Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Review: Swinging on a Star by Janice Thompson


Swinging on a Star (Weddings by Bella #2)
By: Janice Thompson
Publisher: Revell
ISBN: 978-0-8007-3343-8

About the book:

Bella Rossi’s life is nearing perfection. Not only does she have the perfect guy, but she’s also running a successful wedding-planning business and is about to plan its most ambitious wedding yet – a Renaissance-themed fairy tale come true, complete with period costumes and foods, horse-drawn carriages, and even a castle. There’s only one hitch. The best man just happens to be Hollywood’s hottest and most eligible bachelor, and he’s showing an interest in Bella. Oh, and did we mention he’s staying at her house to avoid the paparazzi?

With all the pressure surrounding this wedding, Bella’s not sure she’s going to make it through. Add her starstruck sister and her feuding aunt and uncle, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster – and a lot of laughs.

Review:

With the success of her first themed wedding – a country-western extravaganza – Bella Rossi has taken on an even bigger challenge. She must plan an elaborate, authentic, Renaissance style wedding, complete with a castle and moat. As if installing a temporary castle wasn’t enough, the wedding party happens to feature one of Hollywood’s hottest stars, Brock Benson, as the best man. In an attempt to remain anonymous so the paparazzi can’t crash the ceremony, Brock takes up residence with Bella’s family, and she struggles to keep that secret while reassuring her adorable, cowboy-boyfriend D.J. that the presence of a Hollywood star in her home won’t threaten their developing romance. If she can pull off the Renaissance fairy tale, it could be Bella’s highest profile, most successful event yet. But when wedding and Hollywood drama collide with family drama – in particular, her Aunt Rosa’s debut on the Food Network – the distractions test Bella’s faith and confidence. With the legendary Rossi family antics under the glare of a national spotlight, and a tropical storm en route, Bella must pull out all the stops to stay on track and prevent her biggest wedding yet from turning into a paparazzi photo-op.

Swinging on a Star picks up shortly after the conclusion of Fools Rush In, and I highly recommend reading that volume first in order to be properly introduced to Bella’s whacky and lovable family. Though the series bears Bella’s name, Thompson has created a true ensemble cast and one grows to care about the misadventures of each member of Bella’s circle of family and friends. Star serves up a second helping of all the elements that I loved in the first book, starting with Thompson’s clear appreciation of classic pop standards. Each chapter bears a song title, and since I’m a big fan of the Great American Songbook and Rossi family-favorite vocalists Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, I loved seeing how the title and lyrics of the songs relate to the events of each chapter. I also appreciated the Rossi family’s love of good cuisine, and how it’s poised to go national with Aunt Rosa’s pending appearance on the Food Network. Thankfully, Thompson chose to incorporate real hosts and shows into the novel, which adds a dash of pop culture realism to storyline.

I have to admit, it took me a bit longer to get into Stars than it did with Fools Rush In. Bella’s tendency to worry and overanalyze came off a bit overdone, but as the story delves more deeply into the wedding preparations and the family drama that turns around. Bella is taken to the edge, culminating with an overnight stint in jail, and back again as she learns about relinquishing control and placing her trust and faith in a never-changing God. Thompson also tackles the misleading nature of appearances, with Brock being a prime example, his Hollywood polish hiding a broken life in need of purpose. Bella’s mostly innocent tendency to “prejudge” people and circumstances is beautifully turned around when the people she wouldn’t necessarily expect are the ones who rally ‘round to spring her from jail. Star also satisfies my desire from its predecessor to get more of an insider glimpse into what it takes to create a themed wedding. I loved seeing Bella pull off the Renaissance fairy tale for her clients – the descriptions were so vivid I felt like I was part of the party. And the way D.J. and Bella’s relationship develops over the course of this wedding adventure is a treat – D.J. is the perfect embodiment of “everyday” heroism, and by the end of the book he manages to pull out all the stops in wooing Bella in a truly swoon-worthy fashion.

Filled with humor, heart, and very flawed people just trying their best to live out their faith, Swinging On a Star is a sweet, frothy confection of a read sure to leave you craving some of Rosa’s legendary Italian cooking. Book three, It Had to Be You, releases in May.

You can read my review of Fools Rush In here.

7 comments:

Renee (SteelerGirl83) said...

I love this series too! Great review Ruth! :-)

XOXO~ Renee

Laura Frantz said...

Ruth, You have such a way with words! Can't wait to read this one and also Sarah's:) Thanks much.

Ruth said...

@Renee - Thanks! I am really looking forward to book 3, since it's supposed to feature a 1940s-themed wedding!

@Laura - Thank you so much, Laura! Coming from a wordsmith like you that means a lot. :)

Janice Thompson said...

Thank you so much for this sweet review. I'm so glad you enjoyed the book. :)

Ruth said...

@Janice - Thank you so much for the comment! :) I can't wait to read #3!!

Lori (sugarandgrits) said...

Awesome review, Ruth! This series is just great! :D

Ruth said...

@Lori - Thanks! We are in agreement. :) I'm really looking forward to the conclusion of the series.