Keep Your Mouth Shut and Wear Beige by Cathleen Gilles Seidel
Reasons for reading: Colourful Reading Challenge; recommended by a friend
Description: "Darcy Van Aiken is doing just fine, thank you. She’s an ICU nurse with an “amicable” divorce from her ex-husband, Mike, two great kids, and a prescription for Ritalin. Then her older son, Jeremy, gets engaged to Cami Zander-Brown---daughter of a wealthy New York family---and her world gets turned upside down. The source of her trouble, much to Darcy’s surprise, is not in the form of Rose Zander-Brown, Cami’s elegant and accomplished mother. Nor is it in the form of Guy Zander-Brown, Cami’s charismatic and wildly successful literary agent father. Instead, lurking in the shadows of Mike’s new life is the beautifully dressed Claudia, a self-described “managed perfectionist.” The Zander-Browns have money. Lots of money. The plans for their daughter’s dream wedding grow more fabulous by the day, and loving every minute is Claudia. With her perfect taste, Claudia can’t help thinking she would make a much better mother of the groom than Darcy. This wedding is her chance to entrench herself in Mike’s life---and take credit for the two sons Darcy has worked so hard to raise right. It’s a battle of will and wits. . ."
My thoughts: My friend Vidalia recommended this book and I believe she had just been the mother of the groom at a big society wedding (I doubt she wore beige, though I think she worked very hard to keep her mouth shut against some rather ridiculous in-laws-to-be). This book seems fairly realistic - Claudia's "managed perfectionism" is extreme, but you can imagine having to deal with someone like her. Darcy and Mike seem to have had a fairly amicable divorce but issues still come up and one of their younger sons is more trouble than the stellar first-born. The Zander-Browns' youngest son is mentally challenged and suffers from life-threatening food allergies. All pretty plausible stuff. One of the interesting themes about this book was that of friendship for older women - how it's harder to make friends, how you've got an image of yourself that keeps you at a distance from people, and how having children with serious problems can change you in ways your friends might not be able to handle. I also thought it was interesting that Mike still sort of acted like they were married, expecting Darcy to handle the little details of family life that he had never bothered with, like his mother's travel arrangements, even though he had apparently left Darcy because she wasn't organized enough for him.
It's definitely a good (Darcy) vs evil (Claudia) story, although perhaps Claudia isn't actively evil - she just really doesn't seem to know how normal people behave and while she knows everything about style, colours, table-settings and hem lengths, she doesn't have much common sense or courtesy. Darcy has lots of both, but is lacking in Claudia's stylishness, which makes her feel ill at ease.
The secondary characters were well done, except maybe for the older son, the groom - almost everything he said was the he wanted his bride-to-be to be happy, which was sweet. Little Finney Zander-Brown was a lovely little boy and the author portrayed his mental disability with skill, he was never either a cariacture or too precocious. Annie Zander-Brown developed nicely - starting as a beautiful princess but turning out to have her own problems and worries, mainly about her family. Darcy's retired pediatrician father was even great, he would be a welcome addition to anyone's family!
I wasn't blown away by the book, but I did root for Darcy and also Rose, two women who need friends. And the title is a hoot! Probably a better read for anyone who has grown kids who have gotten married, but still entertaining even without that background.