Nora Roberts has once again ruined me for all men.
In "Vision in White," the first of four books about a quartet of best friends who run a successful wedding business together, Roberts sets up photographer Mackensie "Mac" Elliot with the elusive, legendary perfect man. Carter Maguire, PhD, is a beloved English teacher at the high school where he was once deemed a nerd and virtually ignored by his peers, including Mac.
Carter is smart (he has a PhD from Yale). He's compassionate (he has a three-legged cat called "Triad," whom Carter nursed back to health after being run over by a car). He is close to his family (every Sunday, he has dinner at his parents' house with his two sisters, their significant others and kids). He's no pretentious snob (he reads popular fiction along with the supposed literary classics — refreshing).
Most importantly, Carter is flawed, but in the most endearing of ways. He's shy and unsure of how to woo the woman of his dreams. After years of harboring a crush on Mac finally gets up the courage to ask her out for coffee, but frets he's made the wrong move. On subsequent dates, he agonizes about every detail to ensure it goes off well. He agonizes over the choice of restaurants and the bouquet of flowers. When he invites her over for dinner, he does a dress rehearsal in the days before to make sure he can cook everything correctly and on time. He even works from lists.
Simply put, Carter is absolutely, disgustingly, fabulously wonderful. Oh boy, I'm in trouble.
Too often in romantic stories the male heartthrob is a jerk, who doesn't know how to cope with his feelings. He (inadvertently) hurts the heroine, and must come to grips with the fact that he is a douche bag. Or, if he isn't a complete dick and recognizes and embraces his true feelings for the heroine early on, he maneuvers her to reach the point where she admits her feelings. That's not Carter.
Although Mac is ultimately the one who must overcome her hidden demons, Carter doesn't force her to do it any faster than she is able to on her own. He's waited to be with her for more than 10 years, but he's willing to put in the time to let her realize she loves him as much as he does her.
Carter also makes a move that left me breathless when I read it (and admittedly re-read, over and over):
He wanted more than a rational man could.Never in my mind could I come up with a gesture so tender or romantic. It sure got my blood pumping.
He stepped back, contenting himself with a brush of his thumb over her bottom lip. (p. 119)
In addition to raising my standards in men, Roberts' "Vision in White" provided a delightful story about the strong lifelong connection between four women. Mac, Emma, Laurel and Parker take their childhood pastime of throwing pretend weddings in Parker's backyard and turn it into a business. Each brings their strengths to play as a photographer, baker, florist and planner.
On top of being successful business parters, the women are first and foremost friends. Whether that includes taking a much needed girl's night in a New York City club, or discussing one of their problems over coffee.
I'd heard a lot of praise about this quartet before I decided to give it a read. If the first book is any indication, this series won't disappoint. I'd expect no less from a perfectionist like Roberts.
With book four in the series set to come out in November, I think I'll try to take my time reading the next two so I don't agonize about its arrival beforehand.
Rating: 5 of 5