RITA Reader Challenge Review

RITA Reader Challenge Review: Happy Ever After by Nora Roberts

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Title: Happy Ever After
Author: Nora Roberts
Publication Info: Berkley 2010
ISBN: 9780425236758
Genre: Contemporary Romance

RITA®, and the RITA statuette are service marks of Romance Writers of America, Inc.SusiB reviewed this book for the RITA® Reader Challenge. This novel finaled in the Contemporary Single Title Category.

Book CoverPlot Summary: 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…

And here is SusiB’s review:

Happy Ever After is a finalist for Contemporary Single Title Romance, but I think that’s wrong. This is not a romance novel. Actually, I’m not quite sure it is any other kind of novel either. There probably is no officially approved definition of romance novels, but in my opinion, a romance novel has a plot that focuses on two people who fall in love and have to overcome some obstacles before they can live happily ever after. This book does not really focus on Parker’s and Malcolm’s relationship. There are no obstacles on their way to everlasting love, and the book doesn’t have a plot.

They are attracted to each other, but Parker hesitates to go out with Malcolm because…hm. Maybe just to make the book a few pages longer. He likes her legs and she thinks he’s hot; beyond that, they don’t have any kind of chemistry. He grabs her. They kiss. They go out. They have sex. They decide they love each other and have to get married. That’s all.

The book mainly consists of pages and pages and yet some more pages of descriptions of fancy weddings and their preparation. Between that, the friendship between Parker and her three lady friends, who happen to be the heroines of the previous books, is praised ad nauseam. Beyond that, there really is no plot.

The only thing that keeps Happy Ever After from being a wallbanger is the fact that Nora Roberts, having written about a gazillion books, does know what she’s doing. Her writing style is pleasant and makes even the many pages of wedding descriptions readable.


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Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Mel R says:

    I’ve been a fan of Nora for years—even have an almost full collection of her books.  However, for the past few years, her books seem to have become so similar to each other that they seem to follow the exact same formula. 
    I haven’t even read any of her recent books, including this one, but I’m not surprised by the not-so-good review.
    I hope some of the bad reviews that’ve been coming out more and more reach her ears and she tries to find a way back to writing like she did in the 90’s—books like Public Secrets, True Betrayals, and Private Scandals.

  2. 2
    Sheila says:

    Wow.  Have to say I disagree with the grade and the review.  The conflict between the hero & heroine is internal and emotional, and has a lot to do with past difficulties.  Physical and emotional abuse as a teen can really influence a person as an adult and that shows in the characters.

    Without being too spoilery I can say that the characters’ pasts really do effect their emotional condition in the present.  The attraction between the two characters has been building for a while and how its finally addressed in the last book is a lot of fun.

    There is a lot of wedding description, but that is the business the heroine is in so there would certainly be some.  I thought seeing a wedding and its preparations through the eyes of the hero was interesting.  The man repairs and restores cars, weddings aren’t his forte, but he’s interested and a little fascinated in how the woman in his life runs her business and how well she does it.

    The heart of the series is the friendship between four women and that continues very well through the last book.  Its a very complete series and is as much about friendship as it is romance.  I really enjoyed the last book and seeing Parker finally get the guy that she was totally not expecting.

  3. 3
    Michelle says:

    Oi. I read all four of the Bride Quartet books, and the only one that I liked was the first one (Vision in White). The second book I actively hated, but the third and fourth were just “meh.”

    The first book, however, I liked enough to read it again, mostly because it was the only one where I really liked the two main characters. To me, Nora branched out with her main male character that time. He wasn’t suave or outrageously wealthy. He was a hot, brainy teacher whose friend gave him tips on how to get the girl.

    Like Mel R said, I think some of Nora Roberts’ later books have become increasingly formulaic, so the relationship in “Vision in White” was a welcome breath of fresh air to me. But it’s the only one of this series that I’d recommend.

  4. 4
    Bev Stephans says:

    I’m glad someone else didn’t like this book.  I was feeling very lonely in my dislike of this series.  I know, I know, I should have quit reading it after the first book, but I kept hoping it would get better.
    Unfortunately, the only consistantly good books La Nora is writing these days are the “In Death” series.

