Jaine's accepted her share of lame gigs to pay the bills, but rewriting Shakespeare's got to be an all-time low. The fiasco begins with a call from Jaine's high-school nemesis, uber rich uber witch Patti Devane. It seems Patti will soon be sashaying down the aisle with another former classmate from Hermosa High, and she'd like the exchange of vows to evoke Romeo and Juliet. . .except without the "downer" of an ending.
Even worse than the assignment itself is dealing with Patti as a client. At least Jaine's not alone, as nobody can stand the demanding, spoiled, and incredibly rude Bridezilla from Hell. Patti's managed to rack up an amazingly long list of enemies in a short time, not the least of whom include her prospective mother-in-law, the soon-to-be ex-wife of Patti's stolen soon-to-be groom, and just about everyone involved in the wedding preparations. So it isn't a complete surprise when the erstwhile Juliet plunges to her death during her balcony scene.
The loosened bolts that brought down the bride were clearly an act of sabotage--what's not so obvious is whom, among Patti's numerous haters, committed this murder most foul. Was it the caterer she threatened to ruin? The bridesmaid tossed out of the wedding party for being too chubby? Jaine's determined to learn the truth--if only to end the hideous walk down memory lane kicked off by her association with Patti.
Between fending off advances from the nerd of her high school nightmares and figuring out ways to stop Prozac the cat from corrupting the victim's pet Poodle, Jaine's involvement in this case keeps veering between comedy and tragedy. That is, until another body is discovered--and the killer starts laying plot for a final act--starring Jaine. . .
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A Jaine Austen Mystery
By Laura Levine KENSINGTON BOOKS
Copyright © 2008 Laura Levine
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Some people look back on their high school days fondly, lost in happy memories of pep rallies and senior proms. And then there are the other 98% of us. For us, high school was hell with acne, a blistering nook of inferno Dante neglected to mention, where we first discovered that life isn't fair and blondes really do have more fun.
Which is why I cringed when I first got that call from Patti Marshall. In the Dante-esque world of high school, Patti was Satan's ringmaster.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me back up and set the scene.
I'd just come home from the vet, where I'd taken my cat Prozac for her annual checkup. You'll be happy to learn Prozac was in perfect health. The vet, however, required several stitches and a trip to the emergency room.
"How could you attack poor Dr. Graham like that?" I scolded as I let her out of her cage.
I warned her to stay away from my privates.
"I still can't believe you bit her in the arm."
Me neither. I was aiming for her face.
I poured myself a wee tankard of Chardonnay to recuperate and was reaching for a restorative dose of Oreos when the phone rang.
Too wiped out to answer, I let the machine get it.
"Jaine, it's Patti Marshall."
I froze in my tracks. Patti had been the queen bee of my alma mater, Hermosa High, a social despot who ruled her subjects with a fine-tuned cruelty and a flawless complexion.
Her voice drifted from the machine, the same nasal whine that had delivered so many devastating zingers in the girls' locker room.
"I heard you're a writer now. Give me a call, okay? I think I may have some work for you."
My palms turned clammy. Patti represented everything I'd loathed about high school. I could just picture her sitting at her throne at the Popular Table in the cafeteria, eyeing the Unpopulars with undisguised disdain and leading her Bitches in Waiting in a chorus of derisive giggles.
I would've liked nothing more than to zap her message to oblivion. But she'd said the magic word-work-a commodity I'm chronically short of.
I turned to Prozac who was sprawled out on the sofa, licking her prized privates.
"What do you think, Pro? She's a world-class rat, but I really need the money. What should I do?"
She looked up at me with big green eyes that seemed to say, It's always about you, isn't it? What about me? When do I eat?
Which goes a long toward explaining why man's best friend has never been the cat.
Oh, well. I really needed the dough, so I took a bracing gulp of Chardonnay and forced myself to give Patti a call.
"Hi, Jaine!" she trilled when she came on the line. "How've you been?"
Somewhat stunned by the friendly lilt to her voice, I mumbled, "Um. Fine."
"Listen, I've got great news. I'm getting married."
I didn't envy the poor guy headed down that aisle.
"Anyhow, I need somebody to write my wedding vows. I heard you're a writer now, and I thought it'd be great to work with an old friend."
An old friend? The woman was clearly smoking something illegal.
"So what have you written? Anything I've heard of?"
As a matter of fact, I had written an ad she might very well have heard of. Or at least seen; it's been on bus stops all over town. But it wasn't exactly the kind of ad that leaves people awestruck.
