Previous Engagements – A Novel by Sarah Goodwin (60,000 words approx).
Previous Engagements is a work of romantic genre fiction, similar to the works of Sophie Kinsella in terms of plot structure, but including more humour and a more individual storyline than some books currently on the market.
Annie is the main character, from whose point of view the story is told in first person. She is a jilted bride working two jobs in Bath, a romantic and historic town that has failed to add glamour to her life. She bears little similarity to the other, fashion conscious and featherbrained heroines of romance fiction. Sarcastic and cynical, Annie is not the typical romantic lead, she has only a moderate interest in all things girly, and loves cooking, crosswords and glass blowing. The narrative is peppered with asides that reveal the way Annie sees the world. For example, “Buying occasion wear in BHS is a bit like putting together a gourmet dinner from stuff bought at Iceland. Obviously you could, but why would you want to?” Annie’s main flaw as a character is her sometimes too cynical outlook, she doubts the existence of love and happy endings and fears rejection.
The novel begins with Annie working at BHS, where she meets Dorian by chance in the men’s changing room. He reveals that, having been left at the altar twice previously, he now has to attend the wedding of his first fiancée, and that he has just been dumped by his second. He offers Annie some much needed money if she accompanies him, and even buys her a dress and diamond engagement ring to complete the act.
They attend the wedding, and Annie kisses Dorian in front of his newly married ex-fiancée. Dorian and Annie leave after the wedding, and Annie treats Dorian to a cup of coffee. The two bond over their shared marital failures, and on impulse, they decide to have dinner, as Annie decides that Dorian’s plan to, “go back to my hotel, crack open the awful novel I bought at the airport, and have complimentary coffee for dinner.” is incredibly sad.
When Annie overstays and misses the bus home, to Bristol, Dorian offers to take her home. On the way they talk more, and, having had quite a lot of wine, they begin to formulate the idea that if they got married immediately, it would eliminate all the chance and disappointment that they fear.
After driving to Bristol airport, they fly to Las Vegas to get married, before anything has a chance to go wrong with their ‘engagement’.
When Annie returns from her weekend honeymoon, she goes back to work at her second job in a café. She finds that Will, her friend and the owner of the cafe, is not overjoyed at the news that she has married on impulse. Will has in fact harboured feelings for her for years, and was waiting for her to get over her ex-fiancé. When Dorian informs Annie that his work is mainly in America, and that he wants her to move out there with him, tensions mount between her and Will.
What follows is drama, laughs, and Annie struggling to choose between her fairy tale and her cosy nights in with Mr. Always-has-to-be-right.