RogerBW's Blog

Bed of Roses, Nora Roberts 21 August 2021

2009 romance. Emmaline Grant and three of her childhood friends run a wedding business, everything from engagement photos to the Big Day; she does the flowers and decoration. Jack Cooke is a family friend, and the architect working on the business's various expansions and extensions. They've known each other for years, but then all of a sudden…

Bits of this work very well. There's the competence porn of organising things so that the customers remember having had a wonderful day, however much trouble they cause – less than there was in the first book, though, and it's one of the things I'm reading the series for. There's a build-up from friends to lovers that seems sudden but makes sense given how well the principals already know each other. There's some foreshadowing which makes me pretty certain I can name the male leads for the last two books. There's background for both Emma and Jack that goes some way to explaining why they've fallen into the patterns of thought and behaviour that they have. All right, there's not much conflict, but things are bumping gently along towards the predictable conclusion…

Then, near the end, there's The Fight. I think it's meant to be portrayed as them both being tired and making mistakes, but it comes over as her deliberately rubbing him the wrong way, him being just a bit less than ideally prompt in his responses, and her putting the worst possible interpretation on everything and then refusing to listen when he tries to answer. I'm not saying real couples don't do that, of course… but (a) not couples I can believe in having a happily-ever-after a chapter or two later, indeed from the male viewpoint I might be moping but I suspect I'd eventually count myself well rid of someone who was so ready to flip in an instant from love to hatred, and (b) while I thought the scene itself was written to show them both messing up, the sympathy of secondary characters is entirely with her, admitting no possibility that she could have got anything wrong in any way. And of course he has to do the vast majority of the apologising.

It's a real shame. I mean, it's a romance, so of course there have to be obstructions in the course of True Love. I get it! And the primary audience for category romances is female… but surely female readers also accept that women can behave badly sometimes, and perhaps need to be told that they got it wrong (and so did the guy, obviously) rather than just having their egos stroked?

I've read much worse of course, but after the lovely first book – indeed, after the majority of this book – I was really expecting more than was delivered.

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  1. Posted by J Michael Cule at 11:44am on 21 August 2021

    "Competence porn": a phrase you could apply to lots of Kipling and most of military fiction (whether sf or not).

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 11:49am on 21 August 2021

    The term is absolutely not original to me.

    Though of course it can be done badly too; when it works well we see people doing their jobs well, rather than just being told "Bob is a great captain" or whatever.

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