"I wrote In a Rush to Flush? Call Toiletmasters."
I waited for Patti's patented, Ewww, gross!, the line with which she tarred many a fragile ego at Hermosa High, but instead, I heard:
"Really? I saw that in the Yellow Pages. It's very cute!"
Alert the media. A compliment. From Catty Patti.
"So how about it, Jaine? You think you'd be interested?"
"I was thinking of paying somewhere in the neighborhood of three thousand dollars."
Call the movers. That was my kind of neighborhood.
"That sounds terrific, Patti. I'd love to do it."
"Wonderful!" she gushed. "I know we're going to have so much fun!"
We agreed to meet the next day and I hung up, not quite believing what had just happened.
This certainly wasn't the same Queen of Mean I'd known in high school. Was it possible Patti had changed over the years? Why not? People changed all the time. I had to stop being such a cynic and give her the benefit of the doubt.
Somewhere along the line Patti Marshall had obviously morphed into a decent human being. And more important, a decent human being who was willing to enrich my bank balance by three grand.
And so I embarked on my new assignment filled with hope and good cheer-much like I imagine Dr. Graham must have felt before reaching for Prozac's privates.
I arranged to meet Patti the next day at her parents' home in Bel Air.
Back in Hermosa, Patti had lived in a fabulous beachfront house, a gleaming white affair with unobstructed views of the Pacific. A house, needless to say, I'd never been invited to.
As nice as Patti's Hermosa house had been, it was a virtual shack compared to her new digs in Bel Air. As I drove up the leafy pathway to the estate-a sprawling manse with more wings than a condo complex-I could practically smell the scent of freshly minted money in the air.
I parked my ancient Corolla in the "motor court" and checked my reflection in the rearview mirror. It was glorious day, sunny and clear, and I was grateful that my hair-which usually turns to Brillo at the first sign of humidity-was mercifully frizz-free. I fluffed it into what I hoped was a Sarah Jessica Parker-ish nimbus of curls, then sucked in my gut and headed for the front door.
A Hispanic maid in a starched white apron answered the bell.
"I'm here to see Patti," I said. "I'm Jaine Austen, her writer."
She rolled her eyes and ushered me into a foyer bigger than my living room, complete with double marble staircase and a crystal chandelier the size of a Volkswagen.
"Ms. Patti," she called up the steps, "the writer lady is here."
Patti's voice drifted from above. "I'll be right down."
"Good luck." The maid shot me a sympathetic smile and scurried away.
I was standing there, counting the crystals in the chandelier, when I heard the clack of heels on the marble stairs.
I looked up and there she was, Patti Marshall, Hermosa High's very own Cruella De Vil. I'd been hoping she'd put on a few pounds since high school like the rest of us mere mortals. But if anything, she'd lost weight. Life sure isn't fair, isn't it?
Unlike most high school prima donnas, Patti had never been a conventional beauty. Her face was a little too long, her eyes just a little too close together. But there was something about the way she carried herself, the way she looked at you through those close-set eyes, that had you convinced she was a stunner.
She made her grand entrance now, sweeping down the stairs in body-hugging capris and tank top. Her gleaming blond hair, always her best feature, was caught up in a careless ponytail that swished from side to side as she walked.
In the crook of her arm, she carried what at first looked like a large cotton ball, but when the cotton ball started yapping, I realized it was a dog.
"Jaine, sweetie!" she beamed. "It's so good to see you again."
As she wrapped me in a bony one-armed hug, her dog began licking my face with all the abandon of a coed gone wild.
"Mamie really likes you, Jaine!"
Either that, or she smelled the Quarter Pounder I'd had for lunch.
"It's time you two were properly introduced."
She held out the dog, and I now saw that they were wearing matching pink tank tops, embroidered with the logo I'm Cute. Buy Me Something.
"Jaine, say hello to Mamie." She smiled at me expectantly.
Oh, good heavens. She actually wanted me to say hello to her dog.
"Um, hello, Mamie." I managed a feeble smile.
Mamie, having clearly decided I was her new best friend, squirmed in Patti's arms, eager to unleash her salivary glands on me.
"I hardly ever let anybody do this," Patti intoned with all the solemnity of King Arthur bestowing a knighthood, "but you can hold her."
With that, she thrust the dog in my arms, and within seconds I was covered in an aromatic layer of dog spit.
"Let's go out to the patio, and I'll tell you all about your assignment."