  5. 5
    Laura (in PA) says:

    Hmm. I really enjoyed this series, and I guess saw more in the final book than SusiB. 

    Thanks for the review!  I love seeing all the perspectives.

  6. 6
    library addict says:

    This was my second favorite book of the series.  Parker was my favorite of the four heroines from the start and I stayed up late to finish the book when I got it.

    Loved the chemistry between Parker and Malcolm. And the fact he kept her guessing and she didn’t put up with his shutting down on her. They had a very believable relationship. That’s one of the things I liked best about this series, that they’re just conventional romances without any paranormal elements.

    I do wish we’d gotten more of the guys’ POV and less wedding descriptions, but this was such a heroine-centric series. I knew that going in. Doesn’t stop me from wishing though. Buty I enjoyed all 4 books and tend to think of them as one big story in four parts.

  7. 7
    Liz says:

    i agree with Library Addict.  this was my 2nd favorite of the 4 books in the series.  The only one that i really did not like was the first book in the series, mainly because i did not like Mac and i did not think that she deserved a guy as great as Carter.

  8. 8
    cheryl says:

    Wow, I was really surprised to see this grade. I have to agree with Shelia.  I enjoyed the entire series.  It was quite enjoyable to become immersed in the world of wedding planning.  Nora excels in creating the environment in her books.  I liked the friendships of the women and the men in these books, and the romances were realistic and endearing.  The series has a place on my keeper shelf.

  9. 9
    Beth says:

    I really liked this series. It was total fluff, but sometimes you just want to read a book that is light and happy. And the title, Happy Ever After, unapologetic-ally embraces the fluffiness. 
    The heroines in the series are childhood bff’s who each just happen to excel in one aspect of wedding planning, etc. The heroes in the series are: hot rich professor, hot rich architecht, hot rich lawyer, and hot rich mechanic. It’s all just a little too perfect, but I didn’t mind because, again, it’s fluff and sometimes you want fluff.
    But just because it was fluff doesn’t mean there weren’t any conflicts. Each story featured one of the four friends, and they and their respective heroes each had their own set of problems.
    I also liked the “girl power!” vibe throughout the series. They are successful women who believe in themselves, their business, and each other. It was a little over the top sometimes, but I could forgive it because I just thoroughly enjoyed reading this series.

  10. 10
    Tina S says:

    I completely agree. I read romance for the romance, and felt this book—and the series itself—was sadly lacking in this, despite the happy ending. The first one was great, and the second was nearly a DNF for me, which has never happened with a Nora Roberts book. The third was boring, the fourth annoyed me because we didn’t get nearly enough romance because everything was taken up with the weddings of people who weren’t the hero and heroine! And I know that’s the business of the heroines and was expecting it, but it was detrimental to Parker and Mal’s story, IMO. And honestly, all of them living at the same place and being together all the time felt more like a cult than a friendship-I got creepy codependent vibes from the women especially.

  11. 11
    Becca says:

    I love Nora’s stand-alone mysteries/romantic suspense (just finished re-reading Angels Fall), but felt that this wedding series was just phoning it in. Yeah, the heart of the book was the friendships, but there really wasn’t much plot. There was some potential conflict with one of the girls’ mother (Linda?) but it never developed into anything.

    I’ll read just about anything Nora writes, but I’m not sure I’ll ever re-read this series.

  12. 12
    megalith says:

    I agree with Michelle and Tina S. on this series. Bought the first book and really enjoyed it, was surprised and disappointed at how little I liked the second book, and borrowed the last two from the library.

    I actually found the background info on the wedding business a lot more interesting than the romance in the last three books. That’s pretty much what kept me interested enough to finish all four. Well, that and my OCD.

    The characters were interesting and engaging in the first book, but they never got beyond formulaic in the rest of the series, unfortunately.

    As a fan of Roberts’, I’m happy to report that I just finished reading “Chasing Fire” and can recommend it highly. She managed to get the snappy dialog just right, without making everyone sound like clones of Eve Dallas or extras from the Big Sleep. I like fiction where people with markedly different personalities have that reflected in how they speak and express themselves!

  13. 13
    megalith says:

    D’oh! That should read “as a fan of Roberts’ books.”

