Thursday, November 11, 2010

Romance & Oreos First Meeting: Happy Ever After

Welcome fellow romance novel and Oreo lovers. I'm so glad we've decided to form a book club to talk about our favorite things: romance novels served with a plate of Oreos and your choice of beverage. Our first book was the delightful Happy Ever After, book four in Nora Roberts' Bride Quartet. I've been eagerly anticipating this one, because I've loved the uptight, anal-retentive Parker in the previous three books and was looking forward to Parker Brown of the Connecticut Browns getting her Happy Ever After.

As with the first three books, I enjoyed spending time with the four life-long friends, their assortment of men and the lovely housekeeper Mrs. Grady. The Brown estate, the girls' home as well as home to the Vows wedding business the four women founded, is a comfy place to pull up a sofa and settle in for a cozy contemporary romance. As in the first three books, Nora gives us a detailed behind-the-scenes look at the wedding business and all the accompanying issues the wedding planner and her friends—the photographer, florist and cake maker—encounter. I'd also been eagerly awaiting Parker's romance with bad-boy-with-a-good-heart Malcolm Kavanaugh, who we met in earlier books.

What I Loved
Seeing Parker tricked out on a Harley was fun. Watching her encounter something she couldn't seem to control—her growing feelings for Mal—was engaging, right down to her rapport with his mother and her attempts to get him to reveal more of himself to her. She wants real intimacy, she says at one point, and until he's prepared to tell her about his difficult past, she worries that they won't get there. Watching them figure out their relationship as the ladies prepare for the first of their own weddings made for a couple of late nights reading.

I love the tradition of each friend having her moment with the perfect wedding dress Parker finds for them. And the moment at the end when the girls surprise Parker with her perfect wedding dress was also memorable.

Left Wanting
Upon reflecting on the book and the series, there were a few things I would've liked to have seen included. For one, I realllllly wish Mac's mother Linda had done something at Mac's wedding to force Parker and Kay Kavanaugh to have to work together to get her out of there. I also thought it was odd that after Parker went to the trouble to bring Mac's dad in for the wedding, we never got to see him face off with the unpleasant Linda. That would've been cool.

I would've liked to have known more about what happened to the Brown parents (maybe I missed that somewhere...) But I was waiting for the scene where Parker bares her soul to Mal about losing her parents and what happened that day. I would've liked to have heard about that from her point-of-view.

I would've liked a moment alone with the previous three couples in book four, just to see them in their happy ever afters.

Those are my thoughts. What did you think? I'll pop in and out during the day to share a few of my favorite lines. Have fun and remember, be kind to my fellow author, even if she is the No. 1 bestselling author in the world. :-) To get the discussion started, tell me, are you Mac, an Emma, a Laurel or a Parker?

On the Buffet Table
Now, if I was having ya'll over for book club, here's what we'd have:
Some Oreos (of course), wine (of course), a number of alternative beverages...

Two of my favorite appetizers:

Artichoke Dip
2 cans artichoke hearts, sliced and diced
1 cup (or more) of mayo
3 cloves of minced garlic
Mix all that, sprinkle grated cheese on top and bake at 400 for about 20 minutes. I usually serve that with Triscuits

Buffalo Chicken Dip
1 lb cooked chicken
1 small bottle of blue cheese salad dressing
2 TBS of buffalo sauce
1/2 pkg of shredded cheddar cheese
(some people also add cream cheese to this, but I like it without)
Heat at 350 for about 20 minutes and serve with Scoops



Marie Force said...

I will start the party by saying I am a Parker with a bit of Mac thrown in. I love my BlackBerry (LOVE LOVE LOVE) and I have been known to sleep with it.... On occasion... I aspire to be as ruthlessly organized as Parker is but I'm a long way from achieving that goal.

Melanie said...

Would have to say definitely not an Emma, could see a touch of Mac and have to admit I have the sarcasm of Laurel but most like Parker. I have to admit OCD with the schedule and organization, been like that my whole life, I have had to learn how to just let things go and not stress about it so much which is not an easy thing to do.
Not quite done with HEA yet, about half way through, but I am loving it.

oklanannie said...