She guided me past a maze of impeccably decorated rooms and then out through French doors to a bit of paradise that would give the Garden of Eden a run for its money.
I gazed in awe at the plushly furnished patio (complete with built-in Viking BBQ), the olympic-caliber lap pool, and the tennis courts in the distance-all of it surrounded by velvety green lawns, exquisitely tended flower beds, and a small forest of trees.
"Want something to eat?" Patti asked, plopping down onto a chaise longue. "I'm starved."
"Sure," I said, hoping for something whose main ingredient was chocolate.
"Hey, Rosa," she barked into an intercom on an end table. "Bring us some Evian and carrot sticks."
Oh, foo. Not exactly the snack I'd been hoping for.
"So what happened to your house in Hermosa Beach?" I asked, easing myself into a pillowy armchair, still holding Mamie, who was now busy nibbling on my ears.
"Oh, Mom sold it when she married Connie."
I blinked in surprise. I remembered Patti's mom, a va-va-va voom blonde with a nipped-in waist and man-made bosoms, and somehow I couldn't picture her hooked up with someone of the female persuasion.
"Short for Conrad. Conrad Devane. My stepfather."
"Where's your dad?"
"Oh, Daddy died about ten years ago. Guess he figured it was easier than living with Mom. He wasn't dead in his grave two weeks before Mom sank her claws into Connie. She knows how to sniff out the rich ones. Not that it mattered to me. Daddy left me a bundle."
She smiled proudly as if inheriting money was a major life accomplishment.
"Anyhow, we decided to have the wedding here at the house. It's so much cozier than a hotel, don't you think?"
Was she kidding? This place was a hotel.
"We'll have the ceremony out on the lawn. It should be utterly glorious."
She stretched out on the chaise, then shrieked, "Hey, Rosa! Where the hell's our food?-Oh, there you are. It's about time."
I looked up to see the harried maid scurrying to our side, with two frosty bottles of Evian and carrot sticks, beautifully arranged in a cut glass bowl.
Patti grabbed an Evian from the tray and pouted.
"Yuck, Rosa. This water's too cold. How many times do I have to tell you, I want it chilled, not icy?"
"Shall I bring you another, Ms. Patti?" Rosa asked through gritted teeth.
"Oh, forget it," Patti said, with an irritated wave. "Just go."
More than happy to escape, Rosa scooted back into the house.
As I watched her retreating figure, it occurred to me that perhaps I'd been a tad optimistic thinking that Patti had miraculously morphed into a sweetheart since high school.
"Like I said on the phone," she said, reaching for a carrot stick, "I need somebody to help me write my wedding vows. You wouldn't believe how many writers I've been through."
After the little scene I'd just witnessesed, I had no trouble believing it. None whatsoever.
"I'm counting on you, Jaine, to come through for me."
The look in her eyes told me it wasn't so much a wish as a royal edict.
"What sort of vows were you thinking of?"
"I've had the most fabulous idea." Her eyes lit up. "Instead of a traditional ceremony, I've decided to reenact the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet."
"Only this time, with a happy ending!"
For a minute I wondered if Mamie's spit in my ear had affected my hearing.
"I'll be up on that balcony." She pointed to an elaborate wrought iron balcony on the second story of the house. "My fiancé will stand below and when I ask him to 'deny thy father and refuse thy name,' he's going to say 'okey doke,' and then instead of all that gloomy-doomy suicide stuff, I'll come down and marry him. See? A happy ending!"
By now, even Mamie's jaw was hanging open with disbelief.
And for the first time it hit me that Patti Marshall was an idiot. All those years at Hermosa High, we were terrorized by a prized num-num.
"It's really a very simple assignment, Jaine. All you have to do is-"
"Rewrite William Shakespeare."
"Yes! Make it hip and modern! Isn't that the best idea ever?"
Compared to what? The Spanish Inquisition?
"C'mon," she said, jumping up from the chaise, "let's go up to the balcony. Once you see how gorgeous it is, it'll put you in the mood to write."
The only thing that would put me in the mood to write this bilge would be a lobotomy.
With Mamie still in my arms, I followed Patti back inside the house and up to her bedroom, a hot pink extravaganza (think Fleer's Dubble Bubble) that led out onto the balcony.
"Inspirational, isn't it?" Patti gushed as we stepped outside.
"How do you like the railing?"
I dutifully oohed and aahed over the elaborate wrought iron scrollwork that bordered the balcony.
