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Nora Roberts Challenge – Month 5

Another month down. I kept up my momentum for the most part, and tried to balance out my list – I was reading a lot of Nora Roberts books from the 90s on, and neglecting the 80s. At this point, I have completely 1981, as well as 1991 through 1993.

Carnal Innocence

(1991)

i read this novel once years ago, I guess, because I guessed who the murderer was – if I hadn’t read it, I would not have known until the person was revealed. The book was very good, with well-developed characters, plenty of drama, and an excellent insight into small Southern towns. I’ll be honest – while Caroline, the female lead, and Tucker, the male lead, were well-written, my favorite character was crazy Aunt Lulu. She’s hysterical and despite having the least page time of anyone in the book, she makes the biggest impression. Anyway, the book follows the town of Innocence, Mississippi as a killer brutally murders women and leaves their body in the ponds just outside of town. Caroline Waverly, a world-class violin player, has just arrived in town to take a break from touring and is quickly absorbed into a life where racism, sexism, and gossip drive community relations, as she tries to find herself, build a relationship with the town’s lazy rich boy, and she finds herself just as concerned as her new friends about who is killing people.

Black Hills

(2009)

This was a new book for me and it was pretty good – maybe 7 out of 10, I’d say. Lil runs a wildlife refuge in South Dakota and has to deal with the reappearance of her ex-boyfriend/one true love at the same time that a crazed faux-Native American serial killer is stalking her and killing for fun. I don’t like reading about animals dying, and there is some of that in the book, although it all really adds to the story. The characters, even side characters and minor characters, are well-developed enough that you’re rooting for them throughout, which is great to see – I’ve read so many books where I just don’t care about any characters. Good read, totally worth it if you’re looking for a new book.

Blithe Images

(1982)

Ok, let’s talk about the good first. The book was short. I managed to knock it out in less than an hour, a fact for which I am grateful. This had to be the worst Nora Roberts book I’ve read yet. The writing was mediocre, not great but not terrible. The characters were fairly undeveloped, but that’s pretty typical of Harlequin-style romance novels, which this is. So, already this wasn’t going to be a favorite. But then, the sexism started. This book was so…infuriating, because Roberts normally writes multidimensional, interesting, strong female characters. Instead, the female lead was a model (which I don’t have a problem with) because she felt the only talent she had was a pretty face (which I do have a problem with). When she turns him down for sex, he calls her a tease, then when he finds out she’s a virgin, he mocks her. The female characters were the only ones who cooked or cleaned – because the men were “incapable”. The male lead spent the whole book playing two women against each other – I don’t care how she tried to explain it away at the end. Honestly, this book is one that perpetuates all of the worst gender stereotypes as if they are things to accept. I hated it.

A Matter Of Choice

(1984)

A Matter Of Choice - Nora Roberts

Cop story meets romance, in Nora Roberts’ early writing style. The story is fine, light enough to be a quick beach read, but in no way spectacular. I really just don’t have a lot to say on this book,because there wasn’t a lot there. I do think this is probably when Roberts began shifting away from Harlequin towards her more popular mysteries with a second storyline of romance, but she certainly hadn’t found her groove yet.

Birthright

(2004)

Birthright - Nora Roberts

This book started with a lot of promise – murders connected to an archaelogy dig, a missing child case, and of course, the romance – but it fell flat. I’m not entirely sure where it went wrong, but it just didn’t hold my interest. The suspense her stories normally create was lacking and the characters never really became fully fleshed out. There’s much better options out there.

The Art Of Deception

(1986)

The Art Of Deception - Nora Roberts

This book was really quite funny. The ending fell a bit flat for me, but the journey to get there was worth it anyway. Each character was just that – a character. The pages are jammed full of big personalities, right down to the cat, and there’s only about one sane person in the novel. This book may never be the Great American Novel, but beach season is upon us, and this is a great, light read.

Private Scandals

(1993)

Oy vey! This book was boring. That’s really all there is to it. Roberts spent so much time at years of backstory that she shoved the actual mystery into about 1/4 of the book, and most of the backstory didn’t actually even matter! Add to that, a really pat ending and…no. This is absolutely not worth the read. Which sucks, because the MC was kind of awesome and deserved better.

The Villa

(2001)

The Villa has always been a favored Nora Roberts book for me, and it still is, although I’ve read it so many times that I basically have it completely memorized. It’s a good book with a solid mystery. You have some strong growth with some of the characters – I particularly liked Pilar’s character arc. The setting of the vineyards is a beautiful, romantic contrast to the grittiness of so much of the storyline, as well. If you read this, make sure you have a glass of wine available – it really sets the mood!

River’s End

(1999)

Another favorite of mine! This one drags at times, but all in all, it’s an interesting story – more about the growth of the characters than the murder. You really feel for Livvy, who after a rough childhood, has to navigate a world that loves to invade her privacy at every opportunity. It’s absolutely worth picking up, just brace yourself for the slow parts.

