Series Review: Bride Quartet by Nora Roberts

Series Review: Bride Quartet by Nora RobertsVision in White by Nora Roberts
Series: Bride Quartet #1
Published by Berkley on April 28, 2009
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 325
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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four-half-stars

Nora Roberts cordially invites you to meet childhood friends Parker, Emma, Laurel, and Mac—the founders of Vows, one of Connecticut's premier wedding planning companies.

After years of throwing make-believe weddings in the backyard, flowers, photography, desserts, and details are what these women do best: a guaranteed perfect, beautiful day full of memories to last the rest of your life.

With bridal magazine covers to her credit, Mackensie "Mac" Elliot is most at home behind the camera—ready to capture the happy moments she never experienced while growing up. Her father replaced his first family with a second, and now her mother, moving on to yet another man, begs Mac for attention and money. Mac's foundation is jostled again moments before an important wedding planning meeting when she bumps into the bride-to-be's brother...an encounter that has them both seeing stars.

Carter Maguire is definitely not her type: he's stable, and he's safe. He's even an English teacher at their high school alma mater. There's something about him that makes Mac think a casual fling is just what she needs to take her mind off dealing with bridezillas and screening her mother's phone calls. But a casual fling can turn into something more when you least expect it. And with the help of her three best friends—and business partners—Mac must learn how to maker her own happy memories.

Nora Roberts had always been down on my to-be-ignored list, because like the judgy hipster snob I sometimes am, I assumed that her books wouldn’t be good because there are so many of them. But then Angie and Meg started talking about how much they love Nora Roberts’ books, and I realized maybe I should rethink my stance. Then obviously the place to start was the Bride Quartet because I fucking love these covers and the premise of four friends running a wedding planning business together. You guys, why did I waste so much time not reading Nora Roberts?

Vision in White was a bit slow for the first fifty pages or so, but as soon as the ship kicked off, I was obsessed. Like, gigantic grin that I cannot wipe off my damn face obsessed. And I was messaging Gillian to tell her how much she has to read this, because SHIP, which is a VERY VERY good sign. The meet cute starts with Carter accidentally walking in on Mac when she’s just wearing a bra (through misadventure), freaks out and almost knocks himself out on the door jamb trying to escape. It was love at first head injury.

Carter’s the most precious little muffin, my god. He’s a complete nerd, and he’s actually legitimately socially awkward. He leaves the most adorable, rambling messages for Mac, and honestly it just kills me. There aren’t enough bashful nerd love interests imo. Plus, because he’s an English teacher and a writer, on a date, they spend almost two full pages discussing Jane Austen and book-to-film adaptations, and I just DIE of the perfection tbh. Plus, they’re both really direct and they’re constantly DTRing, which never happens in romance and it’s AMAZING.

Obvs I loved the ship, but I was also surprised by how much I loved everything else. The friendship between the four girls is solid, though I’m looking forward to getting more of this as the series goes on. There are so many details about Mac’s photography and the business; sure, the focus is romance, but Roberts isn’t going to let the reader forget that these women are smart, skilled, and strong businesswomen as well. Mac also has a really great character arc as she finally works on her relationship with her toxic mother and her resulting fear of commitment.

Because of the great recs, I expected to like this, but I really didn’t expect to love it so much. There’s a bit that’s dated in terms of technology and language (some slut-shaming, but it’s not the overall tone at all, and girl hate isn’t the default at all). I WANT MORE.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 

Series Review: Bride Quartet by Nora RobertsBed of Roses by Nora Roberts
Series: Bride Quartet #2
Published by Berkley on October 27, 2009
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 335
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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Goodreads
four-stars

As little girls Mackensie, Emma, Laurel and Parker spent hours acting out their perfect make believe “I do” moments. Years later, their fantasies become reality when they start their own wedding planning company to make every woman’s dream day come true. With perfect flowers, delicious desserts, and joyful moments captured on film, Nora Roberts’s Bride Quartet shares each woman’s emotionally magical journey to romance.

In Bed of Roses, florist Emma Grant is finding career success with her friends at Vows wedding planning company, and her love life appears to be thriving. Though men swarm around her, she still hasn’t found Mr. Right. And the last place she’s looking is right under her nose.

But that’s just where Jack Cooke is. He’s so close to the women of Vows that he’s practically family, but the architect has begun to admit to himself that his feelings for Emma have developed into much more than friendship. When Emma returns his passion — kiss for blistering kiss — they must trust in their history…and in their hearts.

Bed of Roses is another massive hit with me, though not quite as much hitting the tropes that I adore. This one’s friends to lovers. Florist Emma and Jack (Parker’s brother’s best friend), after years of secret admiration, finally give in to their feelings and try out a semi-casual relationship. Friends to lovers isn’t my favorite trope out there, especially when they already had feelings for each other. Still, I do like Emma and Jack together. Altogether, this just hit more typical romance notes, since Emma’s a starry-eyed romantic and Jack’s afraid of commitment. However, though there’s a more typical narrative arc, it’s not played for the massive melodrama it normally is; Jack and Emma do communicate, if not as well as Mac and Carter. Oh, and it’s awesome that Emma is biracial (her mother is Mexican, her father white).

The wedding business continues to be a surprising joy. It would be so easy to dismiss their business as fluffy or cute if it were mere set dressing, but Roberts really shows the work they put into it and the passion they all have for their jobs. Though I’m not into floral arrangements particularly, it was fascinating through Emma’s eyes because she loves it. Though there’s almost constant talk about love and romance, much of that talk is work, and I love how consistently capable these girls are, and how supportive of one another.

