Note: Received as ARC in exchange for a review. For order links, see Courtney Milan's website.
Initial Thoughts & Hot Take
I thought the book got off to a slow start. The first few chapters threw a lot of information at me about Adrian's background and family, so it took me a minute to get into the story. That being said, once it got going, I couldn't put it down and I finished it in a few hours. We'd waited a while for the follow-up to the cliffhanger ending at the end of the first book, Once Upon a Marquess, and I definitely felt like After the Wedding delivered.
The Characters & the Romance
I really really loved these two. One of my favorite podcasters, Lani Diane Rich, produces a podcast (How Story Works) about narrative and she's got a couple of rules that I consider part of my own writing bible. If you want to write a romance, show the characters working together. Don't give them a false conflict with secrets. If your problems can be solved if the characters just talk to one another, then it's not really a conflict.
I think honestly that's my favorite part about this story and these characters. At every turn, Adrian and Camille were honest with another. Their conflict--the issue keeping them apart was rooted in who they were as people and what they wanted from life. Adrian wanted a love story like his parents, and Camille wanted to be chosen. They both had really well-written backstories that explained their motivations and made them feel real.
The only time there was any dishonesty was towards the end when Adrian didn't tell Cam something right away, but I understood why he didn't explain right away and I understood her hurt and pain. I just liked the way these two people trusted one another and didn't keep secrets for longer than a few hours. Or that they volunteered information about themselves as soon as it might be relevant. It didn't take away any of the suspense because there was other reasons why they weren't declaring their love for one another.
I didn't love the story about the bishops so I was glad that mostly happened in the background. I liked that it gave Adrian and Cam a reason to work together and be in each other's atmosphere, but I wasn't all that interested in what would happen there.
There a lot of tropes in romances -- that doesn't bother me. In fact, marriage of convenience and forced marriages are a dime a dozen and that doesn't bother me. But when characters lie to each other to the point that you actively start to root against them, that drives me insane. Reading this story was a palate cleanser. It's refreshing to read about two characters who are allowing themselves to be open, vulnerable, and honest. I really liked After the Wedding, and I'm really intrigued where the stories are going next.
One of my favorite things about Courtney Milan's books is that she doesn't seem to write the usual kind of story. Even when her characters feature the aristocracy, there's always something about her characters that set them apart. I liked how well she dealt with the interracial aspect--that Camille never once seemed to think twice about Adrian being African-American.
She wrote on Twitter that After the Wedding is the last book in the series set in England, and I am here for it. I can't wait to see where it's going next.