Thanks for hosting the "HEA" book club meeting, Marie! Like Parker, I'm an organizer, everything has its place, a bit of a control freak and yet, I see a bit of Mac in me, too. This probably has more to do with the personal family issues.

Wow, the reviews I've read seem to be all over the place on the 4th book in the series. For me, each of the books appeased my delight in a relaxing, comfortable and easy read on a romantic subject. Being the romantic suspense lover that I am, I need something totally different once in awhile.

The characters were different enough from each other that I enjoyed the interchanges and banter amongst them all. Yes, the stories were predictable, the formula remained the same throughout the series but still fun and delightful reads.

My disappointment in "Happily Ever After" stems from the fact that I, too, would have enjoyed a moment alone with the other couples for more a "Quartet" finale. A nice Epilogue would have thrilled me giving a peek at each of the couples a year later maybe?? There were lots of holes left unfilled for me in Parker and Mal's story. I didn't find Mal to be all that bad of a "bad boy." And Marie, I agree!! Give me a face off between Mac's parents -- some fireworks would have been fab! And what's up with picking Parker's wedding dress the day after Mac's wedding???? Aren't there honeymoons anymore???

All in all, fun and enjoyable. I'm glad I read them all. And the beautiful covers alone place them upon my keeper shelves.

Marie Force said...

Hey Melanie,
Thanks for stopping by to join the Book Club. Great to have you here! Glad you're enjoying HEA. It's a really fun read!

Hi Annie,
I agree with all your thoughts on the book(s) and I was so hoping for more with our three earlier couples, but all in all a very fun and relaxing series. You could tell from reading it that Nora had fun writing the books and doing the wedding research!

Okay so here's another question: which of the four guys: Carter, Jack, Delaney or Malcolm, would you not kick out of bed and why? I'll let you guys weigh in and then I'll tell you which one(s) did it for me!

Hope said...

**hanging my head in shame** I have yet to read this series. It is on my TBP list, but that list is extremely long and it gets passed over when a new military hero makes a debut. ::sigh::

I just wanted to stop in an support Marie and Mr. Oreo, and see what was chosen for next weeks topic. Have a wonderful day everyone. :)

Marie Force said...

Thanks for coming by, Hope! I know you'll love the series when you get around to reading it. You can always pop back over when you're ready to chat about it.

Glad you asked about next week: Simply Irresistible by Jill Shalvis, and Jill will be stopping by to join in the fun so be sure to check out this wonderfully engaging book and join us next Thursday for book club! I'm reading the book now and I love it!

oklanannie said...

Jack and Del were my favs. But I wouldn't kick any of them to the curb -- "beggars" can't be too choosey!! LOL!!

Jack was my favorite, although I'm a sucker for a good lawyer (is there such a thing??) Too many years working in the legal system. It's an addiction.

Marie Force said...

I really liked all the guys, Annie. I will hold off on saying any more to let others weigh in...

oklanannie said...

P.S. Just read the news that "Simply Irresistible" is up next with a visit by Jill Shalvis. That sounds like so much fun and I LOVED this book. Such quick witty banter and wonderful characters. I laughed out loud and smiled ear to ear reading this one.

Marie Force said...

I am reallllly enjoying it, Annie! I think the other book clubbers will too!

Hope said...

I loved Simply Irresistible...I can't wait for the next. Good choice Marie.

Marie Force said...

Next week was Kris Gilson's choice--she will be co-hostessing with me but she doesn't know that. I made that decision for her while she was on a cruise ship. Tee hee! That's what she gets! :-)

Jackie P said...

I love this idea. Though I haven't had a chance to read HEA. I will be sure to be armed and ready for next weeks discussion.

Ronlyn said...

I'm here to talk about the food! *plopping the bottle of wine I bought onto the table and waving to Dan (who I know is really OOT) to open it.*

You've got 2 dips listed Marie (I'm giggling to myself as I write that), but what are we dipping??

Mary G said...

Hi All
Don't know why I haven't read these yet. Maybe the trade size price tag? I love Nora's writing, one of the few authors to have written a romance with tennis as the backdrop.LOL

I went to Nora's site & I checked out the excerpts for these & of course I'm hooked. Who should I send the book store bill to?

