It’s time for the third installment of my Nora Roberts Challenge. Due to the pandemic, I knew I would have some extra time this month, so I’m going to be honest with you – I used that time to power through a bunch of the books I knew (or thought) weren’t my favorites. I wanted to read them anyway, just to make sure I was right, and it was a good choice, since some of them I hadn’t read, but you can still exist a chunk of duds on this list. That said, we also have some real winners, so let’s go!
- Irish Thoroughbred
- Irish Rose
- Irish Rebel
This trilogy is the first thing Nora Roberts ever released. With that in mind, I went into the books with a different eye, even though I’ve read them before. Granted, the characters were a bit less complex than her more recent novels, but these are good books, particularly of the “beach read” variety. I think the first was the best, that the characters were just a bit more rounded than the others, but all in all, these books starting her career is a tribute to just how talented of a writer she has always been.
- Night Shift
- Night Shadow
- Night Shade
- Night Smoke
- Night Shield
I’d read some of this series before, but not all of it apparently. It’s really quite good. The books all center around night people, and the main characters are intertwined between books very well. The second book is basically just Batman under a different name. My favorite was the fifth book by a tiny bit – I just really enjoyed the characters, the storyline – it all fit together really well. This is a great series to read during this pandemic if you want a nice escape.
- Key of Light
- Key of Knowledge
- Key of Valor
I ended up knocking out this trilogy in just over 24 hours. It’s really good and I had forgotten just how much I like it. The characters are well-developed, the storyline is interesting (although predictable – that’s what happens when you get happy endings!), and it has what I think may be the best dog in a Nora Roberts book (I can only think of one other contender for that title). The third was my favorite – I have a thing for the kids in Roberts’ writing, I just think she writes them particularly well, and on top of that, the character development was so deeply explored by that point, that I was really invested.
- Second Nature
- One Summer
This duo was mediocre. Neither book was bad, although the male lead in Second Nature was a manipulative a** for most of the book – he had reasons, but most of them were that he felt like it. Anyway, neither book was bad, but neither one was great. Honestly, if you want to see how Nora Roberts has grown as a writer, these fit into her progression nicely – richer storyline than some of her earliest works, but still not the exceptional character development I expect from her – but if you’re just trying her out as an author or looking for a book to escape into, avoid these – they’re just not worth it.
I thought I’d read this before, but I hadn’t, so that was a surprise. Another surprise was the attention to detail Nora Roberts brings to her books. See, I write for a few businesses, one of whom is in a tiny, tiny town in Utah, a town no one has heard of, a town with basically no distinguishing features – except for this one particular statue. So imagine my surprise when the statue, and the town, is mentioned in the second book! As soon as I read it, I just laughed because Roberts could have used a made-up town, or any town that’s bigger, because every town is bigger, but no she dug up this one tiny town with its one defining mark. That kind of attention to detail is how you know someone’s a good writer.
The fourth book was Nora Roberts’ foray into vampires and werewolves, a literary trend I’ve never particularly enjoyed. While she did better than most, I just can’t get all the way onboard with that – witches, warlocks, and selkies are my limit, I guess.
Anyway, the series was good. It’s certainly worth a read at some point, although I could name six other books by her off the top of my head that should rank higher on the list. This is one of her lighter trilogies, so if you’re looking for a book for your beach bag this year, this might be a perfect fit!
- The Last Honest Woman
- Dance To The Piper
- Skin Deep
- Without A Trace
These four books are pretty good – and quite varied. The first two are more straight up romances, while the second two incorporate mysteries and more drama into the plot – needless to say, I prefer the second two! There’s nothing particularly unexpected about them, but they’re solid, comfortable novels that you’ll enjoy, even without any major plot twists. The first one (The Last Honest Woman) drives home for me how much I enjoy how Roberts writes child characters – she has a knack for giving them a lot of depth, and oftentimes they are my favorite characters.
- The Witching Hour
- Winter Rose
- A World Apart
If you like fantasy novels, you may very well love this trilogy. I don’t. I simply can’t get absorbed in fantastical books, and there are very, very few exceptions to that. Witches in modern-day California? I can adjust to that reality, but mystical lands and gods and demons? It’s just not in my wheelhouse.
