Showing posts with label Nora Roberts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Nora Roberts. Show all posts

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Review: Bed of Roses by Nora Roberts

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.

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.
It has taken me a while to process my thoughts, because frankly I don't know what happened to me while I was reading Bed of Roses. The bottom line is that this story did not work for me. For some reason, I didn't really find it romantic, erotic or amusing and I was even disappointed in some of the friendship interactions in the book. Most of the story felt flat, as if something was missing and I could not put my finger on it. I'm not sure if it was me or the book, but let's try and figure it out. Note: I tried my best NOT to include spoilers.

Emma is the florist in the quartet of friends that runs Vows, a bridal planning company. She's also beautiful and a romantic. She has a healthy family background and is looking for that one man, the one she will one day dance with in her fantasy moonlit garden. Jack is an architect with a thriving business and has been Del's best friend since college. Del is Parker's brother and this makes Jack one of their inner circle, part of their family. He comes from a broken home and these friendships mean much to him. Just as Emma is known for attracting men, Jack is known for attracting women and he, like Emma, does not commit to long term relationships. Jack and Emma, however, find that they are powerfully attracted to each other and decide to become lovers with the condition that they'll stay friends after the affair is done.

Let me begin by saying that I think it's a great premise, and the book is full of wonderful characters. I love the "friends to lovers" trope, it has to be one of my favorite plot devices in a romance. However, for some reason it didn't work for me in this book. I liked Jack and Emma separately. They were likable characters who I thought deserved a happy ending -- together, they just didn't do it for me. I didn't buy that Jack was passionately in love with Emma, and that might be because when his admission of love came (I wouldn't call it a realization), it was less than convincing. It felt forced, like he was pressured in more ways than one into making that admission -- it didn't feel as if it came from his heart and soul. I also felt that Emma allowed others to dictate her moves instead of following her heart.

The friendship between the four friends in this book took a turn I definitely did not enjoy, and frankly I think it somewhat spoiled the book for me. In Beds of Roses, the friends' contributions (one in particular) felt more intrusive than supportive. They crossed that fine line that I don't think should be crossed no matter how close you are in a friendship. The fact that Emma allowed them to interfere and went along with her friends -- when aware of their interference -- also bothered me.

Unlike Vision in White, Bed of Roses had less amusing dialogue to offer, with the exception of one or two wedding mishaps to do with Vows. And speaking of Vows, I would like to address the massive amount of flower detail in this book. Yes, Emma is the florist, however, after the first few times her flower arrangements, bouquets and centerpieces were described my eyes began to glaze over. I found myself wanting to skim through those details after a while, and I don't skim Nora Roberts' books. More than once, I found myself wishing for more Emma / Jack time and less Emma / flower time.

Finally the end. I felt the end of the book was rushed and abrupt to say the least and Emma and Jack's last few minutes with each other could have been used a few more pages or even paragraphs. The two of them alone with more to say to each other would have gone a long way, and maybe it wouldn't have left me with that flat, disconnected feeling.

My feelings while reading this book were not all negative. For the most part, I did enjoy the friends' interactions with each other when not connected to Jack and Emma's romance. I really enjoyed Del and Jack's relationship and the "buddy," male bonding that seems to be developing between the males in the series. I still loved the atmosphere and the set up that Nora Roberts introduced in Vision in White and further developed here, and I liked some of the new characters introduced in this installment.

Bed of Roses is not my favorite book in this series so far, but it is only the second one. I particularly liked what I saw of Laurel whose story is next in the series. She seemed a different person from the one I envisioned in Vision in White. I think the next book should be a more interesting "friends to lovers" story and I'm looking forward to reading Savor the Moment.

You can read an excerpt for Bed of Roses here.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Review: Black Hills by Nora Roberts

A summer at his grandparents' South Dakota ranch is not eleven-year-old Cooper Sullivan's idea of a good time. But things are a bit more bearable now that he's discovered the neighbor girl, Lil Chance, and her homemade batting cage. Each year, with Coop's annual summer visit, their friendship deepens from innocent games to stolen kisses, but there is one shared experience that will forever haunt them: the terrifying discovery of a hiker's body.

