Here, have a review about two recent (ish) stand alones by the ever popular and uber-prolific Nora Roberts. Of whom I am a huge, unashamed fan. Her books are often comfort reads for me – I know somewhere, in the midst of whatever nonsense is flourishing, there will some sort of happy ending, and that’s reassuring in a way I can’t really explain. Other readers complain about the formulaic nature of some of Roberts’ work (particularly when it comes to trilogies), but – for me, at least – that’s part of the draw: Go ahead, and pair those brothers up with these three seemingly unsuitable best friends, Ms. Roberts, I will continue to be charmed and enjoy the ride.
That said, although I still auto-buy her books, I no longer read them as soon as they come out; Instead, I like to have them waiting around for a rough day, knowing that I’ll be able to disappear into whatever world she’s conjured up and breathe a little easier for a while. So, this review is brought to you by back-to-school anxiety, my first in over 14 years, thanks to the two niblings in my care right now. (Who knew fourth grade could be so terrifying? And do you KNOW how much homework a high school sophomore has to do now? HOURS. It’s ridiculous. Ahem: Back to the books….)
The first book, The Liar, was my favorite of the two for one simple reason – Shelby’s family. Shelby Foxworth unexpectedly finds herself a widow, with a three-year old daughter and a life that was apparently carefully crafted out of lies and illusions. Her husband was not the man she thought she knew, and as his cons collapse around her, she goes to the only safe place she can think of: home. There Roberts paints the Tennessee landscape with a finesse that’d make anybody long for it, and for the people who gather there to help Shelby put her life back together.
I absolutely loved everything about Shelby’s family and lifelong friends, and the care and conflicts that arise when she returns home after having run away with her (eventually deadbeat) husband. The love, and longing for understanding, the way the siblings fall back into old patterns, the way everybody rises to the occasion without it seeming like they just let go of their resentment automatically – was all so authentic. There was, of course, the obligatory romance plot, with Griff the dependable contractor who has both the patience and the strength that suit Shelby best. And the mystery of Richard, Shelby’s husband’s, life and death play key roles as well. For me, though, this story was all about the characters in Shelby’s hometown. The sense of community, of family, of Clan, was perfect. Jealousy-inducing, even.
In The Collector, the second book, the mystery takes more of center-stage, kick-starting a more action-filled, faster-paced story. Lila Emerson is an author, a published one, even. But in order to write, she’s also a professional house-sitter, nomadic and willingly so. Until one night, as she drinks wine on the balcony of an apartment she’s sitting, making up stories for the people she sees in the apartments across the way, when a much more sinister story takes place right before her eyes. When the blonde woman across the street gets shoved off her balcony, Lila’s calm existence is shattered.
Although this book also has some strong supporting characters – Lila’s best friend, the hero’s best friend, a sharp lady-assassin, and a total creepy creepster for the Big Bad – not to mention Ash, the hero I couldn’t really get that excited about because … I don’t know why. Ash was fine, a little controlling sometimes, but fine. Just not… exciting? So yes: Some good supporting characters, a weakish hero, and a heroine who rocked. This was Lila’s book to me – her kindness, curiosity, amiability, ability to adapt – all of that and more, made this her book, completely.
Either way, two more comfort reads: not my favorites, but good enough to get lost in for a little while, so they definitely did their jobs in my book. Worth reading if you like strong supporting characters (particularly The Liar), or a sassy but not obnoxious, capable of thinking on her feet heroine (The Collector).