The Chapel Wars
by Lindsay Leavitt
Publication Date: May 6, 2014
Length: 304 pages
Obtained Via: I received an electronic advanced reader’s copy of this book in exchange for an honest review
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Acclaimed author Lindsey Leavitt brings her trademark heart, humor, and romance to her hometown–Vegas
Sixteen-year-old Holly wants to remember her Grandpa forever, but she’d rather forget what he left her in his will: his wedding chapel on the Las Vegas strip. Whatever happened to gold watches, savings bonds, or some normal inheritance?
And then there’s Grandpa’s letter. Not only is she running the business with her recently divorced parents, but she needs to make some serious money–fast. Grandpa also insists Holly reach out to Dax, the grandson of her family’s mortal enemy and owner of the cheesy chapel next door. No matter how cute Dax is, Holly needs to stay focused: on her group of guy friends, her disjointed family, work, school and… Dax. No wait, not Dax.
Holly’s chapel represents everything she’s ever loved in her past. Dax might be everything she could ever love in the future. But as for right now, there’s a wedding chapel to save.
After really enjoying Lindsay Leavitt’s Going Vintage last year, I knew I had to read The Chapel Wars! Of course, when you really enjoy a book and then read another by the same author precisely because of your enjoyment, it’s hard to stop the comparison game from starting in your head. I tried really hard not to compare the two books, but I’m not sure I entirely succeeded and I have to say that The Chapel Wars, while cute and a good book, doesn’t quite stand up to Going Vintage in my mind. But I’m not comparing today(or I’m trying not to), I’m reviewing, so onto it then.
The Chapel Wars is more serious than I expected. While the summary states that Holly inherits the the chapel from her grandfather, I didn’t realize the book would open with that scene. The loss of her grandfather is very recent for Holly so we definitely get a peak into that as well. I applaud how well The Chapel Wars managed to balance both grief and cute scenes. Even as Holly begins to heal, her grief still crops up at inopportune times and reminds her how she ended up inheriting the chapel in the first place. I never felt like The Chapel Wars had a case of mood whiplash–it was all handled pretty seamlessly.
Leavitt also once again really excels at writing family dynamics. Holly’s family has to work together to maintain the chapel after her grandfather’s death. Through the novel, there’s quite a bit of little family drama: Holly trying to figure out her divorced(but still polite) parents, wondering what is bothering her younger brother this time, and why her older sister, Lenore, is so. . . well, Lenore. Holly’s family played a moderate role, so it definitely wasn’t the focused, but there was something so perfect about the dynamic.
Another great aspect of The Chapel Wars was the Las Vegas setting. In some books, the setting roars to life and becomes a fascinating landscape. In other, it lingers dull and lifeless in the background. Luckily, The Chapel Wars was definitely more of the “roaring-to-life” variety. I loved that Holly actually went(and often took Dax, who we’ll get to in a moment) to so many Las Vegas-y places. Las Vegas seems way too glitzy for me, but The Chapel Wars had me almost ready to book a ticket.
And the premise itself was just so fun: Las Vegas wedding chapels! The chapel that Holly’s family owns is very traditional, whereas the chapel that Dax’s family owns is very over-the-top with themes and gimmicks, but it works for them. Holly in time has to come to face a lot of prejudices about the chapels(among other things). It was great to see the chapel play such a large part in Holly’s character growth. The chapel element was so interesting, because at times it was just a really fun backdrop, and at others it let Holly open up a lot on her thoughts about love and family.
Now that I’ve gushed, here’s to say what I didn’t love: the romance. I liked Holly, and I liked Dax, but I never felt any real chemistry between Holly and Dax. It wasn’t the worst romance ever by any means, and they had their cute moments, but I found myself mostly uninterested in their actual romances. One thing that Holly does at the chapel is to figure out a mathematical chance of success for each couple based on a variety of factors that had an accurate rating(Holly’s a bit of a math fan). Well, I think if Holly and Dax’s relationship with through Holly’s own formula, it wouldn’t get a very high chance.
There wasn’t any major red flags for the romance, but there weren’t any green lights either. Holly’s unwillingness to talk and Dax’s tendency to go to any place but Holly when he was hurting made it hard to root for their relationship. I hoped that these aspects of their romances would grow and change over the course of The Chapel Wars, but it never really did. So while I sometimes smiled at some of the cute scenes, I never really understood why they were so into each other in the first place. It’s not exactly insta-love, but it does happen pretty fast. Normally, I don’t have to like a romance to love a book, but the romance in The Chapel Wars was such a major part that I really didn’t love the book as much as I otherwise would have because of it.
The Chapel Wars was a cute book, but I never felt like I was able to get fully invested in Holly’s story. I loved parts and felt rather meh at other parts. It was a fine reading experience overall, but nothing special. It was a fun story and I loved the setting, but the romance is keeping me from rating it any higher. 3/5 cupcakes.