    KTHKSBAI

  14. 14
    Colleen says:

    As someone who doesn’t read/ care about Nora Roberts, I didn’t really read the review too closely.
    HOWEVER, check out the wedding gown! When it become okay to have sheer panels on a wedding dress? Yuck!

  15. 15
    Emily says:

    I am reading my way through the series and am currently reading Bed of Roses. I plan to read all four.
    I liked these books enough that I was surprised by the review. I thought they were harmless and sweet enough. I did think the characters didn’t have enough problems though that mainly came the characters being rich.
    I have to admit that it a lot of the location stuff didn’t ring true. Connecticut is my home state y whole lifeand some of that didn’t ring true. So far my biggest CT peave is the characters’ view of distance. NYC, Greenwich, and New Haven are not that far away from each other, but the characters acted like they were hundreds of miles away. Its hour and hour/half most days from anyone of those place to other. In good weather and traffic less. (Christmas traffic maybe more.) Also snow in April is rare in CT; not to be expected unless the winter is really long. By the end of april the weather is gets almost hot, but then always seems to cool down in May.
    Anyway despite those picky-pickys I liked this series. It is popular at my library so I have been waiting to check out later books in the series.

  16. 16
    Trysh says:

    I didn’t read this book because the second book in the series made me so violently angry that it’s distinctly possible that Nora has jumped the shark for me permanently, even though some of her older books will be forever favorites. The first book excited me so much because it felt like she was going back to the contemporaries that I loved so much, and then the second book was so terrible that I couldn’t even contemplate continuing with the series.

  17. 17
    Kerry Allen says:

    Colleen, wedding dresses that look like underwear (all-over sheer corsets with padded push-up cups, I kid you not) are all the rage this season. The gown on that cover is positively demure compared to some of them.

  18. 18
    Donna says:

    When it become okay to have sheer panels on a wedding dress?

    Colleen have you never watched “Say Yes To The Dress”? This is the go to dress for the immodest bride to be.

    Also, I guess my standards aren’t as high as I thought because I thoroughly enjoyed this series. You want to talk phoning it in? Lets dish on Linda Howard for a while. Anyhow, “Happily Ever After” was worth it just for the moment Mal publicly reminds Mac’s mother that the reason he looks familiar is because he’s the one she offered a blow job in lieu of payment when he towed her car. Not that she didn’t deserve worse.

  19. 19
    Mina C. Lobo says:

    When it become okay to have sheer panels on a wedding dress?

    They don’t seem to raise any eyebrows on “My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding.”  :-)

  20. 20
    SusannaG says:

    Sheer panels are all over the hideous (and hideously expensive!) wedding dresses on Say Yes to the Dress.

  21. 21
    AllyJS says:

    I love Nora Roberts but…I have to agree with the review. There were fun moments and cute moments and I loved any time they had a conflict with Linda but overall the quartet felt too fluff for my tastes.

  22. 22
    LG says:

    @Trysh – Tell me you have a review of the second book posted somewhere. I love “this book made me violently angry” reviews.

  23. 23
    MissMonky says:

    This whole series was not great. I liked the first one but truly, after the third I wasn’t even tempted to read the last one. It’s not that the writing is bad or that I didn’t like the characters…it’s just so shallow!  Like rain in a kiddie pool shallow. They go beyond fluff reading into cirrus cloud reading. You know it’s a book because you’re holding it but you can’t find anything beyond that to prove it. As a fan of Nora Roberts I tried. I really did want to believe they had value. But in the end, meh. Nothing.

  24. 24
    Stephanie says:

    I have to say I disagree to a point. I enjoyed this one – maybe not quite as much as the first, and I’m certainly not going to say the reviewer doesn’t make any solid points at all, but overall, I think she established the characters very well and did an excellent job of integrating each character into the other’s life. I would have to read it again to really get down to the nitty gritty as to where I agree and where I disagree with the reviewer, but overall, I can’t say I agree.

    Now the second book (I think the second?) really bugged me. I liked the characters, their conflict seemed genuine, their big conflict leading to the climax was genuine and legit and totally something I could see happening, so I was with it for the majority of the book. It was the very end of the book that made me want to throw it against the wall.

