Book Reviews, Romance Novels

Review: Love at First Fight by Mary Jayne Baker

Setting up the maid of honor and the best man: is it a recipe for disaster or the beginning of a love story?

Image: Julia Dath

Love at First Fight by Mary Jayne Baker

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

In Love at First Fight by Mary Jayne Baker, Bridie has given up on love after going on twenty dates in twenty days. But as the maid of honor at her best friend Hattie’s wedding, she’s going to have to put on a good face. Doing so turns complicated when Bridie’s teenage-fling-turned-enemy Ben Kemp shows back up in town to fill his best man duties.

The undeniable tension between Ben and Bridie catches the attention of their friends. But could a romance blossom between two people who have sworn to hate each other?

If you’ve been following along, you’ll notice I’ve been reading a lot of romantic comedies lately. This novel is a great read for those of you who have just finished binging The Hating Game or The Spanish Love Deception. You’ll get your fill of enemies-to-lovers banter between Ben and Bridie. Or perhaps you’re a reader who wants the main couple to have history. You’ll get that here, too, as Ben and Bridie had a teenage fling that fell to shambles.

There’s also a neat twist to this story that you might not notice if you’re not a fan of classics: Love at First Fight is inspired by Shakespeare’s comedy Much Ado About Nothing. So, if 10 Things I Hate About You is one of your favorite films, you should give this book a try. By no means do you need to have read Much Ado to read this modern day story, but I very much enjoyed drawing the parallels and dissecting the places where Baker diverges from the original story.

The highlight of this story is the dialogue between Ben and Bridie. Baker sets up a convincing level of animosity between the two characters by revealing that Ben left Bridie alone out front of their Leavers’ Prom. Who wouldn’t hold that grudge? This history, combined with their required interactions for wedding preparations, gives some pretty humorous fights between the two.

While taking the plot of Much Ado endeared me to the story, it also made the plot feel a tad crowded at times. Baker could’ve had an entire novel just focusing on the antics of Ben and Bridie’s get-together. The third person perspective shifts between multiple characters, though, which means readers are also dragged into the pre-marriage woes of Hattie and her fiancé/Ben’s brother, Cal.

You’ll desperately want to see how things work out between Ben and Bridie, but then the story will turn to Hattie and Cal for several chapters. Sometimes it felt as if the text could do without these diversions.

** Spoiler for those who have not read the play **

For those Shakespearean fans, you’ll know in the play that Hero is falsely accused of cheating at the altar and fakes her own death to effectively regain her reputation.

The matter in which a female character’s value is tied to her virginity and the nature of the accusation are horribly uncomfortable to read. I think that in a modern context, Cal accusing Hattie of cheating on him in such a brutal way would’ve felt unreal and unreasonable compared to the rest of the story.

Baker does take liberties with the source text to try and bring more agency to women in th story and make it work in modern times. For instance, Cal is the one caught up in possible infidelity instead of Hattie. If you’re devout to the original storyline, this book probably won’t work for you. The story is inspired by Much Ado mores than adapting it.

****

All that said, Love at First Fight was a fun read. As an American reader, I enjoyed reading dialogue that was so distinctly British. Ben and Bridie are one of those love stories that will warm your heart one second and make you laugh out loud the next.

3 thoughts on “Review: Love at First Fight by Mary Jayne Baker”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s