Vision in White (The Bride Quartet, Book 1) by Nora Roberts
We’re only five states into our literary tour of the U.S. and already we’ve been through some very dark territory. Serial murders of peace-loving vampires. Devastating F5 tornadoes. Sexual assault of a teenager in freakin’ Amish Country, of all places. I’m depressed just thinking about it…
…which is why I’m delighted to say that Vision in White, the first installment in Nora Roberts’s Bride Quartet, contains none of those things. There’s no tragedy in this one, no insurmountable problems, no overwhelming angst. No one dies. No one drinks anyone else’s blood. There’s a snowstorm, but it’s a pretty, picturesque kind of a snow, not a raging blizzard. Someone gets punched in the face, but that’s about the extent of the violence. From the very first page of the novel, it’s obvious that a happy ending is in store, and you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that. The world needs more happy endings. I liked this book.
Vision in White is about four women who live together on a fabulous Connecticut estate and together run Vows, the hottest wedding planning business in the Northeast. Super-organized Parker is the front-woman and chief planner; man-magnet Emma creates stunning floral arrangements; and feisty Laurel is a cake-baking genius. Then there’s Mackenzie, the brilliantly artistic photographer, who is a bit neurotic, having grown up with a mother who bounced from one man to another (and who reads, in all honesty, like a textbook Borderline Personality, although Roberts doesn’t delve into that too much).
One fine day Mac encounters Carter, with whom she went to high school briefly. She remembers him slightly; he, on the other hand, remembers her quite well—he had a raging crush on her back in the day. Now he’s a klutzy and slightly self-conscious high-school English teacher who wears sweater vests and glasses. Mac finds him perfectly adorkable, and soon discovers that if there’s one place he’s neither self-conscious nor klutzy, it’s the bedroom, if you know what I mean (and I think you do). Love is in the air…but will Mac’s Issues stand between her and her happily-ever-after?
Connecticut has a reputation as a haven for upper-crust aristocratic types, and you won’t see much of anything to contradict that in this book. This is Postcard Connecticut, where shiny happy people who drive nice cars and live in gorgeous homes are (for the most part) utterly pleasant to one another. A gentle snow whitens the landscape, the parade of brides glow, the modern economic realities that would place an estate wedding planned and executed by a full service wedding team out of the reach of most Americans isn’t even mentioned, and even the high school teachers have doctorates. Like a New England Lake Wobegon, everything is above average.
But if you’re going to fall into a fantasy, there are worse ones to fall into. There’s a reason Nora Roberts is America’s best-selling novelist; she really knows how to put a story together. I particularly enjoyed all the banter between the characters: the dialogue fizzes and pops, and the characters are nicely drawn. A personal favorite was Bob, Carter’s best buddy, who gives him “helpful” dating advice, some of which actually is helpful (yes, a tablecloth can be a nice touch, when one is entertaining a romantic prospect). And the relationship between the four women—lifelong friends—is what most of us dream of having in our lives.
What I liked best, though, is the fact that the characters actually communicate with one another. Mac has Issues, for sure, but instead of suffering in silence she—and I realize that this may be a revolutionary thought to some (I just finished reading the sequel to our Georgia entry and—wow. Friends, please tell your partner when there’s something on your mind)—she actually talks to Carter about it. She tells him about her fears of commitment, he promises that they’ll work it out together, and then they do! As a reader who has just about had it with the Literature of Miscommunication (or Noncommunication, as the case may be), the existence of a heroine who owns and overcomes her faults was like a tall glass of water in the desert.
Reading this book, you’ll learn a lot about the wedding biz, whether you want to or not. (For example, I learned what a “tussie-mussie” is. I think I hate that word, but now I can’t stop saying it. Pfft.) But other than that, with its sprightly heroine and its strong depiction of female friendship and its delightfully nerdy hero, it’s a frilly, frothy vision of winter weddings and happy, pleasant people being pleasantly happy with one another. It’s a breath of cool fresh air on a hundred-degree day. It’s pure utter escapism, and there’s nothing in the world wrong with that.
Kate Nagy is Editor at Large of Geek Speak Magazine.