Vision in White
It’s been quite a while since Nora Roberts has written a straight contemporary; the majority of her books the past five or more years have been paranormal, suspense, or futuristic. I know a lot of people have been excited since learning about her new straight-contemporary quartet. They won’t be disappointed with its first installment, Vision in White.
Mackensie “Mac” Elliot and her three best friends used to play Wedding all the time as children. Now they are business partners running Vows, an all-inclusive wedding planning company. Mac is the photographer, with her friends playing the roles of baker, florist, and planner. During a consult with a prospective client, Mac, in a hilarious way, re-meets Carter, the brother of the bride and a guy she went to high school with, but didn’t really know that well. There’s instant attraction, but Mac is afraid to go too far; her parents divorced when she was 4, and have an additional 5 or more marriages between them. Her mother is a selfish drama queen with no regard for her daughter, and shamelessly takes advantage of her. Mac likes Carter a lot, but because of her parents she knows that she’ll only ever break his heart.
Carter, for his part, is an English teacher at high school, a former Yale professor– and a former nerd. He had a huge crush on Mac in high school, but never said anything, and seeing her again has only brought back his attraction in spades. However, he’s been recently burned by an ex-girlfriend, so he’s sort of nervous about the whole thing. However, his feelings for Mac run deep, and he refuses to let her mother – or his ex – get in their way.
Most romance heroes wouldn’t be described as “awkward.” Or “nerdy,” or “professorial.” All of these could be used to describe Carter – and I loved it. He was such a sweet, caring, intelligent, slightly geeky man, who just lacked the smoothness and practiced seduction of so many heroes we see. He breaks the mold, and wonderfully so. People who like the aggressive alpha men may not feel quite so affectionate, but I loved his awkwardness and nervousness around Mac in the beginning – and his later unfailing support and love for her. Mac was a great character too, a sassy woman with a bit of bite whose only weakness is not saying “no” to her horrendous mother. Carter and Mac worked wonderfully well together, though I’m not usually crazy about the “my-parents-have-terrible-love-lives-so-I-will-too-and-thus-I’ll-doom-any-relationship-I’m-in” mentality, in which Mac is firmly stuck. What I can say is that it bugged me way less than most times this plot is used. The author makes it much more believable.
Roberts also did her usual great job in creating side characters, and the protagonists’ relationships with them (indeed, we’ll be with them for three more books, and I’m already excited to get to know the three other women better). The minor characters were strong, but maybe a bit too plentiful; it took me a long time to sort out who was who. There wasn’t a whole lot of set up to the story, so a lot of the details were a bit buried in passing dialogue and narration. Making the readers read more closely is a great thing, but things got a bit confusing when one character started talking about hooking up with someone I thought was her brother (thankfully, he wasn’t).
Though the story has no suspense element whatsoever and the plot is a relatively quiet one, it never dragged. My only problem with it is that she takes little time to introduce us to the wedding-planning world – or the acronyms and shortcuts that go along with it. I understand it’s tiresome to write (and read) mother of the bride, father of the bride, maid of honor, bride, groom, best man, over and over again, but MOB, MOH, B, G, BM(!), and the occasional SBP and CBBM were a bit overwhelming. Eventually, I just decided the minutiae of the planning process weren’t that important to the overall plot, and allowed my eyes to glaze a bit when we got a bit too in-depth with the MOH’s relationship with the CBBM and the B and G’s reactions to the SBP. It added authenticity, as every industry has its jargon and abbreviations, but the proliferation of letters made me feel like I had fallen into the alphabet soup of the Great Depression.
Something about the tone of the book felt comforting to me; it felt like a traditional contemporary romance, without any of the chick lit-y or self-consciously modern trappings of many newer contemporaries. Though the book dates itself in some ways (it begins at New Year’s Day, 2009), in others it felt a bit timeless and classic. Vision in White may not be quite DIK, but it comes pretty damn close.