“A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Her Brother’s Shotgun Wedding” is the story of Evelyn Dunleavy, her close knit circle of family and city-dwelling friends, and the chaos that ensues when her oldest sibling, Michael, announces that he is getting married. In London, where he now lives, to the girlfriend no one really knows. And by the way…she’s pregnant.

The rest of the story follows Evie over to London for a few months as the official family delegate charged with getting to know her soon to be sister-in-law. It certainly doesn’t hurt that because of his cramped living quarters her brother has lined up a room for her in the apartment of one of his groomsmen, Nate, that Evie feels an instant attraction to…despite his love of the music group ABBA, or the fact that he chooses curries over pizza. It doesn’t help that Michael still considers his sister to be off-limits from the advances of his friends.

She comes to the quick conclusion that wedding planning can be stressful no matter which side of the Pond you hail from, and it’s always more fun to have your best friends around you for a bachelorette party, especially when the bride-to-be is seven months pregnant. 

“A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Her Brother’s Shotgun Wedding” is American writer Noreen Riley’s debut novel. It tells the charming story of New Yorker Evie Dunleavy who goes to stay in London for a few months to help with preparations for her brother Michael’s wedding. Michael’s family haven’t had a chance to get to know his pregnant English fiancée, and so they send Evie to England as a sort of ambassador to establish a bond with Michael’s bride and her family.

Evie’s a little worried that she’ll miss New York and her friends, but any concerns about her visit to England evaporate when Michael arranges for her to stay with his coffee shop owning friend Nate whilst she’s in London. One look at Nate and Evie is smitten. But this wouldn’t be much of a story if there weren’t a few obstacles for Evie to overcome in her pursuit of love. Her first problem is that she’s not at all sure that Nate feels the same way about her; next is the issue of Michael promising bodily harm to any of his friends who even think about dating his little sister; and finally there’s the fact that Evie is supposed to be returning to New York straight after the wedding.

I loved the contrast between the different settings of New York, London and the English country manor house. Riley manages to capture the essence of England and its people without resorting to stereotypes. There were some great scenes with Evie navigating the London Underground and discovering the wonder of a Cadbury’s Flake!

Another element of the novel I enjoyed was the addition of some wonderful pop culture references which were scattered throughout it – they were a charming touch and added to the fun atmosphere of the story.

Evie was very likeable; the kind of woman that anyone would like to be friends with. She’s loyal and fun, with a great sense of humour. Her relationships with her various family members were a joy to read about. Evie’s family were charming, entertaining and above all, very well-written characters. Their interactions with each other are just brilliant and so, so funny. Evie’s mum and her continuous attempts to throw her newly learnt English-isms into conversation was a particular highlight.

Nate was a good love-interest – he was handsome, kind and endearing, and I was willing him and Evie to get together from the moment they met. Their relationship was a beautifully worked combination of romance and comedy – never has an evening walk around London whilst wearing pyjamas been so romantic.

My only niggle with the book was that it could have done with slightly better editing: the prose was good, and the narrative absorbing, but a little bit more polish would have been the finishing touch.

I found this novel sweet, witty, and slightly addictive – I had to stop myself speeding through it too quickly in my need to find out what was going to happen next between Evie and Nate. Riley tells a lovely story with adorable characters, and has produced a very impressive debut novel. I can well imagine this making a brilliant film with perhaps Rachel McAdams or Isla Fisher as Evie.

3 and a half stars

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