Review of "Under Currents" by Nora Roberts

Roberts, Nora. Under Currents. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2019.

Hardcover | $28.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1250207098 | 436 pages | Romantic Suspense

3.5 stars

I was nervous about picking up Under Currents, as while she has deviated from her “formula” a bit in recent books, which I liked (especially Shelter in Place), I heard this was more of a return to the “traditional NR romantic suspense. And upon finally picking it up, I found that they were right, as it contains both the same familiar strengths and weaknesses from some of her previous books.

Roberts knows how to begin with a bang, regardless of the subgenre she’s writing in, and that’s still the case here. The first section, depicting the abuse in Zane’s family is masterfully crafted, perfectly capturing the bravery of Zane and his sister, Britt, as they found a way out of their abusive home, the determination of their aunt Emily, family friend David, and Detective Lee Keller to save them, and the twisted nature of the parents’ relationship with one another.

And the plot thread involving the continued, fatal dysfunction of the parents eighteen years later is equally well written, with Roberts again employing her skill at getting into the mind of a twisted criminal to depict Graham Bigelow’s mad determination to get even with everyone who supposedly ruined his life.

And the romance between Zane and town newcomer Darby is reasonably interesting, especially as they bond over the way they’ve both experienced abuse and survived.

However, Roberts tries to make a point of having both their pasts come back to haunt them in the latter half, and given that her stand alone romantic suspense books are a bit longer than her series books, I did feel like there was a bit too much filler in between these events, as I thought the book could have easily cut off after the Graham situation, given how things settled back to relative normalcy before the crazy ex came back into play. I appreciate a good slow burning plot, but this one feels a bit too slow.

Like many NR books, at least in my opinion, I feel this is a case of having a great idea, but a flawed execution. I’ve heard from other Roberts fans who love it, so of course, your mileage may vary. I do think it is worth checking out if you have more patience for a slow-burn thriller, and also are looking for something that deals with a difficult subject like domestic abuse head-on.

Review of “Tribute” by Nora Roberts

Roberts, Nora. Tribute. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2008.

Hardcover | $26.95 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0399154911 | 451 pages | Romantic Suspense

3.5 stars

I found myself picking up Tribute after finding myself in one of those rare situations where I wasn’t one hundred percent sure what I wanted to read next, and only knew that it should have a contemporary setting. I also wanted to give Roberts’ stand-alone romantic suspense another shot, since I’m feeling some withdrawal from the In Death series, and I haven’t found a suitable series to read while I await the next book’s release and subsequent processing at the library.

In retrospect, this may have been a poor choice to start with, but it was one of a bunch I had on hand, and I think it is conceptually interesting and gets a few things right. I liked the idea of a granddaughter exploring what happened to her movie-star grandmother, especially since there’s something so fascinating about the tragic personal lives of classic Hollywood stars. And while the execution of some of the elements feels a little rough, and the reveal a little underwhelming, I enjoyed the dream-sequence moments where Cilla and Janet interact, transporting Cilla to various points in Janet’s life.

It also allowed for great development for Cilla in her relationships with other characters, particularly her relationship with her mother, given that the relationship is somewhat strained because of their differing desires where Janet’s house is concerned. But it was great that this digging into the past ultimately provided closure, as that was the root for a lot of familial issues.

I also felt like the romance was quite enjoyable for what it was. Ford is an example, along with Carter from Vision in White, of a well-written Roberts hero. I love that he’s a graphic novelist, which is a profession I don’t recall ever seeing in a romance novel before. He’s also incredibly funny and intelligent, and just all-around a great person. It also doesn’t hurt that he has an equally quirky dog, Spock, who I would argue, almost steals the show.

This is definitely not the best Roberts I’ve read, especially in terms of its advertised subgenre, but there are plenty of things it does well that will appeal to new-ish readers exploring Roberts’ backlist for the first time.

Review of “Vision in White” (Bride Quartet #1) by Nora Roberts

Roberts, Nora. Vision in White. New York: Berkley Books, 2009.

