A bride grabs an antique letter opener, holds it up to the light, and then plunges it directly into her bridesmaid's hand. Hah-ha, not really. The bridesmaid, actually Allison, doesn't laugh it off because it goes between her fingers and nicks one. The photographer and his assistant just keep snapping pictures and oohing and ahhing. We learn that the bride is Blaine Harrod, and that she's kind of a bitch. She gets her assistant to send Allison a dozen roses and claims, unconvincingly, that it was an accident.
Cut to little Jamie begging her parents to let her go to her cousin Blaine's wedding. Blaine, once called Charlotte Blaine Harrodson, changed her name to something more "exotic" and left town. After struggling for a few years, she reinvented herself as Blaine Harrod. Um, does she know how this works? Anyway, she's now some huge supermodel and she invited her younger cousin to come to her wedding early, go to some huge party with her fancy friends, and be in her wedding.
Mr. and Mrs. Jamie aren't too happy with the idea. They plan on going to the wedding themselves, but they don't like the idea of her being there alone. Turns out that Blaine sends her expensive gifts all the time, like an itty bitty leather miniskirt that she has to sneak out of the house to wear. When Jamie points out that her Aunt Charlotte, Blaine's mother, can keep an eye on her, they finally relent.
Jamie and her mom then arrive at Sandhill, some fabulous historic site where the wedding will take place. Blaine introduces her to her assistant Clara, who seems a little quiet and mousy but has an edge, and she promises her Aunt Susan, Jamie's mom, that she'll take care of her. Jamie then gets to meet a bunch of new people. There's the beautiful Kel, a bridesmaid, and her equally handsome brother Drew.
Drew tells her that Sandill is so over the top that even the locals don't go there. They think it's tacky and probably think that Blaine is tacky for choosing it for her wedding. He also tells her that the rumor around town is that the estate is haunted. Jamie thinks that it's appropriate that Blaine would pick a haunted house for her weeding. She then gets to meet Preston, also known as Pres, the poor bastard marrying her cousin. Photographers pop up to take their pictures, and she briefly feels sorry for Blaine stuck in the public eye. That changes when she looks up and sees her cousin staring at her with intense hatred in her eyes.
Instead of freaking out, everyone just kind of goes their own way. Jamie falls asleep in her room and wakes to the smell of roses in the air and the sound of someone sobbing in pain. When she looks in the mirror, she sees a woman in a long white wedding dress holding roses and crying. This causes her to run into the hallway and rush around looking for Kel's room.
Not only does she find Kel, but she finds Allison as well. Allison claims that she probably just had a bad dream and made the whole thing up. She also tosses in some shots about Blaine, including that Pres probably made her cry and that she's a huge bitch. Kel really does believe that she saw a ghost and tells her the story about the Sandhill.
Years ago, the daughter of the man who owned the estate fell in love with the gardener. He brought he roses every day and made plans to run away with her. Her mother, who arranged a marriage for her with some rich guy, secretly paid off the gardener and made him leave town. True love, right? The girl was so upset that she spent the rest of her life in her bedroom crying over her lost love.
Allison thinks the whole thing is ridiculous and even goes so far as to claim that Blaine made up the story to bring more attention to her wedding. She then abruptly changes the subject to what Jamie will wear to the rehearsal dinner. This lets her get in another dig at Blaine for not better preparing her cousin for the dinner. They go through all their clothes and make her wear velvet pants and with a cropped cashmere sweater with glittery threads in it. It was probably pretty hot back in the day.
They head off for the rehearsal dinner, and Jamie meets both Patricia and Stephanie. Stephanie is Preston's little sister, and Patricia is his ex-girlfriend. Apparently, Patricia was also mummy's favorite. They dated years ago, broke up, and his mother always thought they would still end up together, but then he met Blaine and the rest is history. Clara shows up and prepares them to do the fake walk down the aisle. In a twist I never heard of before, it's bad luck for the bride to take part in the rehearsal. Blaine cares not for superstitions and shows up anyway.
While walking down the aisle, Jamie can't help but note the way that Pres follows Kel and the way she smiles and flirts back with him. He then turns his attention to Blaine, which makes her think that she imagined it. Things go smoothly until someone decides to release the doves from their cage. A shower of dead and bloody doves rains down on Blaine. Patricia giggles about what happened and then disappears.
Blaine decides to forget about it and go right to the dinner. As they whisper about what happened and Jamie questions if it was Patricia, the other woman shows up in a new outfit. Drew suggests that they take a break from the action and shows her this alcove hidden behind a heavy curtain. They start making out but stop when the lights go out. She wants to leave, but he wants her to make out some more. That's when they hear someone shout something about a fire.
She and Drew worry about what to do and finally peek out from behind the curtains. To the shock and amazement of everyone there, the figure of a woman in a wedding dress suddenly appears floating above the crowd. She's only there for a few seconds before disappearing as the lights come back on. The fire department and police arrive and rule that it was a prank.
Thinking that it was clearly a ghost, Jamie sneaks back into the ballroom later. She hears a noise, freaks out, and then realizes that it was Drew. They look around for awhile before giving up, and since it's still so early, they head to breakfast. Blaine shows up, eats some pancakes with them, and actually seems like a normal person. She even wears sweatpants!
And then Patricia rears her head. She's wearing some horrid combination of a silver unitard with black and silver skintight shorts and a matching jacket. She shows them the newspaper, which has a big story about what happened at the dinner the night before and insinuates that Preston won't like the publicity before making a rude comment about Blaine eating fattening foods. Blaine makes it clear that she's the one who knows what Pres like best before leaving and ordering a huge breakfast for Patricia.
