I've read the Bride Quartet before, but sometimes, you just need a little Nora Roberts escapism. And I had forgotten about this series until that we were talking about that stupid New York Times Review of Books piece, and so I hopped on to the library website, and suddenly, I was back at Vows with Parker, Laurel, Emma, and Mac, dreaming of fairy tale weddings where every bride has a completely unlimited budget and nobody has diabetes from eating too much wedding cake. I swear, if I worked there, I'd be drunk on champagne and weigh a thousand pounds from eating wedding cake for breakfast every day. That might have something to do with my life now, though.
In the first installment, Vision in White, we meet Mackensie, the Vows photographer who lives in the pool house turned photo studio. She's got fiery red hair and a personality to match, with a nightmare of a mother who has just left yet another husband. Her dad is largely absent, but she's got all the family she needs with her three best friends. Enter shy, quiet, klutzy Carter, the high school English teacher, who is standing as groom for a meeting when his sister's fiancé got called in to work. Mac wants to keep it casual, but there's nothing casual about the way she feels about Carter.
Book two, Bed of Roses, brings us to Emma, the official florist of Vows. I want Emma's job, except for that when plants and flowers see me coming, they try to run away as fast as their little roots can take them. I don't exactly have a green thumb. I want to - flowers make me so happy - but I don't make flowers happy. Anyway, Emma is happy and bubbly, and just wants to fall in love. Actually, Emma wants to fall in love with anyone other than Jack, an old family friend whom she is certain views her as a sister. One night, Emma's temper gets the best of her, and she and Jack wind up kissing, and not in a brother/sister way. Emma doesn't want to ruin her friendship with Jack, but she can't stop thinking about the kiss, and neither can Jack, although the thought of commitment makes him itchy all over.
The third book, Savor the Moment, focuses on Laurel, the talented pastry chef known for her beautiful cake creations. Again, I want Laurel's job but bakers have to get up very early and I like to sleep. Plus, I'm klutzy and I'd drop the cake, which would not be good. Laurel's got the hots for Parker's older brother Del, and has since they were kids. But Del is out of her league, and even though she's a part of a successful business, she doesn't quite feel like she can measure up. Del, for his part, thinks it's weird to have Sexy Times thoughts about a girl he's known from childhood, but that doesn't stop them from skinny dipping in the pond on the Vows estate one night. (As an aside, all I could think of during that scene was EW. In Florida, you a) don't go skinny dipping anywhere other than a pool, b) you definitely don't go skinny dipping in a pond, and c) you definitely don't go underwater in a pond. All we have are snakes and alligators and a horrible bacteria that will make you throw up. Not sexy at all.)
Finally, after all the girls have been paired up, it's Parker's turn in the fourth installment, Happy Ever After. Parker is the buttoned up, serious manager of Vows. She's the one the brides call at 2am when they have a zit, she's the one who recognizes when the best man is getting too handsy with the maid of honor, and she's the one who can successfully negotiate the seating chart for even the most complicated of weddings. Her clothes are impeccable, her hair would never think of straying out of its perfect chignon, and her heels are sky high. Which makes it all the more surprising when Malcolm, the town mechanic, knocks her just a little bit off kilter. Mal is a little rough around the edges and Parker isn't quite sure what to make of him, or his motorcycle. But she's not one to back down from a challenge, so when Mal lets it slip that Parker's brother bet that she wouldn't go out with him, she's on the back of that bike in a flash to show him he should never bet against her. Except it turns out that she kind of likes that feeling of freedom. and she kind of likes Mal, too.
As a reader, you've got to totally suspend disbelief. Nobody has the budget to have the kinds of weddings described in these books, at least not anyone I know. And Parker's brother Del was a bit of an overprotective jackass, particularly - and weirdly - during Emma's book. The family drama is tied up tidily. But that's the beauty of Nora Roberts; everyone's beautiful, nobody worries about a budget, all the men are friends, all the women get along... it's a utopia akin to that series where the girls run the inn. (Or something. I can't remember. Doesn't someone own a pizza shop?)
These books are like wedding cake: they look pretty, they're sweet enough to rot your teeth out of your head, and you kind of feel bad about doing the Macarena after the open bar, but you had a great time anyway.