I haven't done a book review in quite some time, but since it's Harry Potter's birthday it feels only right that I should break my streak and share some book love. I'm excited to talk about this particular release because it's the fourth novel from my online literary friend, Samantha March. Samantha is the founder of Chick Lit Plus, a popular book and beauty blog, and the rapidly growing small press, Marching Ink. I've never had the pleasure of meeting Samantha in person, but we've worked together on blog tours and other projects for a few years now and she's pretty awesome at what she does.
I'll tell you more about how to get connected with Samantha in just a second, but for now let's get to the review.
Up To I Do: A Summary
Emerson Sinclair, twenty-seven year old hotel heiress, has said yes. With just over a year to plan her extravagant, over-the-top nuptials to Logan Worthington, it’s all hands on deck with the wedding plans. A Sinclair marrying into the Worthington family is the talk of their small New Hampshire town, and ideas include filming the wedding for a TV segment. But as the items get checked off the list, plans start to go ... not as planned. From not getting a designer dress to a selfish bridesmaid and unaccountable best man, Emerson is afraid her wedding will be more a joke than anything.
When both her mother and sister seemingly begin to lose interest in her wedding plans in favor of their own personal lives, Emerson fears her big day will turn into the forgotten wedding. With the pressure to pull off a beautiful and elegant event that everyone expects from their respectable families, Emerson starts to forget the reason why she is saying "I do" in the first place.
But her spirited Grams is there to make sure neither happens. With her help and guidance, Emerson not only has her wedding plans back on track, but she remembers the reason why they are going through the stress of wedding planning – because at the end of it all she gets to marry her true love, and marriage is defined by more than a wedding.
Up To I Do: What I Think
First, the cover. I love that it's from Samantha's own wedding, and not just because I'm a sentimental sap. It fits the story well and it's a professional photo. (Authors do themselves a huge disservice when they scrimp on the cover. Authors: don't scrimp on the cover!) Plus, it draws the eye. Kudos to you, Samantha. (And that dress, hello!)
I've read a few of Samantha's other books, including The Green Ticket and her debut novel, Destined to Fail (you can read my review of that lovely book here), and I enjoyed them both. In Up To I Do, Samantha brings us into Emerson's lavish world and gives us insight into the often-frustrating reality that is planning a wedding. And make no mistake: it is frustrating whether you're on a tight budget or working with millions. While I would guess that Up To I Do is not primarily intended to be a commentary on wedding planning, it is a sweet, insightful look at relationships and family, which are ultimately what make celebrations like getting married such a roller-coaster ride. And such a blessing. Through Emerson, Samantha offers her readers a familiar peek into the nuances of family and brings home the truth that, in the end, they're really all we have.
What I loved most about Emerson's story - and I think many of Samantha's readers will agree with me - is the relationship she has with her Grams. There's something so touching about this woman's connection with her grandmother. For me, it helps ground Emerson, not just in terms of her lifestyle but also in terms of her attitude. No matter how successful she is, how much money she has, or how perfect her fiance, Emerson needs a anchor in her life. And that's her Grams. I'm incredibly close to my paternal grandmother - I call her Nannie - and she helps me remember, even on my crappy days, that I am loved and important. Not because of anything extraordinary I've done, but because of who my grandmother is and how she sees me. And Emerson's relationship with her Grams is a sweet reminder of what unconditional love looks like.
Unfortunately, no book is perfect and here's my one issue with Samantha's latest: she's a good storyteller - there's no doubt about that - but what I read in Up To I Do compared to her other books gave me some pause. Even though I liked the story itself, I couldn't quite get behind the voice. Perhaps it was the setting that caused this disconnection. Based on Samantha's previous novels, she seems more confident taking on the messiness of day-to-day life in a real-world setting than writing about it from the perspective of a hotel heiress, however likable said heiress may be. I would have liked to see Up To I Do go through another round of proofreading because, at times, the exposition felt clunky and there were a number of verb tense errors. I certainly wouldn't hesitate to read another of Samantha's books because I know she's got the goods. But in terms of voice, Up To I Do didn't feel as strong as her previous novels.
Overall, I think Samantha has a talent for creating strong story arcs and understanding who her characters really are and what they want. My favorite thing about her writing is that she builds relationships that feel both genuine and relatable. And when Up To I Do was over, I felt like I had just celebrated the wedding of two very close friends.
I definitely look forward to reading more of Samantha's work and I gave Up To I Do a solid three-out-of-five stars on Goodreads.
Want to learn more about Samantha? Visit Chick Lit Plus or say hi to her on Twitter and Instagram @SamanthaMarch. You can also find her on Facebook and Youtube.
And get your own copy of Up To I Do, available now on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Don't forget to leave a review on Goodreads when you're finished!
Please note: I received a copy of Up To I Do in exchange for an honest review.