Jamie really just wants to relax, so she goes to the gym. After a few minutes in the hot tub, Pres shows up and gets in with her. He makes some perverted comments and keeps checking her out, which leads her to get out and go to the sauna. It doesn't take long before Creepy McCreeperson comes to join her there too and continue with his comments. Hoping to get away from him, she tries to leave and finds the door locked.
Just as they think they might die, Blaine opens the door. Hotel workers rush in and give them water, and Jamie passes out. She wakes up with Blaine hovering over her and asking what happened because the door opened fine when she got there. Clara shows up, Blaine suggests they go out later and skip some random party in her honor, and Clara demands that she go to her party instead.
While at the party and canoodling with Drew, a waiter comes over and tells her that she has a call. It's Blaine, telling her to meet her outside in five minutes. When she gets there, some maniac in a Porsche nearly runs her down. The maniac is Blaine herself. They drive through town, see her old home, and wind up on the old pier just outside of town.
Blaine admits that while she doesn't miss her hometown, she doesn't think she'll ever forget it. They have the chance to bond for a few minutes before a Mercedes pulls up with Patricia in it. After making a few rude comments, Allison pops up in the backseat and Pres climbs out of the driver's seat. He says he was worried about her, but he says it in a way that means nothing of the sort.
Pres and Blaine wind up having some huge argument. It ends when she threatens to not show up at the alter the next day. Pres says something to her that for some reason makes her completely change her attitude. She climbs in his car to go back to the hotel. Allison agrees to drive her car but only if Jamie gets out so she can go as fast as she wants. She takes off like a bat out of hell, and they notice her driving pretty erratically. The Porsche goes around a corner, loses control, and flips off the road. Before they can get there, the car explodes.
They go back to the hotel the next morning, and we learn that the police found no signs that Allison tried to stop. Patricia claims that Allison once loved Pres and that killing herself in front of him was the perfect wedding gift and that she wishes she thought of it first.
We then get updates on some of the participants. Stephanie is sound asleep, which may mean she's completely innocent or completely guilty. Kel is so traumatized that she doesn't take the sleeping pill someone gives her and decides that she wants to be awake for what happens next. Patricia thinks of how Blaine is oh-so-tacky and how whatever happens next might be the end of their wedding. Blaine overhears Pres and some others talking about her right before she smells smoke and sees the bride coming for her.
Suddenly it's the next morning. Kel and Jamie go to help Blaine get ready, and she gets a delivery. Pres sends her roses and a crystal vase, but there's another wrapped gift too. As soon as she opens it, she flips out and starts throwing things and ripping stuff off the walls. Pres rushes in and tries to calm her down, but she accuses him of sending her the second gift. It was a frame picture of her and Allison with a message on the bottom that it should have been her. When she finally calms down, she suggests they run away and elope and he shoots her down instantly.
Everyone else then goes to get ready. Kel goes to Jamie's room because she can't stand being in her own around Allison's things. Jamie wonders if the wedding will actually go smoothly, and Patricia acts creepy again. She accidentally slashes her lipstick across her face, which makes her think that it's a sign the wedding won't go on. Blaine imagines Allison standing in her wedding party, but then she sees Patricia. It turns out that she never wanted her there and that Pres demanded she attend, which makes her wonder what kind of hold the other woman has on him. Nice thing to think about right before walking down the aisle.
Blaine does her vows, but Pres has some problems with his. He keeps looking around like a crazy man as he says them. When asked if there are any objections, the door to the room opens and in walks the ghost bride. She claims that Pres can't marry someone else because he was married to her first and that he let her die. He stammers a bunch, and when she pulls back her veil, her dresses catches on fire. Pres passes out, and Clara hands the bride, who is not no longer on fire but laying on the ground, a towel. She wipes off some makeup and pulls back her mask to reveal that she's actually Allison. Well, I did not see that coming.
I bet you're wondering what happened, right? The girls all meet up in Blaine's room to tell Kel and Jamie what happened. Alison and Blaine had a third roommate named Dover. She was Clara's little sister. Dover met and dated Preston, they fell in love, and decided to get married. They sneaked away to a remote island for the ceremony. Later, he lost control of the car and it went off a cliff. Instead of trying to save his wife, he left her body there, went back to the hotel, checked out, and went on with his life. That was when he started dating Blaine.
Dover's body went unidentified for quite awhile until Clara went to look for her. The hotel still had a box of her stuff, and she found her sister's journal, which detailed the relationship and eventual marriage. When she told Dover's friends, they came up with the whole thing as a way to get back at Pres and make him confess.
They planted the fake story of a ghostly bride with Kel because they knew she would spread it around. They worked with Hollywood special effects artists to create the bride in the mirror, and used stuffed doves for the other trick. Stephanie then rushes in and apologizes because she was an inside source blagging about all the wedding problems. She also promises that she'll never date or marry someone like her brother before revealing that the police charged him with several crimes and that Patricia is still standing by his side. Dude, there are other fish in the sea.
Drew arrives just in time to hear the whole story. After Stephanie leaves and everyone relaxes, he suggests that he and Jamie take off on their own. As he says, the wedding is over but the party just started.
Loved it! Crazy twist ending? Romantic subplot that isn't too annoying? I wish more of these books ended like this!