Paperback | $16.00 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0425227510 | 343 pages | Contemporary Romance

4.5 stars

Vision in White is arguably one of the best books I’ve read by Nora Roberts so far. Whether it is her best book ever is debatable, given how I haven’t read much from her due to a few negative experiences, but she is at the top of her game here, creating a story that not only has engaging leads with a compelling romance, but also the friendships that she also does incredibly well.

I mostly picked this one up because of what I heard about the hero, Carter. The book club friend who not only recommended this to me several times, but gifted me a copy among other Nora titles, noted that he’s exactly the type of hero I’d like, and she wasn’t wrong. I love that he’s more on the geeky side, and a bit awkward. While I’ve heard his type is a Roberts staple, I still felt there was something unique and likable about him, although this may be my inexperience with her work coming into play here.

I also really liked the emotional depth given to Mac, and like that Roberts tends to go against the norm (or at least what’s considered more popular) by having her heroines dealing with trauma. I really enjoyed the central focus of the series being that she comes together with her best friends to develop a wedding planning business, with the irony being that, even though she had participated in pretend weddings as a kid, her dysfunctional family has soured her to the idea of marriage. I loved seeing how her trust issues were explored, and while she isn’t always the most likable character, I could understand where she was coming from, and her development felt natural.

My one minor quibble is that this book makes extensive use of acronyms, and while they are explained in the book, some are so uncommon, it was a chore to remember them. MOH for “Maid of Honor” or MOB for “Mother of the Bride” makes some sense, particularly after being told what it means once, but there was also this weird mini-plot point that led to the best man in one of the wedding parties they’re planning for being called the CBBM, or “cheating bastard best man” (at least I think that’s what it was?), and there were a couple more that sound clever on paper, but just don’t stick out in my mind. I hope the rest of the series isn’t so bogged down with shorthand like this.

On the whole, I really enjoyed this one, and will be continuing the series and seeking out more of Roberts’ contemporaries that catch my interest, since that seems to be genre she writes in that works the best for me. I would recommend anyone new (or new-ish) to Roberts’ work pick this one up, since it really is a gem, and not to be missed.

Review of “Of Blood and Bone” (Chronicles of the One #2) by Nora Robertsp

Roberts, Nora. Of Blood and Bone. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2018.

Hardcover | $28.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1250122995 | 453 pages | Science Fiction/Paranormal

4 stars

After really enjoying the initial setup of Year One, I really liked seeing the further development of the characters and the world in Of Blood and Bone, especially focusing on the One of the series title, Fallon.

I enjoyed seeing Fallon coming into her own and mastering her gifts, and that for me was the best part of the book, as it allowed me to really get to know her, especially since the last book and the first part of this one got me invested in her unique family situation in the midst of the Doom.

The one weak spot, which seems to be the case for me with much of Roberts’ work, is the poor, somewhat sudden development of the romance between Fallon and Duncan. I can understand it in theory, given they do have some common ground, but it just felt out of place after spending so much time with Fallon during her training with Mallick, and I wished it focused just on her development. I also felt that the familial and romantic bonds in Fallon’s family were much more interesting, whether it be the magickal scenes between Fallon and her birth father, Max, the sweet moments at the beginning between her and Simon, the father who raised her, or the descriptions in both books of Lana’s love for both Max and Simon.

I really liked this one overall, even if it does suffer a bit from being a middle book, expanding on the story, but still feeling a little open-ended. I still feel it’s worth picking up if you enjoyed the first one.

Review of “Dark in Death” (in Death #46) by J.D. Robb

Robb, J.D. Dark in Death. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2018.

Hardcover | $27.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1250161536 | 372 pages | Romantic Suspense

5 stars

Life imitates art imitating life in this one, with documented cases of Roberts being the victim of plagiarism by other authors both before and since the publication of this book, not to mention the alleged use of ghostwriters ( a claim she’s denied) and overly enthusiastic involvement from fans.