I love series & I love when the the earlier couples are in the later books & there is a natural catching up with all the characters

One of Marie's Force.

Aly said...

Hmmmm...can I be a mix of all four? B/c I really am! :)

I really, really, really LOVED Vision in White. Mac & Carter spoke to me. I loved their chemistry and so many scenes in that book just struck me as perfect.

Then as the books went on, I seemed to love them less and less. Don't get me wrong, they are still great reads but just never seemed to live up to the warm fuzzies I got from Mac & Carter.

HEA is a good book. And Marie, I agree with all your loves and left wantings. The picking out of the dress was a really fabulous thing.

And I was also left feeling unfulfilled with the lack of insight into Parker's past. I wanted this really big heart wrenching scene but I just don't feel like I got it.

Again, all in all it was a good book but it certainly didn't hit me like Vision in White did!

Kara C said...

As you know, I have not read this book, but have obediently added it to my TBR list. Of course, I'll have to start at the very beginning of the series (really, is there another place to start), so I have chosen NOT to read posts about the books.

Will definitely have Jill's book read before next Thursday. Had it out to read a couple of weeks ago, and life kept getting in the way!

@Ronlyn - Oreos and wine? I like the way you think. ;)

Ronlyn said...

OK, I'll bring black and white strawberries to add to the oreos and wine. ;-)

Ronlyn said...

6 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
3 ounces white chocolate, chopped
1 pound strawberries with stems (about 20), washed and dried very well
Put the semisweet and white chocolates into 2 separate heatproof medium bowls. Fill 2 medium saucepans with a couple inches of water and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Turn off the heat; set the bowls of chocolate over the water to melt. Stir until smooth. (Alternatively, melt the chocolates in a microwave at half power, for 1 minute, stir and then heat for another minute or until melted.)

Once the chocolates are melted and smooth, remove from the heat. Line a sheet pan with parchment or waxed paper. Holding the strawberry by the stem, dip the fruit into the dark chocolate, lift and twist slightly, letting any excess chocolate fall back into the bowl. Set strawberries on the parchment paper. Repeat with the rest of the strawberries. Dip a fork in the white chocolate and drizzle the white chocolate over the dipped strawberries.

Set the strawberries aside until the chocolate sets, about 30 minutes.

Marie Force said...

Jackie, I look forward to your thoughts on Simply Irresistible! Such a fun book!

Ronlyn, you know I'd be turning to Dan to open all the wine for me before the meeting. I am useless with a corkscrew! And LOL on the dips! No DIPS here, just dips... Of course we're really dipping OREOS in cold milk! Yummy....

Mary G, you would LOVE these books. They are right up your alley! I know the trade is a little pricey, but you can probably get them more reasonably at WalMart or Target... Do you have them in Canada?

Aly, I agree with you about Mac and Carter's book and the wow factor. I really loved that one, too. I liked Carter and Malcolm the best. I thought they were the most well developed of the guys. Carter was just adorable and Mal was so yummy. I loved the way he would just GRAB Parker and devour her. If he hadn't done that, it would've taken a year for him to get her attention. Loved it.

Kara, LOL, fingers in ears LALALALALA! Yes, start with Vision in White and go from there. You will love them. And the best thing about this discussion is if we all subscribe to the comments you can pop in any time and restart the conversation!

Ronlyn, I am droooooling. LOVE strawberries dipped in chocolate. That should be a food group all on its own!

Aly said...

@Marie -- So if you feel that way about strawberries, I am guessing you would really hate me for telling you that I make chocolate covered Oreos ;)

Marie Force said...

New question for the group: In reading about the various details about planning a wedding, what did you find most interesting? The perspective of the photographer, the florist, the cake baker or the wedding planner? I don't know about you, but I learned a lot about the behind-the-scenes that I found really interesting. What area did you most relate to?

Mary G said...

Trade size never stops me. It's just 4 at once this time. They'll probably sell them as a set soon.

I'm not artistic or organized. I am none of these girls. Can you please write a book about a tennis player who loves to read and talk to her book buddies on-line?

Marie Force said...

Did someone say chocolate-covered Oreos? I need a moment alone....