"I had it imported all the way from Verona, Italy," she beamed. "That's where the real Romeo and Juliet were born."
I didn't want to bust her bubble and tell her that Romeo and Juliet were fictional characters, so just I kept oohing and aahing.
"The workmen just finished installing it yesterday. And I've ordered statues of Cupid that'll be scattered around the garden. Won't that be romantic?" Somehow I managed to nod yes.
At which point, she draped herself over the railing and, with great gusto, began mangling Shakespeare:
"Romeo, Romeo, wherefort ares't thou, Romeo?"
At the sound of this exceedingly bad line reading, Mamie let out a plaintive yowl, as did Shakespeare, no doubt, from his grave.
I joined Patti at the railing and gazed down at the rolling green landscape below.
"That's where Dickie proposed to me," she said, pointing to a wooden gazebo nestled in a bower of trees. "The Secret Gazebo."
"The Secret Gazebo?"
"We call it that because you can only see it from up here on the balcony. It's practically impossible to find down on the ground unless you know where it is."
"A secret gazebo. How romantic."
"I'll say. I've had some pretty kinky sex down there."
Luckily, she spared me the details.
After assuring Patti that I'd been sufficiently "inspired," we trooped back downstairs where she took Mamie from my drool-infested arms.
"So now you know the assignment," she said with a toss of her ponytail. "Just dash off a scene where Romeo proposes to me, and I say yes. Only of course, Juliet's name will be Patti, and Romeo's name will be Dickie. And get rid of all the stuffy language. I want it to be snappy and sassy. Like Friends with swords and long dresses."
By now I was on Auto Nod, bobbing my head at everything she said, no matter how inane. Five more minutes with her, and I'd need a neck brace.
"C'mon," she said, "I'll walk you to your car."
We headed outside just in time to see a bright yellow VW beetle pull up in the driveway.
"Oh, look, it's Dickie!"
A tall, sandy-haired guy untangled his long legs from the car.
"Dickie, sweetie!" Patti cried, racing to his side.
She threw her arms around his neck and locked her lips on his. When they finally came up for air, she said, "Honey, say hello to Jaine. I told you I hired her to write our wedding vows, didn't I?-You remember Dickie, don't you, Jaine?"
I looked up at her fiancé and took in his shy smile and spiky, slightly tousled hair. There was something about that smile of his that seemed familiar, but I couldn't quite place him.
"I'm afraid not."
"It's Dickie Potter. He was in our class at Hermosa."
"Dickie Potter?" I blinked in surprise. "The same Dickie Potter who played tuba in the marching band?"
When I last saw Dickie Potter, he was a committed nerd, all knees and elbows, his face sprinkled with acne, someone Patti never would have looked at twice. But over the years, he'd blossomed into a major cutie.
"What a change, huh?" Patti winked.
"Patti and I ran into each other at last year's Hermosa High reunion," Dickie said, gazing at her with a worshipful smile.
"Yeah, he took one look at me, and the next thing I knew he was divorcing his wife."
Patti giggled coyly, the happy homewrecker.
"Poor Normalynne," she said, without a trace of sympathy. "Didn't know what hit her."
"Normalynne Butler?" I asked, remembering a tall, gawky girl who played flute in the band. "You were married to Normalynne?"
"Yes." Dickie nodded ruefully. "I'm really sorry it ended the way it did."
"Oh, poo. I'm sure she's over it by now," Patti said, waving away his doubts. "Well, it's time for Jaine to get out of here and leave us alone."
Excerpted from Killing Bridezilla by Laura Levine Copyright © 2008 by Laura Levine. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I've been a fan of the Jaine Austen Mysteries since I read the first book in the series. They are funny and light, but centre around a murder that Jaine finds herself in the middle of.This time Jaine is caught in the middle of the murder of the most popular girl that she went to high school with. Patti hasn't changed since high school. She's still pretty, mean and there are plenty of people that want to kill her. It's up to Jaine to figure out just who wanted Patti killed the most.I really liked this mystery. It was fun and light. There are always lots of laughs with Jaine, especially when you add Jaine's crazy cat, Prozac, into the mix. Jaine's crazy parents always add lots of humor as well, with her Dad always causing mischief at his retirement home.The mystery itself was good. Of course who doesn't want to kill off the most popular girl they went to school with? It was interesting seeing who Jaine went to school with, and discovering most of them haven't changed a bit!Overall a good read. If you are looking for a funny, light mystery I highly recommend this series.
