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Something Old, Something New
by Roberta Gayle
(Arabesque/BET, $4.99, PG-13) ISBN 1-58314-018-2
Gwendolyn Fay was getting married. She had found her Mr. Right Herbert Wright. They met just a few weeks ago at a funeral. "Herbie" was an undertaker.

After a whirlwind courtship, Gwendolyn Fay, dubbed "the Fairy Princess" by her twin sister Dorinda, was marrying a bona fide frog. Herbie was "a bumbling, clumsy fool who told awful jokes and always laughed at the wrong time." Furthermore, he had no brothers or sisters and was unable to find four men willing to stand up for him at a moment's notice so the bride's brothers and her business partner were pressed into service.

Gwendolyn Fay was getting married. "The Fays were notorious for following their hearts and Gwen and Drin's parents had only insisted that Gwendolyn and Herbie should start a family first, and wait until they had been together for ten or fifteen years before taking an irretrievable step like marriage. After all, that was what they had done."

To say the elder Fays are eccentric is a gross understatement. They were 60s activists who are partially stuck in a time warp. They are quirky and the twins just hope they won't embarrass them at the wedding.

But Dorinda has a more pressing problem. On the day of her twin sister's wedding, she finds herself dateless in Brooklyn. Unfortunately, not one, but four of her ex-boyfriends show up at the wedding with dates or spouses in tow. The group includes Matt Cooper, her first and best boyfriend. Matt, the standard by which all others were measured, arrives with a model.

Matt and Dorinda have a history to overcome. "They had been best friends from childhood, and then became boyfriend and girlfriend in junior high school. Dorinda loved Matt for as long as she could remember."

Matt and Dorinda lost their virginity (or is that virginities?) together. Their love affair crashed and burned during high school. Matt, the class nerd, caught the attention of one of the most popular girls in school. Matt dumped Dorinda as his girlfriend; she dumped him as her best friend. Although their parents remained friends, Gwendolyn's wedding is the first time the two had seen each other since high school.

She pretends that she and the hunk of a best man are a couple. Matt wants a second chance, Dorinda's not having it.

Something Old, Something New is part of the Bridal Arabesque series. For June, the publisher is releasing three contemporaries and an anthology in celebration of the traditional month for weddings.

The premise of Something Old, Something New held real promise. However, an inordinate amount of time and space deals with Dorinda's relationship with everyone but Matt. Too much time is spent establishing who Dorinda is with her parents, brothers, aunts, cousins, ex-boyfriends, employer and a would-be suitor. All are great characters who need the direction and cohesiveness a tighter plot would have provided.

I really, really wanted to like wanted to like this book and not just because one of the main characters is named "Gwendolyn!" Roberta Gayle's writing displays an offbeat sense of humor I really enjoy. Her stories tend to feature straight-backed heroines, laid-back heroes and quirky parents a sort of role reversal. There are flashes of humor in Something Old, Something New, but it's not vintage Gayle. I've read it twice. It's the kind of story that grows on you if you give it a chance.

And, even with its flaws, half a Gayle is still better than none at all.

--Gwendolyn Osborne

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