Sometimes the worst thing to have happen to you isn’t your mother coercing you into attending your father’s wedding to a woman you (and she) have never met.
As the book begins, Our Protagonist Hadley is rushing through JFK to catch a plane to London to be a bridesmaid in her father’s1 wedding to a woman2 Hadley’s never met, for whom her father left her mother after a semester’s sabbatical in Oxford. She misses the plane’s boarding window by four minutes; while the airline can at least get her on the next flight out to London, at ten o’clock that night, the delay means she’ll arrive in London a mere two hours before the wedding is to take place.
She ends up meeting The Love Interest3 in the gate area’s waiting zone, when she decides to go for something to eat but the woman sitting next to her refuses to look after Hadley’s carryon luggage while she’s in the food court. Oliver, being a reasonably gentlemanly sort, comes with her to assist with her baggage, and divert himself. As luck, or rather an author with an eye to foreshadowing, would have it, the two sit next to one another on the flight, and alternate between falling asleep on one another’s shoulders and sharing secrets and pretzels.
Well, she does. He’s a bit cagy, and clearly there’s something about his father that’s not quite right; he looks at her oddly and changes the subject whenever she presses him for details. It isn’t until the marriage ceremony is over—Hadley makes it in the squeak of time and even serves as bridesmaid with a bid of emergency touching up from the bride’s family—and someone mentions needing to leave to attend a funeral for a friend, another Oxford don, in Paddington at two pm that Hadley realizes that it is Oliver’s father4.
She rushes away from her father, attempting to assemble everyone for the post-ceremony photo shoot, and rushes off through a strange city to seek Oliver. Ordinarily, she’d have no chance…but hey, this is a ‘love at first sight’ book. She finds him, and in enough time to have a word of apology before he has to go into his church session. She thinks that’s the end of it; they’ve known each other for less than twenty-four hours, right? No, he gate-crashes her father’s reception, having had little more idea of where she’ll be than she did him.
Now before anyone starts getting dizzy from rolling their eyes, it’s not quite as ghastly as I’ve made it out to be; certainly, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight is no less implausible than a lot of the YA, new adult and full-on adult chicklit I’ve read. It’s decently written. It’s decently edited. The characterization’s reasonable for such a short book. Smith didn’t attempt to squeeze more of a plot into the book than would fit; we’re talking a timespan of twenty-four hours with just enough backstory to fill in the details.
There are a few hiccups, other than the basic one of whether you really can fall in love at first sight. Airlines are pissy enough when you miss a connection for reasons that aren’t their fault—blizzards in Denver, say—but missing a flight for any personal reason whatsoever means you’re out of luck. There are a couple of hackneyed plot devices, for which see the footnote. However, and this is a huge caveat, I appreciate the fact that Andrew and Hadley begin to make up, after two years of minimal interaction after he left her mother. Also, that Charlotte is being friendly without any intimation of “becoming Hadley’s mother”, or even suggesting that Hadley will have a life with them rather than with her biological mother. Hadley’s there for the wedding and she’s going back to the States afterward; if they’re on speaking terms, that’s as good as could be hoped right then.
Oh, and Hadley has a nice time dancing with Oliver.
4yes, I know, I know: London’s a huge city and there will inevitably be a number of funerals going on at any given time, just as there are at least several weddings. This, however, isn’t quite as implausible a plot device as it sounds, though, if you think about it. Trust me; there won’t be many Oxford professors getting buried in a specific neighborhood at the time when Our Boi had to attend a mandatory family gathering