A Wedding One Christmas is like a Hallmark (or Netflix, because it's better) Christmas movie in novel form. If that's your thing? You'll really enjoy it.
I recently described Beharrie's books as "fluff with heart," but this one is more on the side of heart than fluff. The two protagonists, Angie and Ezra, meet by chance in a small town outside of Cape Town, South Africa. They're both there stalling a trip home, the details of which are slowly revealed both to the reader and to the other main character as the story progresses. Beharrie balances the heavier aspects of the book - grief, obligation, feelings of inadequacy - with some top-notch banter.
The entire book takes place over the course of 24 hours, with Angie showing up in Caledon and heading into a cafe she has a sentimental attachment to. She's wearing a pretty dress as a confidence booster so she can face her family after running away from her grief three years before, but it's unfortunately very similar to the bridesmaids dresses at a wedding just outside. She's immediately mistaken for part of the wedding party.
She just hoped the 'if you talk to me, I'm going to punch you in the face' expression she'd perfected at a young age would deter--
Of course, nothing deters the well-meaning wedding guests from pressuring her to go to the appropriate place for photos. Angie ends up hiding in a hedge, before she eventually sneaks into the cafe and sits down at a table across from a stranger.
What were the chances she'd slide into a booth opposite a man who looked like he'd jumped straight out of her fantasies?
Ezra has recently left his position as a women's studies professor and the wedding is that of two of his former students. He declined to RSVP to the wedding, however, so he's sort of undecided as to whether he wants to go in or not. Angie begs him to pretend to be her boyfriend so she can avoid having to talk to the wedding guests, but then they discover that they quite enjoy each other's company.
The rest of the day and night are spent in a series of random, small-town, Hallmark-movie-like activities. They stumble upon a Christmas parade and take the parts of Mr. and Mrs. Claus to help out a very pregnant military wife. They join an ad-lib nativity play. They go skinny dipping and alllmost have sex in a river. (There is no sex in the book, just some making out.) They share truths with each other that they haven't shared with their families, and help each other realize some truths they haven't shared with themselves yet.
'Have you seen them since the breakup?'
She winced. 'So this isn't exactly the homecoming you imagined.'
He pulled a face. 'It had to happen sometime.'
'But Christmas is a bit steep. People always try to make you feel bad about your life at Christmas.'
The book is a mix of heartache and hope, with sweetness and grief and humor and dread all swirled together. It's Christmassy but not in the ways you might expect. And it does have a happy ending, but the epilogue is necessary to turn it from a happy-for-now to a happily-ever-after, since the main part of the book is quite literally just one day and night. If you want a quick punch of happy Christmas feels, this may not be the book for you, but if you want an emotional ride with a bond forged through conversation and forced proximity rather than sex? This could be the book you need.
Content Warnings: Grief (death of a parent)
Disclosure: Suzanne is Twitter friends with Therese Beharrie.