The case itself for its own sake was great as well, and definitely one of the more solid of the series. It’s well-paced and had enough going on to keep me invested, without being too complex to the point where I felt lost. I found myself anxious to find out who the overzealous fan was elaborately recreated crime scenes from a book series, while also going after its author with accusations of plagiarism, and I found myself satisfied as things came together.

And given that the theme of this book is, well, books, I liked that there was also a comment on the whole eBook vs. paper debate, with equal use of both by the characters, thus demonstrating that both have continued value, even in this futuristic setting. While there are mentions of some using eReaders, I like that we have people like Roarke who still adore paper books, and he has a large library. Every time I think he can’t surprise me with more ways to love him, he does something else that seals the deal.

I really enjoyed this installment, especially given its feeling of personal commentary on what it’s like to be an author, especially one of Nora Roberts’ level of success.

Review of “Year One” (Chronicles of the One #1) by Nora Roberts

Roberts, Nora. Year One. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2017.

Hardcover | $27.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1250122957 |419 pages | Science Fiction–Post Apocalyptic

4 stars

Despite my my varied past experience with Nora Roberts’ work, her paranormal series in particular, I was drawn to trying Year One due to hearing it was slightly different from her other series, and given that what I liked was her skill as a world builder (or in this case, on occasion, world destroyer) when it comes to developing her paranormals, but found the romances rather shallow and unbearable to read, with only one exception so far, this one seemed promising, and I’m glad that with this series and Shelter in Place, she’s begun to dive into grittier territory, which I knew she had the potential for.

And while it is by no means perfect, I still found it engaging, and I enjoyed observing how characters survived a terrible tragedy like the Doom then went through trying to figure out how you rebuild in the aftermath. While there are several characters that we are introduced to, it was easy to become invested in their respective narratives.

And I like that she also brings her roots in the paranormal to this new series, so it stands out from the pack of post apocalyptic and dystopian novels, which lean more toward the science oriented, even if there are some parallels, particularly one that other readers have noted with The Stand by Stephen King (which I have not read, so I cannot pass judgment either way).

I really liked this one, in spite of its somewhat polarizing reception among readers, if the Goodreads reviews are anything to go on. And I think anyone who is interested in a post apocalyptic story should give this one a try, whether they’ve read Nora Roberts in the past or not.

Review of “Echoes in Death” (In Death #44) by J.D. Robb

Robb, J.D. Echoes in Death. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2017.

Hardcover | $27.99 USD | ISBN-13: 978-1250123114 | 371 pages | Romantic Suspense

5 stars

I chose not to post a review for the previous book in the In Death series, because, upon reflection, it’s started to get old saying the same things over and over, and while I love gushing about the cast interactions, with so few books left in the series that are currently out, I’m thinking I may choose to only unpack the ones I find particularly memorable, which will hopefully be all of them, but we’ll see.

That being said, this one definitely merits a review, because it’s probably one of my favorite cases. And while I’m not sure everyone will agree with me, I like that it focuses on a singular crime with a singular perp without too much complexity. Not to mention some of the procedural elements feeling reminiscent of Law and Order: SVU, which I have just recently got sucked back into, plus the participation from this world’s SVU squad, given the nature of the case. While some of the books, especially lately, have had their moments where my attention does waver a bit, this one had me on the edge of my seat, wanting to know who was behind it all.

And to add just a tiny note on the cast and their banter, I felt like some of the jokes here were pretty funny, especially the “Oedipus/Edison” conversation, which spun off from the assertion of the rapist’s predilections. I love that there are these small moments of levity that lighten up otherwise intense books.

This one is on my list of favorite books of the series. And while I do still feel that the series is worth the full investment, this is the one I’d probably recommend to fans of other police procedurals, like SVU.

Review of “Brotherhood in Death” (In Death #42) by J.D. Robb

Robb, J.D. Brotherhookd in Death. New York: Berkley Books, 2016.

