The idea for A Groom with a View came to me when one of my book club friends – we’ll call her Karen to protect the innocent – decided to propose to her partner. They’d been together for years, were settled and happy, owned a house and had a gorgeous daughter, but marriage had never really crossed their radar.
Of course, when Karen asked her friends what we thought of the idea, we were all over it. “Yes!” we said. “Do it! Do it now! And then come back and tell us what he says!” But to our frustration, she insisted that she must wait until the perfect moment came along.
In the end, the perfect moment turned out to be when the two of them were hanging out at home, eating a takeaway curry and recovering from brutal hangovers after another friend’s wedding the previous night. Karen took a brief pause from stuffing her face with lamb bhuna and said to her partner – who we’ll call Simon – “Hey, shall we get married?”
“What?” said Simon, through a mouthful of garlic naan, “Oh, yeah. Sure.”
When Karen logged back on to Facebook to report back to the rest of us, she was in agonies of doubt. Had he actually meant it? Had he even heard what she’d said or was he just agreeing automatically to shut her up? Or, worst of all, had he said yes just to be polite? But there was nothing Karen could do – to the best of her knowledge he’d accepted, so she would just have to wait and see what happened next – and so would we.
It was only the next day that Karen posted on our Facebook group with an update. Her relief was palpable. “It’s okay!” she said, “I got home from work, and he was doing a wedding spreadsheet!”
Karen and Simon had a beautiful wedding, and they’ve now added another gorgeous baby daughter to their family. But the story stuck in my mind, and I wondered what might happen if, once that new spreadsheet had been created, events had taken a less smooth course.
The result of that speculation is A Groom with a View.
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Nick and Pippa have been an item since forever, but they’ve always said marriage isn’t for them. That’s until, in a moment of mad romance, they find themselves engaged.
Pippa knows she’s no bridezilla – and she’s definitely not expecting Nick to get swept off his feet by plans for floral centrepieces, vintage cake-stands and colour coordinated everything. Then Nick’s mum gets involved, secrets from Pippa’s past threaten to surface, and planning their perfect day begins to tear Nick and Pippa apart.
This eagerly anticipated second novel from Sophie Ranald is a funny and poignant romantic romp. If you love Tracy Bloom, Mhairi MacFarlane and Sophie Kinsella, then say “I do” to A Groom with a View.
After Callie had gone and I’d paid the bill, I left the café and wandered aimlessly around a bit, thinking about what she’d said. I couldn’t detect even a hint of bridezilla-ness in myself. Deep inside me, a small, warm flame was glowing with excitement at the idea of being married to Nick (although I’d already decided I was going to remain Pippa Martin, thank you very much, none of this Mrs Pickford business for me). But I also felt a sense of deep trepidation. Would marrying Nick mean that things between us would change? Did I want them to change?
And the actual wedding?
It all struck me as an awful lot of fuss for just one day. I cook for a living and I’ve catered plenty of weddings and I’ve seen the waste of food, of drink, of money they cause, not to mention the stress and the strops. One reception dinner we did at Falconi’s involved a ten-course tasting menu for a hundred and twenty people, followed by fireworks, with an ice rink set up in the square outside, and the couple split up after six weeks.
That wouldn’t happen to Nick and me, obviously. But the obsession that Callie had mentioned? I like to think I’m quite a level-headed person, but what if it was inevitable?
I spotted a newsagent further along the street and went in and bought a packet of wine gums and another Diet Coke. A shelf stacked with glossy wedding magazines caught my eye, and I thought I might as well buy a representative sample, just to see if Callie was right. I sat on a bench in the park and ripped the plastic cover off the first one, and a stash of leaflets spilled out: ‘Bespoke Suit Hire for Him’; ‘Have you considered a faux bouquet?’; ‘Fancy Favours for Everyone’; ‘DON’T FORGET YOUR WEDDING INSURANCE!’
Wedding insurance? What the very fuck was that?
I selected a red, black and green wine gum and put them all in my mouth at once, opened the first of the magazines and scanned the contents page. ‘Lose weight for your big day’; ‘The season’s most dramatic dresses’; ‘Our fairytale Nantucket nuptials’. The pages were full of pictures of impossibly perfect women in gorgeous frocks, fantastically elaborate cakes and cherubic pageboys. None of it looked like anything to do with me or Nick, I reassured myself. We simply weren’t interested in stuff like this – we’d do it our own way. We’d have our relaxed, low-key, small wedding, with just a handful of guests. Maybe Erica, Nick’s mother, might even decide not to come, if it was going to be small enough and informal enough? But that was probably too much to hope for.
Still, I felt confident as I boarded the bus home that Callie was wrong. I wasn’t going to turn
into some spoiled brat insisting that it must be all ‘My Day, My Way’ (which appeared to be the mantra of Lacy Garter, the agony aunt at Inspired Bride magazine). Well, I would actually want things my way, and Nick’s, because that’s what it was about: our future together, moving forward from where we’d been before. Not custom-made basques and ombré icing.
And anyway, there was a really good chance that Nick hadn’t meant it and would change his
mind. Or I would. In which case we’d just carry on as we’d been before. It was all fine. We didn’t need a wedding – we just needed to be together.
I’d take the magazines home to Nick, I decided, along with the rest of the wine gums (all five of them), and we could read them and have a good laugh about Highland castles and croquembouches, and then talk about last night, and decide what to do. Whether we carried on as we were or went ahead with the smallest wedding ever, it would be fine with me.
“Hello!” I called, opening the front door.
“Hi, Pip,” said Nick. “I’m in the office with Spanx. Come and have a look at this, and tell me
how it went with Callie.”
Nick works from our spare room, where just about every inch of space is taken up by his iMac, his scanner, printer, graphics tablet and all the rest. Usually when I look over his shoulder as he works, I’m dazzled by edgy magazine layouts, modernist logo designs or sleek website treatments (when I can see anything past the furry ginger body of Spanx, Nick’s self-appointed junior designer). Now, though, I could see a complex grid of words and figures.
“What are you up to?” I asked.
“I’m doing a spreadsheet,” he said proudly. “For the wedding. I’ve got about two hundred names so far. We might have to cut down a bit.”
“Two hundred...” I leaned against the door frame, clasping the glossy magazines to my chest
like armour. “Nick, what on earth are you...?”
“Hey, did you know we need to take out wedding insurance?” he said. “And is that Inspired
Bride magazine? Awesome! Let’s have a read.”