Steven Rowley’s second book about Guncle Patrick and his niece and nephew delivers laughs, love


The Guncle Abroad by Steven Rowley; c.2024, Putnam; $29; 307 pages.

The cake’s going to be magnificent. You must’ve tasted 15 different samples and a dozen frostings and considered five unique looks before settling on a showstopper. Next, you have to get invitations addressed and in the mail. You have to confirm the tuxes. You have to get flowers and centerpieces ordered.

And, as in The Guncle Abroad by Steven Rowley,” you have to get everyone on-board.

Patrick O’Hara couldn’t believe how his life had changed. A few short years ago, he was living in Palm Springs, having “retired” from making films. He was in love and happy, and he had temporary custody of his niece, Maisie, and his nephew, Grant.

Life was good.

Now — oh boy.

Patrick and Emory had split-ish (Emory was still living in Patrick’s California home), Patrick was living in Manhattan, making a movie in London and looking for another role soon, and the kids were four years older. Maisie was an attitudinal teen now; Grant was nine and too wise for his age.

They weren’t the cuddly kids Patrick once knew — especially since their dad, Patrick’s brother, Greg, was getting married again, and the kids didn’t like Livia, their wealthy socialite stepmom-to-be.

Patrick suspected it was because Grant and Maisie still missed their mom; it hadn’t been all that long since Sara died.

Was a new marriage an insult to old memories?

RELATED: The Guncle author Steven Rowley talks about the sequel for DMA’s Arts and Letters Live

Patrick didn’t think so, and he’d prove it. While Greg and Livia were last-minute wedding-planning, he bought three Eurail passes, one for him and one each for the kids. He’d give them some culture and some new Guncle rules about love. Maybe — was it possible? — he’d even become their favorite GUP again.

But Maisie and Grant had other ideas. They agreed to go on the stupid trip around Europe with their GUP, if Patrick agreed to talk to Greg about calling off the entire wedding.

Something old (memories); something new (stepmother); something borrowed (trouble), and something blue (two kids) just had to be undone, and soon.

There’s an old saying, to paraphrase, that if the wedding is perfectly smooth, the marriage won’t be. With this in mind, The Guncle Abroadis covered. Add a snarky lesbian with an entourage, a tipsy sister on a manhunt, a Lothario who doesn’t speak English and lost love — all at a lakeside hotel — and yeah, we’re good.

But here’s the thing: Author Steven Rowley doesn’t just make readers laugh. We’re covered on that part, too, because the whole pre-wedding scene in this book is pure chaos and LOL funny. Long before that, though, you’ll be charmed by Rowley’s main character and his desperation to stay relevant, to avoid-not-avoid love and by his efforts to connect with his brother’s kids.

And after the not-so-storybook wedding — well, you know how those things are.

Bring tissues, that’s all you need to know.

If you’re in need of a rom-com this summer, just bring the bubbly, pop a cork and make it this one. Reading The Guncle Abroad is best for beach, bench, or back yard. Loving it? Piece of cake.