Killing Bridezilla is the 7th book in Levine's Jane Austen Mysteries. Not having read any of her previous work I was worried that I would be lost without any character back stories however, this was not the case with Killing Bridezilla. The story kicks off with writer-for-hire Jaine Austen lamenting her dwindling bank account and growing credit card bills when she accepts a new gig writing wedding vows for her one-time high school enemy, the ultra-rich and spoiled Patti Devane. Patti's three thousand dollar offer has Jaine thinking this job will be easy money but she quickly learns it's hard to please Patti who asks Jaine to re-write her vows several times with themes ranging from Shakespeare to Seinfeld, Friends and Grey's Anatomy back to Shakespeare. Finally satisfied with the vows the wedding celebration is set to begin. While waiting for the ceremony to start we're entertained by Jaine setting the best man's toupee on fire, Jaine finding the bridesmaid who was dumped from the wedding for not losing enough weight drunk and almost passed out in the library and the groom's ex-wife who causes a ruckus when she crashes the wedding to threaten Patti for stealing her man. Just when the dust seems to settle the bride plunges to her death from her balcony onto the arrow of a cupid statue. When the police look to the groom's ex-wife as their main suspect Jaine decides she need to help and does a little investigating on her own. Her own list of suspects includes the groom's Mom who hated Patti for many reasons including Patti asking her to have a mole removed because it would ruin her wedding photos, the caterer who was told her lamb was too "lamby", her shrimp to "fishy" and her quiche to "eggy" and Patti's high-school BFF who Jaine thinks was being blackmailed by Patti. Adventures abound as the sassy and sarcastic on the inside, pushover on the outside, Jaine, follows the clues and solves the murder while almost being done in herself. Killing Bridezilla is a fun and quick read for fans of the cozy mystery.
Jaine Austen¿s career as a writer hasn¿t been so fluid. Best known for a plumbing company ad, Jaine is surprised when her former high school nemesis Patti Marshall asks her to write a balcony scene for her wedding ceremony. When Patti tells Jaine she wants the lines to be a mix between Romeo and Juliet and Friends, Jaine wants to turn down the job but she needs the money. Jaine is hopeful Patti has matured from the bully she was in high school, but that¿s not the case. Patti turns out to be the bridezilla from hell, demanding her idea of perfection from everyone around her while belittling them and making enemies of all. During the wedding ceremony, while Patti is saying her lines, she falls from her balcony and is impaled on a Cupid statuette below. The number of people who hated Patti is endless, and when one of Jaine¿s former high school friends is arrested for the murder, she decides to conduct her own investigation and find out who really offed the high school diva.This is a humorous series built around a refreshing protagonist, a woman who can¿t say no to the wrong kinds of food and is a magnet for trouble. Jaine¿s perceptions of her cat¿s moods and expressions are amusing, as are the emails she receives from her parents who have retired to Florida. The mystery is a good one, and the characters are simply fun.
Jaine reluctantly agrees to write the wedding vows for the ultimate bridezilla. But when the Bride dies as the ceremony begins, Jaine begins digging to find out who killed her client. This is my favorite in the series. The mystery is great and it is so funny.
No current reviews. I really like this author. Cant remember laughing so much at a book since Fear and Lothing in Las Vegas
This book was hilarious!!! This was my third book of laura levine! I just totally enjoy her msteries sooooo much! This is a MUST BE READ book! Dont delay, or you're going to miss the fun!!!
This is the first book I have ever read from this author and I thought it was a really fun book to read. This was #7 in the series, now I will be going back and reading them all...book #1 is in my Nook waiting for me to read it :)
Lots of laughs and fun to read,
This book was laugh out loud funny. A fast paced read with fantastic wit, I highly recommend it. As a lover of cozy mysteries with unique, but believable characters, this book delivered! I will be purchasing more in the future (I say having already purchased 2 more!) Can't wait to get started on the next one!
This was another great book of hers!!! I have been reading through all her books in order.
Laura Levine delivers a fun -filled humours novel that will leave you laughing out loud. And whats a little fun with out murder on the side. Jaine Austen's writing job has been next to nothing as well as her bank account. So when Patti Marshall calls her with the oppurtunity to make some money writing her vows, Jaine agrees to do it although Patti was nasty to her in High School. When Patti dies in what looked to be an accident , Jaine suspects otherwise and when she starts snooping around she gets into more trouble than she signed up for. Check out this book for a great summer read and what is a hot summer with out some murder!!