Though this could end up being my least favorite of the ships (based on the interactions of the next two couples-to-be in the background, but that’s a guess obvs), it’s still a really good romance novel, and I’m so attached to this whole cast by now. I’m really looking forward to Parker and Laurel’s books, since they’re the meanest. :-p

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 

Series Review: Bride Quartet by Nora RobertsSavor the Moment by Nora Roberts
Series: Bride Quartet #3
Published by Berkley on April 27, 2010
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 339
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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four-stars

With the support of her friends, Laurel McBane’s dream of attending culinary school came true. Now, she’s repaying their kindness by creating extravagantly luscious tiers of cakes and other confectionary delights that add the perfect touch to their clients’ weddings.

As for romance, the low-key Laurel has had a mega crush on Parker’s older brother, Delaney Brown, since childhood. But she’s convinced that the Ivy League lawyer is still out of her reach. When Laurel’s quicksilver moods get the better of her—leading to an angry, hot, altogether mind-blowing kiss with Del—she’ll have to quiet the doubts in her mind to turn a moment of passion into forever…

I have been waiting for the Laurel book, because she’s been grumpy and bitchy in the background, which hello kindred spirit. Forever and always I will love the bitchy heroines who embrace their bitchiness. Savor the Moment is another fantastic installment in the Bride Quartet.

It’s really kind of hard to review this because what works is the same stuff that works in the prior novels. There’s a strong focus on Laurel’s love of baking and wedding cake design. The wedding business is a lot of pages of content, and I’d expect to be bored but I really love it. Also, I love that Roberts has included both a gay and lesbian wedding with absolutely not explication, just like hey it’s a wedding nbd. With each book, there’s more and more of the friendship between these girls, and I really want to have a commune like this with my friends and their loves.

Ship-wise, Laurel and Del hit a lot of the same tropes as Emma and Jack. They’re also friends to lovers with a pretty similar evolution of feelings. However, they’re the low-drama version, so I did like that better, even if their chemistry wasn’t quite as strong. Laurel has a strong character arc related to her own insecurities, though it would have been nice if that hadn’t been resolved by engagement. Still, I do ship them, but they’re not a SHIP SHIP SHIP like Mac and Carter.

This series is so consistent and strong. Now on to Parker’s book.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 

Series Review: Bride Quartet by Nora RobertsHappy Ever After by Nora Roberts
Series: Bride Quartet #4
Published by Berkley on November 2, 2010
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 333
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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Goodreads
two-half-stars

Dreams are realized in the eagerly-awaited fourth novel in Nora Roberts's Bride Quartet.

As the public face of Vows wedding planning company, Parker Brown has an uncanny knack for fulfilling every bride's vision. She just can't see where her own life is headed. Mechanic Malcomb Kavanaugh loves figuring out how things work, and Parker is no exception. Both know that moving from minor flirtation to major hook-up is a serious step. Parker's business risks have always paid off, but now she'll have to take the chance of a lifetime with her heart...

While I’ve really enjoyed my first foray into Nora Roberts, this series has gone slightly downhill with each book. The first three I all really liked, though, but Happy Ever After I largely didn’t. It took me weeks to drag my way through it, and I don’t know that I would ever reread it. This series ending and I are not Happy Ever After.

Man, this is a disappointment, because I’d really been looking forward to Parker and Mal’s book. They had such great chemistry in the background of the other books, but it all falls apart in their actual POVs. Starting in book two, these two started having delicious hate to love antagonism, but it’s all gone by the time Happy Ever After starts. They’re both attracted to each other and the only conflict in getting together is that Parker envisioned a different kind of guy, but she quickly gives in to his persistence.

Though the whole series has been very men are men and women are women, this book takes it to a place I can no longer handle. With the other ships, the women were in a very powerful role, but, despite Parker being very controlling by nature, Mal’s consistently leading the relationship. He pushes for the physical relationship to change, often kissing her when she didn’t want to be kissed. She wants him to communicate but he won’t because alpha male feelings. It’s very standard romance stuff, but it’s not the kind of romance I like.

A lot of this stems, I think, from the fact that Mal is a different sort of love interest. Carter’s a teacher, Jack’s an architect, and Del’s a lawyer, but Mal’s a mechanic. He’s a vastly successful mechanic, but he comes from a blue collar background and works with his hands. Roberts attempts an edgier voice for him which mostly consists of him sounding like all the other guys but occasionally coming out with strange phrasing that was probably supposed to sound “street” but is mostly just stilted or some poor grammar. Honestly, I found the portrayal a bit offensive, and it wasn’t something I could get past. There’s also a lot of violent, dominating imagery and diction to the sex scenes that was not there with the three prior novels.

Another problem with this one is that Parker has no actual conflict. She’s perfect at everything. The whole series has leaned into the fantasy side of realism, but I didn’t mind the girls being completely perfect at their jobs because that made a nice counterpoint to the fact that the series focuses on romance. Parker, however, has nothing else going on emotionally. She IS her job. She has no character arc and Mal barely has one. The attempt at a character arc for her is that she has to accept that Mal isn’t the pretentious guy she imagined settling down with, whereas he has to learn to communicate. There’s just almost nothing happening here emotionally, especially since they were mostly already into each other. It’s boring.

This would be a two star were it not for Mac’s wedding at the end, which I did enjoy reading. That ship is my favorite, and their wedding was very them, so it saw me out on a high note. Unfortunately, the ship of this book didn’t. It’s a damn shame tbh.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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