As the seasons change and the years roll by, Lil remains steadfast to her aspiration of becoming a wildlife biologist and protecting her family land, while Coop struggles with his father's demand that he attend law school and join the family firm. Twelve years after they last walked together hand in hand, fate has brought them back to the Black Hills when the people and things they hold dear need them most.
I really did enjoy the relationship between Coop and Lil -- their friendship, banter and snark, all the way from childhood through their young adulthood and later -- specially their love for each other. I thought Roberts took her time developing these characters and their relationship, and it worked in Black Hills. The romance definitely took precedence over the suspense.

These two people come from two different backgrounds and upbringing and those differences, although plain to see at the beginning, become blurred for while. However, those same differences are the ones that will eventually drive these two beautiful people apart. Lil, having been loved and nurtured all her life, has a focus and an assurance about her that give her the drive to go after what she wants. Coop, on the other hand, neglected and bullied by his parents all his life, receives nurturing only from his grand parents and that begins at age eleven. His focus is different from Lil's and their lives will inevitably go in different directions.

I could understand both Lil and Coop's points of view. I must admit to being a bit frustrated with Lil for a bit, until I realized that she just couldn't see things from a logical perspective -- she was still heartbroken and too emotionally involved to do so. Lil having been raised in the safety of a family, loved, secure, and with a focus couldn't quite understand Coop's need to prove himself to his father or to himself. I thought this was a real human reaction on her part and quite realistic, really. How could she possibly put herself in his shoes? She never had the need to justify or prove herself to her parents.

I think I fell in love with Coop and his sad/mad eyes from the get go -- although this phrase did get overused a bit! Coop had to make some tough, very adult and wrenching decisions at an early age. Those decisions seemed to have been just as hurtful to him as they were to Lil. He didn't see it as having a choice at the time, and he chose a tough road. I really liked the way neither one of them was easy on the other -- they let each other have it and it was okay -- loved their dialogue.

There's a whole "childhood gone wrong" theme to this book. The choices made by the different individuals who were victims of this childhood trauma, and how their lives turn out depending on the amount of love and nurturing they received (or not). Coop, Farley and Ethan are part of this overall theme. Lil is the exception in that she's the one with the happy and safe childhood. There's a marked difference in how they make their decisions, how their lives turn out, and the final results.

Nora Roberts does some wonderful work when it comes to the research and details covering both the animal preserve area and the Black Hills of South Dakota -- she makes you want to visit those hills. The family relationships and friendships are wonderful, and the secondary romance in the book is sweet and brings the family and friendship part of the story together.

The suspense was the weakest part of the book. I find this is the case in most of her Romantic Suspense releases. The perpetrator was identified early, and although this didn't make a difference to the suspense, the way it was going to play out also became obvious before the end and that made a difference to me. I found the end to be abrupt--a couple of more pages of Coop and Lil would have gone a long way, in my opinion.

Overall, I enjoyed Black Hills even with its weak spots. I tend to enjoy the romance part of her books more than the suspense and for me that part was enjoyable. I give this one a B

Visit the author here. Read an excerpt from Black Hills here.

Originally posted at Musings of a Bibliophile on July 13, 2009

Friday, May 22, 2009

Upcoming Reviews at Musings

I'll be reviewing three books for Musings of a Bibliophile next week. 

You can expect to find Vision in White by Nora Roberts, her latest contemporary romance. Nora is one of my all time favorite romance writers and I'm more than happy to see her return to writing good old fashioned romance.

For my M/M Review I'll be featuring Crossroads by Keta Diablo an M/M Erotic/Suspense. This was not a book from my M/M Challenge list, but a separate read. I didn't manage to read any for the Challenge this week.  Diablo is a new-to-me author and I do enjoy those!

And speaking of new-to-me authors, I'll be finishing off with Simple Wishes by Lisa Dale. I've been in the mood for contemporaries, so I picked this book at random, just to see how I liked the author. This is Dale's first contemporary romance and I think a good pick. 

So, stop by Musings next week... see you there!