I admit I read this for two reasons:
1. There's this really great family friend - the husband of my mother's college roommate - who loves the crap out of Nora Roberts (and her mystery writing alter ego, J.D. Robb). It's notable that a dude reads romance novels, let alone loves the crap out of them, so.
2. A close friend of mine was getting married, and as a total bitch-read on the plane, I thought I'd dive right into a contemporary romance about wedding planners.
So I'm in a weird area just at the outset - not wanting to bag this too hard, because I earnestly love & respect my family friend, but I was also expecting a total cluster-eff in terms of romantical notions about weddings/marriage which I have seen before in romance novels. Just, it is astonishing to me how many I have read that end with the declaration of love being also
a proposal of marriage, which is nutty in the extreme. I didn't tie the knot the second I realized I loved my husband - that was years later. And, I know this is heresy, but I loved people before my husband, and didn't marry them, and that doesn't mean they weren't important people or that I didn't love them. There's all kinds of love, and the long-term kind is neat, but the short-term kind is not intrinsically wrong. But, yeah, writing a romance novel about a brief but satisfying affair - which I've had - might not be possible given the terms of the genre.
This wasn't nearly as bad as I was expecting. There's some faint praise for you right there! But seriously, the wedding planning part of this book did not make me want to freak out or drink, expecting as I was all that fantasy perfection garbage I had shoved down my throat by marketing assholes when I was planning my own. (And I got married 14 years ago. My understanding is the industry has only gotten worse in this regard in the intervening years.) The wedding stories are generally funny little set pieces either sit-com or rom-com in tone. These four fine young women running a wedding planning business are running a business
, which seems a rarity in this kind of women's fiction. Usually jobs are window dressing.
The romance is somewhat backgrounded. Dude is your classic absentminded professor with no discernible flaws, and most of the romantical issues arise from the heroine's frankly laughably bad relationship with her mom. Apparently, mom's a self-involved user, and dad abandoned the heroine, which leads to her acting like a classic guy when she and hero hook up. OMG intimacy issues ZOMG! My favorite was when the bff of the heroine goes out to lunch with hero, and lays out the heroine's psychology in whatever the emotional form of the infodump is. Tell me more, Socrates, says Creto at his knee. So her mom was cold and withholding?
Actually, much of the emotional heft of this thing was in the relationships between the women. I wouldn't call them realistic
, because I know exactly no one who has become business partners with bffs who have been bffs 4eveh. Hell, even moving in with two of my besties out of high school only ended in tears. But it is a nice fantasy, this one of attentive girlfriends who know you better than you know yourself, and stick up for you, and get your back. That was nice to see, even though I'm kinda not okay with the cackling, hand-rubbing evil ex-gf who is so, so lame. But given how often romance novels fail the Bechdel Test - perversely - it was nice to see one that passed with flying colors.
Anyway, this was fine. It didn't make me mad much, and didn't fall into the traps I was expecting. So, three stars for you, Nora Roberts!!!