4 stars

Category Romance Review: Uninvited Wedding Guest by Marsha Manning (aka Hettie Grimstead)

Uninvited Wedding Guest, Marsha Manning, Prestige Books, 1979 (1968 original pub date), cover artist TBD

#4287 Magnum Books

(#108 Treasures of Love & #1106 Women’s Weekly Library)

Spoiler Free Review 😊

4 Stars

Rating: 4 out of 5.

It’s not exactly the easiest vintage romance to find, but it’s a memorable one. Uninvited Wedding Guest began as a hardcover titled Friend of the Bride, published in 1968 by Ward, Lock, & Company, Ltd. in the UK and by Lenox Hill Press in the US. My guess is these companies aimed their products at public libraries, in the manner of Avalon Romances. This novel was reprinted as a booklet-style paperback by the British publisher IPC Magazines in its “Women’s Weekly Library” series, as number #1106, in 1974.

Friend of the Bride, Marsha Manning, Women’s Weekly Library, 1974, cover artist TBD

It next appeared in June 1979 as a mass-market paperback, Magnum Romances #4287, published by the New York company Prestige Books. It was released with a new title, the (fittingly) more dramatic one under which I’m reviewing the novel. 

In December of that year it turned up in another series, the three-books-in-one “Treasures of Love” #108, also published by Prestige Books. The last edition is the one I read, and probably the easiest to find in the used-book market. These chunky multi-book paperbacks hold up through time and use better than the slimmer single-title kind. And we all know what lending-library books go through! 

Uninvited Wedding Guest, Marsha Manning, Prestige Books, 1979, Gina Waldman interior artwork

I don’t know of any subsequent reprints. As of this writing, the book isn’t available at the Internet Archive.

As for the author, Marsha Manning was a pen-name of the prolific Hettie Grimstead. I’ve already reviewed on this blog two other category romances she wrote, one under each name, Yesterday’s Love and Whisper to the Stars.

He Makes Quite an Entrance!

Uninvited Wedding Guest starts with our heroine, English country girl Tessa Paulton, attending the wedding of her twin brother Terry, a seed merchant, and the glamorous model Carol Stokeley. At the reception, a stranger appears, an attractive but angry man who demands to see the bride. When that fails, he makes a scene. Tessa gets curious and talks to him, but learns nothing, not even his name. He vanishes as mysteriously as he’d appeared.

She assumes the wedding crasher is an old boyfriend of Carol’s, chagrined at losing her. A good guess. But wrong! 

Tessa and the mystery man cross paths again when she goes to Ibiza in the Balearic Islands for a vacation–er, holiday; this is a British novel! His name is Dominic Tannis; he’s a wealthy shipper; he has a strong connection to Carol. What is it? That’s one of several twists and surprises in the plot. And given my aversion to spoilers, I’ll stop here.

A Real Page-Turner

But it’s obvious from the get-go that Tessa and Dominic will fall in love. One of them does so considerably sooner than the other. This provides plenty of engrossing drama, as do family problems and trouble at his company. 

Not to mention an old boyfriend of Tessa’s. Plus disturbing evidence that she might not be the only woman in Dominic’s life. A staple element in category romances of this period, but here the author handles it better than usual. Her accomplishment is even greater because the heroine suspects she has not just one rival, but two.

These are disparate themes, but they all work together. They don’t detract from each other. Rather, they enhance each other. Which is my idea of how a plot should work.

The author conveys well the emotions of the one viewpoint character, Tessa. The various principal characters all come to life. As do the three contrasting main venues of the story: the heroine’s quaint hometown in Sussex, charming and picturesque Ibiza, and glamorous, sophisticated London during the Swinging Sixties.

But, There Are the Buts

So why didn’t I give this book five stars? Two reasons. The romantic drama is done well, but it relies too heavily on finding out facts and clearing up misconceptions. It doesn’t plunge into the depths of more profound dramatic elements—for instance, coming to a painful decision, growing from one stage of life to another, epiphany. The Marsha Manning romance I first reviewed, Yesterday’s Love, deals with all three. Thus reading it was a more meaningful and moving experience. And yes, a more romantic one, at least to me.

My second issue? At one point the relationship between the hero and heroine collapses because of a misdirected letter. That worked in Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles, but here it’s just a contrivance. The heart-wrenching misunderstanding goes on for several weeks. Nowadays it can be cleared up in seconds with a text message. In the 1960s, when this novel was written, it could’ve been cleared up in minutes with an overseas phone call.

But don’t let that discourage you. If you go for emo romances, I recommend Uninvited Wedding Guest. I just wish it were easier to find!

Reviewed by Mary Anne Landers

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