When my journalist colleague, now fiction author, Jacqueline J. Holness initially approached me about reading her debut novel “Destination Wedding” to get feedback, I have to admit I was not excited to read the book. But, being the great, supportive friend that I am, I did not reveal my reluctance to her.

I totally prejudged the book by its cover and I was wrong in more ways than one.

The title made me think it was going to be another one of “those” books. And the cover features darker colors with an Atlanta skyline at night so I initially thought it would be a somber story.

In my mind, “Destination Wedding” was going to be another story about black women complaining about not being married, and I was sure it would mention that our prospects for doing so in Atlanta are slim. And if that wasn’t the case, then it would be a formulaic story with a peaches and cream, fairytale ending.

For Black America, that would be the Coretta Scott and Martin Luther King Jr. type of love story, you know the SpelHouse couple, or the Delta & the Que who bought the frat/sorority double frame license plate border for their vehicle and who live happily ever after in wedded bliss.

But after I actually read “Destination Wedding,” I discovered that the story is unpredictable, a page-turner and it kept me laughing.

“Destination Wedding” is a story about “successful best friends in Atlanta who attempt to dismiss depressing single black women statistics by marrying men in a year only to self- destruct in the process.”

The starting point of the novel occurs when three single, successful black women living in Atlanta, Mimi, Jarena and Senalda, see a report on ABC News “Nightline.”

In the report, it was revealed that 42 percent of black women aren’t married and featured black women in Atlanta specifically.

The women in the book disagree with the report because they feel that black women are depicted as flawed for excelling in every area except their marital status, so they decide to devise a plan to prove the report wrong and to excel in their love life at the same time.

“Let’s map out our love lives,” says Senalda, a bossy bank executive. “Since it’s December, it’s the perfect time to plan for next year. I think we should commit to doing things differently and setting some achievable and measurable goals. And I think we should put our love lives first for once, or at least make them as important as our careers. If we do this thing right, I bet we can meet the men of our dreams AND get married by the end of the year.”

With that statement, project Destination Wedding, which is comprised of monthly meetings, is launched.

Mimi, the loveable but lawless radio deejay, and Jarena, a public relations company owner with Christian morals but who has a thing for married men, agree to the terms of the project. Their married friend, Whitney, a bougie lawyer in a troubled marriage, is a consultant for the project.

Since I am a career-oriented, single black woman in my 30s living in Atlanta, I’m a part of the target audience.

I’m very project-oriented when it comes to my profession, but I have never thought to create a project based on seeking romantic relationships. But now, after reading this novel, creating a project like Destination Wedding makes sense (but it’s not necessarily something I would do).

I remember when I was around 30-years-old, one of my white co-workers asked me if I had been married before and if not, why hadn’t I started my search.

She was all about having a checklist for a husband like she was shopping for shoes, and dating as many people as possible. I thought her approach was excessive, but I definitely want to get married in the not so distant future so I’m reconsidering what I have done so far to meet that goal.

Also, the characters are similar to black women I know in real life and what happened to them in the book is relatable.

Senalda meets a burly and boisterous chef named Wendell Robinson who is obviously interested in her. But because he approaches her at an inopportune time, just after he broke up a fight between two chefs at the restaurant, she doesn’t respond to his interest.

The fight interrupted the women’s second Destination Wedding meeting which was held in the restaurant and the project manager, who has “little tolerance for uncontrolled behavior,” didn’t appreciate the interruption. I must admit I tend to be like that. If something initially turns me off about someone or some situation, I form an immediate opinion without further investigation.

I like that Jarena was focused. She made a goal of selling her PR business, 85 South Public Relations, to focus on her new career goal of becoming a minister and going back to school at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology. And she was able to accomplish her goals. But she also has issues – like dating married men for example.

And I also appreciate that a married couple who had issues was included in the novel. Many married couples display a perfect image, and you wonder if the image is what it appears to be.

Some older married women make a habit of advising younger single women on dating and marriage and making statements like, “He should have married you by now,” or “You shouldn’t allow him to treat you that way.” And then you discover later that some of these women have husbands who cheated on them but they stayed in their marriages anyway. So having an imperfect married couple also created balance in the story because you can have issues in dating and issues in marriage.

Everyone knows that dating in Atlanta is difficult, but “Destination Wedding” gave me the opportunity to peer into the dating lives of other people because it was so realistic.

And as I’ve been living in Atlanta for about 20 years, I appreciated reading all of the references that gave “Destination Wedding” a sense of place from our main bustling thoroughfare of Peachtree Street to the historic restaurant The Varsity and more.

“Destination Wedding” is an ambitious story about fictional yet complex black women who refuse to be defined by statistics while using them to forge a path to their goals in love and in life.

Written by Jacqueline J. Holness, “Destination Wedding” will be released by Soon Come Books on Dec. 3, 2019.

(Photo: Courtesy of Jacqueline Holness)

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