I just finished Harlow Giles Unger's biography of James Monroe entitled The Last Founding Father: James Monroe and a Nation's Call to Greatness.
Throughout the book, one senses that Unger may be Monroe's biggest fan. Early on in the prologue, he describes Adams, Jefferson and Madison as 'mere caretakers,' while attributing Monroe with leading nation's ascendence to greatness. Other passages conjure up images of Monroe thrusting a whimpering Madison aside while he, with cape billowing, single-handedly saves the nation from the British. There isn't any real criticism of Monroe throughout the whole book.
Despite the obvious pro-Madison bias and maybe because of it (enthusiasm being contagious and all that), the book was enjoyable to read. Having little knowledge of this time period, I have no reason NOT to believe that Monroe's presidency ushered in and was the source of the Era of Good Feelings. I'll conclude, along with the author, that Monroe was a visionary leader with a knack for making and maintaining the right kind of friendships and who acted with bravery all through his career. And, of course, he married well as the great ones generally do.
I may be victim to Unger's prejudices, but I'm going to claim Monroe as one of my favorite presidents--maybe even top five.