As he approaches a milestone birthday, Ben begins to think back on his old relationships. While none of them seemed right at the time, he's not quite sure that the other option - his current single status - is really any better. With a good friend about to enter into an arranged marriage, Ben has the by this point predictable yet wacky idea that he needs the same thing - a nice young woman hand-picked for him by his parents. After all, who knows him better than they do?
Except, lovely people though they are, they're not exactly what anyone would call 'with it', as their early attempts at matchmaking clearly show. Has Ben made a huge mistake in enlisting their help, and encouraging their meddling? Is single life really that bad? Should he just swallow his pride and go crawling back to his most-recent and rather evil ex, and grovel for another shot?
If this were chick-lit of the normal kind, the answer would be predictable, with him meeting a nice girl, probably right at the last minute, though potentially someone he has known all along but overlooked until now, and sailing off into the sunset with her. But this is bloke-lit, so things aren't so simple. Ben is a nice enough character whose situation you can certainly empathise with, but he's a definite bloke under all his new-man pretences, and that's where things begin to get interesting. Gone are the clichés, in come the jokes and in the end we're left with a story as much about human nature as about love.
I'm not sure this would be the great read it is if it were written by a woman or had a girl in its starring role. I'm not being disparaging of my female friends, but that sort of story has been done to death, and therefore even a fresh take from a new author would come off as a bit samey. And yet, there is nothing repetitive or been-there-read-that about this title. It is a slick piece of writing that will probably appeal more to the ladies than the lads, but part of that is down to the insights into the male species it so deftly delivers, i.e. for exactly the same reasons that boys read Cosmo.
The book is not perfect. There were certainly a few too many dad jokes for my liking, and I thought some of the observations were more long winded in their detail than they needed to be. But, overall, I very much enjoyed it, and while it wasn't un-put-downable, it was certainly one I took every opportunity to pick back up, keen as I was to follow the story to its interesting and satisfying end. This is a great read that is easy without being simplistic, and sufficiently complex (as per real life) without being a struggle to wade through. Add to that that it's not half funny, with a decent mix of slapstick, embarrassing relatives, witty one liners and almost sensitive humour, and you have a book that certainly comes recommended.
Buy it new on Amazon, discounted to under a fiver at present, or pick up a used copy for about £1 online. I've also seen a few copies in local charity shops, but none are mine - I've a good mind to re-read it, so am keeping hold of it.
This review originally appeared on www.thebookbag.co.uk
Ben Grant has just been dumped by his 29th girlfriend. Not only that but he is also having to face his thirtieth birthday which is rapidly approaching. Desperate to find the perfect woman, like his friend Ash who is having an arranged marriage with Priti, Ben sets out to find himself his perfect bride. He enlists the help of his parents in his bid to find his perfect bride but soon finds out that the women his parents pick out for him just aren't for him. His parents, however, love the idea and set about their task with gusto. After a bunch of disastrous dates, Ben calls off his search for the perfect bride. But what will happen when Ben meets his ideal woman?
I'm a huge fan of Matt Dunn and have enjoyed two of his previous works: The Ex-Boyfriends Handbook (an oustanding read) as well as From Here to Paternity (which I enjoyed, too). So when Simon and Schuster offered me the chance to read Matt's new one The Good Bride Guide, I jumped at the chance.
I absolutely loved The Good Bride Guide. I thought the plot was brilliant and incredibly unique. Matt is excellent at tapping into the male mind and giving us incredibly enjoyable reads. I loved Ben's quest to find himself the perfect bride and laughed out loud on many occasions. It was very amusing seeing all of the girls Ben's parents picked out for him and you could see a mile off that none of them were really what Ben was looking for.
I liked Ben as a character and enjoyed reading of his conflict regarding marriage. In one way, to Ben, marriage is the perfect commitment but also could it all just be a ruse? Do relationships really have to come down to marriage or can you live in perfect harmony without it? I thought it added an interesting insight. I could understand completely Ben's cynicism regarding marriage but I could also see the flip side - after all, his parents were (and continue to be) happily married even after thirty years.
Ben's parents were a huge part of the book and I thoroughly enjoyed their presence. Their relationship came across as an incredibly easy one yet there was a secret lurking in their past that, while I wondered of it, I didn't really see it coming. The scenes between parents and son made the book a pleasure to read and their relationship didn't seem at all forced. His dad was hilarious particularly when Ben and himself went clubbing. It's definitely a bad idea to take your parents clubbing.
I also liked Ash, who was Ben's best friend and "manager" (Ben is an artist). Their friendship was believable and I enjoyed the banter between the two. I also liked how easy Ash agreed to his arranged marriage and how open-minded he was regarding the whole thing. I thought Priti, his bride to be, was his perfect partner and she was also incredibly nice. The scene where Ben meets Priti for the first time was really funny: Ben mis-hears Priti and thinks she lives in Dhundi, India when in actual fact she comes from Dundee, Scotland.
Another constant in the book was Seema, Ash's sister. She wasn't a huge presence and was only in a few times really but whenever she was she lit up the book. The constant banter and teasing between Ben and Seema was great to read and very well done by Matt.
Ben also attends writing classes and my favourite member of those classes was Terry, a cabbie. His observations regarding relationships were priceless yet totally unhelpful to Ben.
The Good Bride Guide was a really great read and one I wholly recommend. One word of caution though, NEVER let your parents pick you out a bride.