29 November 2011

Romance review: Happy Ever After by Nora Roberts

Genre: Romance, contemporary
Series: The Bride Quartet
Year of publication: 2010
Setting & time: Greenwich, Connecticut, US; contemporary
Level of sensuality: Hot, breathless kissing, short and flowery sex scenes.

Parker Brown (‘of the Connecticut Browns’) is a modern day princess: classy, beautiful, wealthy and well-bred, but blessedly free of any pretension or hauteur (except when faced with people likely to hurt her friends). She is the planner, director and M.C. of Vows, the one who holds the whole wedding-planning business together.

Malcolm is a Harley-driving former Hollywood stunt-man who ran away from a damaged childhood but has returned to run his own automobile repair-shop and plays poker with Parker’s brother Del.

Ever since Parker kissed Mal to spite her brother, he had been interested in knowing her better, and the chemistry is undeniable. But will her breeding and his past get in their way?

Not a bit. Their story runs a smooth and shiny and not very eventful course through a narrative in which two weddings are the high points, when it should have been scenes between the two of them. Their characters are well-written and rounded, although Parker has a somewhat Mary Sue-ish flavour. While they are first appear to be clear opposites, she the modern American princess and he the wild boy from the wrong side of the tracks who clawed his way up and became a successful business owner, they are in fact both goal-oriented, business-minded and focused individuals.

The usual humour and high-quality writing is there (I have said it before, although not here, that Roberts could easily write what the snobs call “serious fiction”), and the plotting is smooth, but there is something missing. It would have been so easy to have a bit of fun with the bad boy-good girl/peasant-princess combination, but instead we get a glittering and perfect romance where everything is smooth and perfectly perfect and love’s course runs nearly obstacle free. Even the descriptions of stormy passions tearing through the bodies of the protagonists when they have sex aren’t enough to make the romance feel as passionate as it could be. I had been hoping for a climactic ending to this tetralogy, but what I got was a fizz (or should I say a whimper?). 2+ stars.
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Overall, I have to say this tetralogy has been disappointing in its glittery smoothness, but I’m not going to let that stop me from reading Roberts’ future books, or to continue my journey through her back-list. After all, an author cannot be expected to produce top-of-the line work every time. Besides, I must admit that my favourite Roberts books (written under that name) have always been her standalone romantic thrillers.

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