Bed of Roses, by Nora Roberts

As I stood in the airport bookstore with the daunting task of picking some in-flight reading, my eyes began to glaze over. Bestsellers, entirely too many choices from the Twilight saga, Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck’s books, etc. And it came down to Iris Johansen’s The Treasure and Nora Roberts’ Bed of Roses. I loved Johansen’s early historicals, before she went all suspense thriller on us, and The Treasure seemed to hearken back to her beginnings. However, when I perused the back cover description and flipped it open to the first page, I realized that the cultural appropriation factor had the potential to be trauma-inducing. (Sheikhs, non-white male hero, etc.) And who wants a book they might throw against the emergency exit door, you know?

So, despite not having read the previous book in Roberts’ new series, I went with Bed of Roses. I’m not part of the movement that thinks Nora Roberts is the awesomest awesome when it comes to romance writing, but her books are dependable, for the most part consistent, and entertaining. (I had to give up on her a few years back when everything she wrote was a trilogy involving a brunette, a redhead and a blonde…that she’s doing it in a quartet this time and included a character with black hair is, I guess, an improvement?) You know what you’re getting into with her books: crisp dialogue, good stories, rootable heroes and heroines. And Bed of Roses was no different. Perhaps that was the basic problem…

The Vows quartet centers around four friends, Mac, Parker, Emma and Laurel, who live in Greenwich, Conn. and  run a full-service wedding planning business off Parker’s family estate. Conveniently, they all live there, too. Emma, the group’s florist has always been a girly-girl and a romantic, and when she begins an affair with longtime family friend Jack, it forces them both to confront what they want out of a relationship.

Unfortunately, Roberts gets so caught up in the minutiae of flower arranging and wedding planning, that we learn more about Emma’s centerpieces and bouquets than we do about the characters, who are drawn in very broad strokes. And don’t even get me started on the origin story of Emma’s father having married his Mexican housekeeper. Is Emma’s biraciality addressed in any other sense than her exotic beauty, a Cinco de Mayo party and her mother calling her “hija?” No. Of course, at least we get some background on Emma. That Jack’s parents divorcing is the root of his commitment issues is thrown at the reader in the last quarter of the book! And the other problem with a set series is that uninterested and confounded by Emma’s characterization, I was already jumping ahead wondering about Laurel and Parker’s stories.

It sounds like I hated the book, doesn’t it? I really didn’t! It was a breezy read. Fun. Didn’t require much thought…except, again, thoughts about what was coming in the next two books. And that, my friends, is no bed of roses…it’s being suckered into plunking down yet more cash.

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