That said, Nora Roberts is still a very talented writer, and I did make it through the trilogy, which is more than other authors could convince me to do. Basically, these are fairy tales for adults – the pretty princess gets rescued from her tower after the dragon is slain.
I’ve read this before – it’s never been one of my favorites. It has all the elements – romance, murder, drama – it just is missing something. This isn’t to say it’s a bad book, but it’s basically the written form of Fool’s Gold, that movie with Kate Hudson. The book follows two people who don’t get along after some past drama as they go after sunken treasure while trying to dodge those who would do anything to get it. Unfortunately, the main characters are…whiny and annoying to me, and my favorite character just doesn’t get enough focus.
This book is set in New Orleans, centered around two magicians, and…I’m sorry, but the book has this amazing backdrop and Roberts doesn’t even use it!? She gives you characters who seem to be strong and independent but fall into the same trap as everyone else? It might be the writer in me on this one, and I would never claim to be a better writer than Nora Roberts, but she kind of dropped the ball on this.
If Nora Roberts’ must-read books are grade A, Blue Smoke is a B or B+. It’s a good book, and by 60% through, you’ll be on the edge of your seat, but it takes some time to get started. Granted, that time is necessary to build a layered backstory but this isn’t a light read that you’ll immediately be engrossed in. And by the time you are riveted, it’s time for bed, and you won’t want to stop, so account for that. This is another book that’s a Lifetime movie, but I did not watch it this time because – well, if Montana Sky was so bad, I just can’t imagine they managed to cram this novel into an hour and a half long movie.
Remember back when there was a whole bunch of Hollywood drama because Leann Rimes and Eddie Cibrian had an affair? They’ve been together now for 11 years, but regardless, the movie they were working in at the time was the adaptation of Northern Lights. I didn’t rewatch it, because if I remember correctly, I hated it the first time around. That said, the book is very good, but very internal. One main character is dark and fiercely independent, the other might be insane. On top of that, it takes place in an extreme setting where it’s dark for 6 months of the year and the cold is enough to freeze you to death – literally.
Using Alaska as the backdrop was a really good choice – I don’t think the same tension would be so entwined with the plot in Los Angeles or Houston. The extreme weather, the tundra, the winds, and the small-town protect-your-own vibes all combine for quite an overlying mood. This isn’t one of my favorites, but it is a really good book. Probably best to save it for winter – curl up with a hot drink and a cozy sweater, and enjoy this thriller.
I knew I loved this book, and it is just as good as it was the first time I read it. I absolutely adore the main character – the development there is deep and realistic. She has strengths and flaws, but her motives always make sense, so you can see she’s going to make a bad choice, but you kind of agree with her anyway. I also like that it takes place in two “glamorous” or “exotic” locations, but flips them on their head to be seedy and dark, instead of bright lights and sparkly fashion.
The whole book, you’ll be cheering Adrianne on. Move this to the top of your reading list, because it is still one of my favorites and it will be yours, too.
This book was really good! It definitely was a bit different from the standard Nora Roberts path – the girl was a little flightier and looser, the romance was cute, the mystery had some major twists. It’s an excellent example of her skill, and something you should only pick up when you can read it cover to cover because good luck putting it down again! I like that she often gives her characters unconventional careers – how many books have you read about a house-sitter? I think she wove in a variety of unexpected elements to what should have been an expected story to create a work of art.
OK, I averaged a book a day this month, which I’m satisfied with it. I’ve completed a number of books that I know I don’t love. That means we’re getting into the good stuff! I might tackle two of the larger series next month, since I expect I’ll still have some extra time. I’m warmed up so hopefully I can maintain my numbers heading into summer, because I’m alotting myseelf only two months to get through the full In Death series – 69 books, two of which, off the top of my head, are paired with other novels of hers, or with other authors. That is a lot of reading! Have you been reading any of her books lately? Any you are particularly curious to know about?