Mary G said...

And she has a maid to clean & a chauffeur so she can read in the car.

Marie Force said...

Mary G, I'll see what I can do for you!!!

oklanannie said...

Marie - the chocolate dipped oreos are SINFUL - and oh soooo delish! And buy two boxes when you find them -- they seem to vanish quickly!!

Mary G -- I love the annointing of Marie's "Force"! Also, great suggestion on Marie writing a "tennis" related romance!

Kara - as a sufferer of MBRIOS (must be read in order syndrome), this "Quartet" definitely should be read in the order written!

I like to dip the extra huge strawberries with stems so that one side is white chocolate and the other is dark chocolate. Love strawberry season!!

Mary G said...

LOL Anne
RE: Marie's Force - Can you tell I'm a big Star Wars fan?

oklanannie said...

Me, too. Mary -- and it's a good thing b/c I endure almost a daily light sabre battle with my young grandson who is always Luke and I'm always ordained the bad guy (I have rebelled against being Venturess (sp), that evil bald woman!!).

May the "Force" be with us all!

rin said...

I am definitely a Laurel and enjoyed her book immensely. I too was left yearning for more information and wrap up with the previous 3 couples. In each book of the series (starting with book 2) we are able to reconnect with the previous couples by virtue of their relationship with the new protagonists. I would have loved an epilogue that either a) recapped the other characters weddings, and/or b) showed them all together 5/10 years later. To have invested so much in each couple and looked forward to their weddings and happy ever after, and be left wanting was disappointing. Since this was a final book in a series, perhaps the length could have been extended to devote time towards the other characters. Lastly, I would have liked more conflict between Parker and Mac, I was expecting more blow ups and fireworks between these two and felt that their relationship was almost *gasp* tame. I still loved the book and will re-read again (mac's book is my go to pick me up), but really felt that something was missing with this last book more so than any of the others which is sad as I adored this series.

Marie, thank you soooo much for having this book club. I have wanted for some time to have a place where I could discuss with like minded people/readers their thoughts and feelings about the books I have read, and this book is a great example where having such a platform can be very beneficial.

Ronlyn said...

Didn't they used to sell fudge dipped oreos? I could use one (package) of those about now. ;-)

oklanannie said...

Ronlyn, yes they did. I find them hard to locate during the year but during holiday season you can find them dipped in chocolate or white fudge. They are sooooo good!

Judy F said...

I haven't read the books nor the comments here. Some day I will get to these books.

Have fun ladies.
Gotta go pay some bills

craisieone said...

I am Emma - an incurable romantic. With a bit of Laurel thrown in. Flowers are gorgeous to look at and smell, but food? O my! Am only a quarter way thru the book so want to do some catching up before posting more. Will say that Malcolm is the perfect match for Parker. Can't wait to see how their relationship goes. Of course we know there is a happy ever after. : )

Kara C said...

I'm BACK! Had to let the group know I have obtained copies of the first two books in the series!!!
And, although I'm still not reading the posts, MBRIOS stuck out. Would that be pronounced like 'embryos'? ;)

Marie Force said...

Thank you for your insightful input! I love that you're a Laurel. She was an awesome character. I agree about more fireworks between Parker and Mal. That would've been fun, but not a deal breaker for me (or you I suspect). It was a fun story all the way through. I'm really glad you like the idea of the book club and look forward to your input next week on Simply Irresistible!

Judy, thanks for coming by to say hi. It wouldn't be the same here without you!

Ronlyn and Annie, cut it out with the fudge-dipped Oreos. Mr. Oreo says he doesn't swing that way. Now I find out that on top of being the ultimate seducer, he lies, too? Hrumph!

Crasieone, looooove that you're an Emma! Every group needs an Emma, especially one that includes romance writers and readers! :-) I have loved Malcolm for Parker from the minute he arrived on the scene. Perfect match! Look forward to hearing more from you when you finish the book!

Okay, ladies, so which guy was your favorite and what part of the wedding planning did you most enjoy? This is a book club! There has to be questions! LOL

Marie Force said...

Can we please PLEASE talk about the boys??? I like boys. I know you like boys, too.... Soooo, let's talk about boys!