Opposites Attract

(1985)

Opposites Attract - Nora Roberts

This book was good. It’s a romance, so I knew at the end, the guy would get the girl, but I didn’t entirely guess how they were going to get there. It was a fun read, not spectacular, but certainly better than others. For a beach read, grab it, but if you can handle something a touch weightier, there are better options. I will say, I liked the tennis aspect – Roberts used the tennis matches to accentuate emotions throughout the plot, and it was a unique technique.

Divine Evil

(1992)

Divine Evil - Nora Roberts

This book is pretty dark, particularly for the point of her career when Nora Roberts wrote it. That said, it’s also excellent. The mystery is dark, and you only get pieces of whodunnit as the novel progresses. There’s enough twists and turns to keep you riveted, and by the time she wraps it up, your thoughts of who is good, who is evil, and who is misguided will be upside down. One thing I didn’t love is in so many Rbberts books, the setting plays a pretty important role in the plot, and in this, it just doesn’t. Also, there were a few characters that I feel like could’ve been used better, deserved more, but all in all, it’s important to remember that this book was still pretty early into Roberts’ shift towards mysteries, so I think she just hadn’t fine-tuned that aspect yet.

Genuine Lies

(1991)

Genuine Lies - Nora Roberts

This was a really excellent book. Looking at Nora Roberts’ full, chronological book list, I feel like this book marks the point where she really shifted into mysteries and dramas – there were still some romances, but this was followed by Carnal Innocence, Divine Evil, Private Scandals, and was only a few years before the start of the In Death series. Anyway, there was drama, intrigue, and more, all crammed into one novel. Whodunnit will remain a mystery until the last pages, because well, everybody wants to do it. It was riveting and I absolutely adored it. If you haven’t read this yet, grab it.

Hot Ice

(1987)

Hot Ice - Nora Roberts

I hadn’t read this one before but it was really good. I knocked it out in one evening because I was so absorbed in the story. There were definitely points that could have been fine-tuned a bit more, but the plot was thrilling, and the characters were developed enough to feel real. This is another one worth picking up, if you’re looking for something good to read!

Sacred Sins

(1987)

Sacred Sins - Nora Roberts

This book was fine. It wasn’t impressive, it wasn’t terrible. Honestly, I think one of the B storylines ended up overshadowing the main storyline for me – I just ended up being so interested in one of the patients of the psychiatrist main character that I wanted more of that over the murderer. I’m writing this before I reread the sequel, but if I remember correctly, I also liked the male lead of the sequel more than I liked the male lead of this one, which skews my opinion. I guess this just boils down to the characters you’re interested in. The male lead in this was a bit more sexist, a bit more hot headed, and the murderer didn’t hold my interest quite enough.

Brazen Virtue

(1988)

Brazen Virtue - Nora Roberts

This is the sequel to Sacred Sins. Again, the main storyline didn’t really hold my interest but I did prefer the characters compared to the first one. There’s another serial killer on the loose, but you learn who it is very early on, so it’s not really a mystery. There’s just nothing particularly noteworthy about these two books, unfortunately.

Island Of Flowers

(1982)

Island Of Flowers -Nora Roberts

This was a light, easy romance novel that I knocked out in about an hour while cooking dinner. There’s no real surprises to it, nothing riveting, but it’s cute and fun, so for something mindless, this may actually fit the bill. It’s set in Hawaii, but except for a few pages, Nora Roberts didn’t make full use of the islands as the backdrop. She did however have one great character who I wish had her own book – Miri rocks!

This Magic Moment

(2003)

This Magic Moment - Nora Roberts

This was a random dud for Nora Roberts, and I’m surprised it was written in 2003 rather than earlier before she’d perfected her formula. The writing and dialogue was a bit awkward, and the storyline had no real draw. I had a hard time getting through it, so this is definitely one to skip.

The Heart’s Victory

(1982)

The Heart's Victory - Nora Roberts

This was one of the Silhouette romance novels Nora Roberts wrote, so it’s short, and it’s pure romance. I hated it. See, here’s the thing. Straight romance novels, particularly in the early 80s, have a formula for the most part (granted, some, like Island of Flowers are less offensive than others). Guy does jerky things, girl tells him to stop, guy ignores girl, girl decides she loves him despite his massive faults, and the girl experiences some level of “character growth” by learning to love him for the jerk he is. The entire time I read those, all I can think is “I would’ve kneed this fool in the crotch if he tried to kiss me while acting like that”. Seriously, these girls need restraining orders, not wedding rings. Anyway, this is that kind of book – the male lead is an ass to the girl, who tries to resist him but doesn’t, and by the end of the book, he’s still a jerk.

Her Mother’s Keeper

(1983)

Her Mother's Keeper - Nora Roberts

Bored. So bored. There were a lot of elements of the main character that I wasn’t a fan of – she was pushy, overbearing, and made far too many assumptions. I kind of think I might just be a bit burned out, particularly on straight romance novels, in which case starting JD Robb may help!

19 books this month! I’m good with that, since I am burning out a bit. Work is slowing down again, so more time in July possibly, and I’m starting the In Death series, so hopefully I can stay on track with that. But wow, this challenge is harder than I expected.

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