Hardcover | $28.00 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0399170898 | 388 pages | Romanti Suspense

5 stars

Brotherhood in Death is one of the most masterfully crafted in the series since New York to Dallas, and it’s also one of the most personally appealing, because it’s another one that personally impacts someone in the recurring cast of characters. I really love Eve’s relationship with not just Dr. Charlotte Mira, but also Charlotte’s husband, Dennis, so seeing him as a key witness and potential victim and exploring more of the dynamic he has with Eve is incredibly sweet.

The case was also another of those that delved into the issues of morality and justice, and how, once again, when you’re a cop, it shouldn’t matter to you the type of character the victim or victims had, and even if they committed genuine wrongs to the perpetrator, that still doesn’t make it less of a crime. It’s also interesting how, to parallel between brotherhood and sisterhood bonds playing a role in the murders as well.

It’s also great to see Eve continue to be fleshed out as a character, further expanding on her vulnerabilities. Most obviously, the case impacts her, due t the appearance of one of the victims in a dream she has of her father, drawing the parallels between the two men. I also was moved by her discussing with Roarke that she’s not fully ready for change after having an argument with him after he invites an interior decorator into her home office without telling her first. While there are some moments when I kind of wish she would give a little more and try a little harder (like her constantly complaining about party planning), this is one of those moments that felt so genuine and real, especially since she was so taken off guard, even with Roarke’s protests that he wouldn’t do anything without her approval (yet he invited the woman in the first place without telling her?).

This installment continues to solidify my belief that, in spite of any subpar installments, this series still has its gems and is still great overall.

Review of “Devoted in Death” (In Death #41) by J.D. Robb

Robb, J.D. Devoted in Death. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2015.

Hardcover | $27.95 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0399170881 | 374 pages | Romantic Suspense

4 stars

Devoted in Death evokes the real life dynamic of Bonnie and Clyde and other such killer couples throughout history, and that alone makes it a compelling read. Once again, we’re given insight into the perspectives of the killers, and while they are slightly different from the other killers who are given passages from their perspective, in that there is an element of passion for one another in these parts of the book, as well as their general twisted mindset.

As the identity of the killers is known to the reader from page one, much of the real intrigue is following Eve and the gang in their investigation as they see how far this murder spree extends, and catching the killers before the kill someone else in a similar manner. And once they caught them…that interrogation scene! Peabody is really coming into her own, and has become just as much of badass as Eve.

The book also has a lot going on internally with the cast, from a promotion to Detective for recurring character Officer Trueheart (which I hope means he’ll be getting more page time in future books, since it feels like ages since we saw him last), to the usual delightful banter and jokes.

This book is great, just like all of them are for the excellent blend of the romantic and suspenseful, the funny and the dark. I continue to repeat my recommendation of this series for pretty much everyone.

Review of “Obsession in Death” (In Death #40) by J.D. Robb

Robb, J.D. Obsession in Death. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2015.

Hardcover | $27.95 USD | ISBN-13: 978-0399170874 | 404 pages | Romantic Suspense

4 stars

40 books in with the prospect of only eight more, then having to wait for the next two, and I can still say I am obsessed with this series, in spite of all its shortcomings. So, it is quite fitting in a sense that this one is called Obsession in Death.

And while this wasn’t one of my favorites in the series, it was still great, especially as it presented a new personal challenge for Eve, with the case being concerned with an obsessed fan of hers who takes it upon themselves to make misguided attempts to avenge her to prove her “friendship.” Ultimately, even if the reveal wasn’t that exciting for me, I found the psychology of the killer, in the snippets we got from their perspective the most interesting, which is not surprising, given ho w I’ve often expressed my admiration for how Nora Roberts gets into these twisted people’s heads.

I also really liked seeing the team work together, bringing up people from past cases. Admittedly, I didn’t remember quite a few of them, but it is nice to see more consistency in terms of the connectedness of the series and the characters beyond the core group.

And Eve and Roarke…I fall in love with them more and more as a couple from book to book. And it’s really those little intimate moments, like them having a meal together or their casual banter in between all the intense case-cracking, that make me so happy.

This was a pretty interesting one in the series, and while it wasn’t mind-blowing by any means, reaching book 40 only increases my hype for the books to come.