    They had come to an understanding, and they had just redrawn the boundaries of their relationship – to the point where he’s going to let her in more than he has anyone else in his life. Ever. That’s a damn big step. So what does he do? (SPOILER ALERT) He proposes. WHAT?! Yes, I get that she wants to get married, but how about you take some time before popping the question to acclimate to these new boundaries. It just seemed so unreasonable. Omg I ranted about it for days, if only because the conflict had been so well done and reasonable on both sides only to come down to that.

    Sorry, but overall, I liked this series. The first one was definitely my favorite though. Depending on how much time I have, I’d be curious to read this book again and go more in depth to see where I agree with you and where I disagree, SusiB

  25. 25
    Trysh says:

    @LG I wrote a short review on Chapters.ca after it came out and after I’d had a little bit of time to contemplate on how much I hated it, but I probably could have ranted for ages longer than I did. It was actually the first book review I’ve actually posted, which gives hint to how passionately I actually loathed it. Here is the location of the short review. The behavior of the main character became so completely insane that I couldn’t stand her, but what was worse was the way that the book carried out from there with first her friends acting as though the way she behaved was completely okay and that the way the guy reacted to it (more than justified, if you ask me, for a guy to get a little upset when he comes home from a hard day at work to find gigantic planters installed on his porch randomly and to find the woman he’s been seeing for a month and never given a house key to in his kitchen with the radio blasting while she cooks him dinner, especially when said man has made it clear that he has issues about other people in his space throughout the book – which the heroine took personally and got uppity about on many occasions) made him a complete ass. To cap it off, her friends then banded together and treated the situation as though their friend was a child who was incapable of managing her own life, deciding to be the buffer between to two main characters and not let the man speak to their friend until they deemed him contrite and worthy enough of her forgiveness – because she was too soft hearted and forgiving or some such. AND BOTH OF THE MAIN CHARACTERS FOUND THIS ACCEPTABLE. This situation might have been interesting to explore if every word that was written didn’t make it seem like all of this behavior was completely acceptable. The book was mediocre before that, but as soon as everyone hopped on the train to crazytown it had me literally throwing the book across the room when I was finished. Terrible.

  26. 26
    Kelly says:

    I too really liked the first book in this series (Mac and Carter were the best couple by far) and didn’t really enjoy book two or three. I liked this one better than those two, but I think that’s because I liked Mal from his first intro. I never warmed to Parker in the other books and this one didn’t change my mind.  It is probably a C for me rather than a D.

  27. 27
    SonomaLass says:

    Great example of how some books really work for some readers but not others. I thought this book brought the series to a good close; I liked seeing Mac & Carter’s wedding. Parker & Mal’s romance really started in the walker books, too, and I thought that diluted it somewhat.

  28. 28
    Dancing_Angel says:

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who hated this book.  I really disliked the whole series.  It especially bugged that Mac’s mother was the eeeeevvvviillll villain throughout all FOUR books – yet, her dad who LEFT her with said evil villain showed up at her wedding and was welcomed with open arms.  Barf.

    Overall, the series was too girly, frothy and frilly for me, with color-coordinated workout outfits, Pilates and way too much about shopping and shoes.  Of the main characters, I liked Laurel, because she had some starch, kinda like Mac, adored Carter and was meh about everyone else.  The “oversharing” in the fourth book also got way out of control. 

    Thought the “wedding dresses” thing was sweet, really liked Mac’s mother and Mrs. Grady, but that was pretty much it.

  29. 29
    Tabs says:

    I didn’t care for this book either.  I also didn’t feel any chemistry and disliked the serious lack of conflict between the hero and heroine.

  30. 30
    kkw says:

    I didn’t like this book or this series but I’d give them all Cs.  Maybe a C+ here or a C- there, but D seems extreme, and I suspect it would have gotten a better grade except that we all expect more from Nora Roberts.
    It would not be possible for me to care less about all the weddings, for clients or heroines.  They were all so different, so very unique (like they could be a little unique).  Blah blah blah.  Did any of them not have fairy lights?  I can’t tell you how much I came to loathe fairy lights by the end of the series.

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