Carter: loved his dorkishness and sweetness and the way he became a part of their group so effortlessly. I loved the way he gave Mac a touch stone that she'd never had before.

Jack: since I too have written about an architect named Jack (who I hope you'll all be able to meet someday), I liked Nora's Jack a lot. He was the kind of guy you wanted for a friend, and it didn't hurt that he was hot, too!

Del: LOVED Del, big brother to all, protector, Alpha to the max. The lawyerly swagger... He definitely did it for me!

Mal: Oh, Mal, my favorite.... Damaged, wounded Mal. Loved him, loved his rapport with Mrs. G and his mom. I loved the way he got a tutor for the boy who worked for him. Loved the way he reached out for Parker and finally shared himself with her. Loved Mal.

Who was your favorite?

Aly said...

Although I loved Carter, I really loved Jack! Yes, I know that he was a complete ass at the end but I could see why and then his heartbreak broke my heart too! :::sigh::: Jack!

Marie Force said...

Remind me of what happened with Jack... OMG, I am drawing a total blank! LOL

Aly said...

Emma gets the key to his place and sets up some plants and is making dinner. He comes home from a really bad day and things do not go well at all :) Ring a bell?

Marie Force said...

Ah yes yes! Can't remember why, though. OMG, I am losing it! I guess it was inevitable! LOL

windwarning said...

I loved this series, it is one of my favorites. I probably am most like Mac, but I would probably go for Carter. I do like those cute geeks. (glancing over shoulder at dh my own personal geek squad) I really wish we could have seen all of them get married. That was the big bummer for me.

cculp said...

Ok, so I read this series and loved it, but I have to agree that there were holes in this story. I was also left wanting more. I wanted to get a glimpse of the others weddings b/c that is what the whole series has been about. I would say that I am a mixture of all of them but my favorite was probably Mac's story. I loved her the best. One thing that really bugged me after I noticed it was the part of the cover where her hand is holding the flowers. It is weird looking. I know it's stupid but it really bothered me. The cover's have all been so beautiful and this just disappointed me for some reason. I have already read the next book, so bring it on!!!!! Thanks for doing this Marie!!

Marie Force said...

Windwarning *love your handle*
You know, I can definitely see why we all wanted to see the four weddings, but from the author-ly side of the house, I wonder if she was thinking that maybe we'd seen enough weddings and there was no way to do three more weddings and keep them all unique and different from what she'd already done during the series. Anyway, that was my thought. Not sure if y'all agree! Feel free to disagree! :-)

I love that you have your own personal geek squad. Good for you! You got a Carter! Welcome to the Book Club! Hope you'll come back again next week!

Marie Force said...

Hi Cculp!
Funny about the cover. The darndest things can bug us as readers, right? Glad to have a Mac here with us at Book Club!! Look forward to having you back next week!

Sabrina said...

I love pretty much everything about this series.
Especially the friendship between the four woman is one of my highlights.
I also enjoyed that the four woman and their man all work hard in jobs that brings them joy. And yes, they are tired after a long day but still love what they do.

It's hard to pick favourites because every one of the four books is so great. I really like Laurel's sarcasm, also Parker's need to organize everything, Emma's charisma and Mac's joy for little things.
And don't get me started to praise the men. What I especially like about them is that they support their women and appreciate that their business is important to them.

I also like that there were also homosexual weddings.
I could go on and on because the bride quartet just makes me happy.

Marie Force said...

I love what you said about the books just making you happy. I think that was my favorite part, too. The friendship and the wedding and the setting... The books create a really nice happy place! And good point about the homosexual weddings. I agree that was an important addition to the Vows business and was also glad to see that theme included. I too loved the way the guys pitched in and helped with the weddings. Made it feel like a real family operation! Thanks for coming by the book club. Hope you'll be a regular!

patsy said...

I totally agree with you on the fourth book. It was a good book from the beginning to the end of it.

But I felt she left too many questions at the end of the book.

I think that we got cheated out reading about the other three weddings of the girls.

I think that Mrs. Grady should have little bit of romance too.

I personally won't kick any of them out of my bed. There all different in how they make love to there ladies.