoiding that book since the 90s, because I seem to remember it was really boring, then really confusing, so I was expecting this to be the same. And then we get this: friendship as motivation. Friendship and justice.]

Final Counters:

Black Widow: 2

Continuity? Fuck that shit: 1

I hate the hot chick! (And she hates me.): 1

Mental health: with tact and sensitivity: 2