Nora Roberts is an amazingly prolific author, (seriously, does this woman sleep?) but I’ve only read a few of her books. I did read the trilogy, “The Cousins O’Dwyer”, of which I devoured the first book, thought the second book was okay and then slogged through the last one. I then tried to read another trilogy, “Three Sisters Island”, and it was so much the same thing that I gave up on it. So why did I pick up this one at the library? It’s not my usual fare, but the premise sounded different so I thought I’d give it a try. The joy of library books is that if you don’t care for one, it’s no big loss to put it aside.
Anyway, this book is a blend of the movie “Rear Window”, mixed with international art theft and murder, mingled with a soap opera kind of family and a dash of romance. The heroine is Lila Emerson, a professional house-sitter who likes to observe the people around her from afar. When the book opens, she is settling into her current location when she sees what looks like a murder/suicide in the building across the street.
The hero is Ashton Archer, a famous painter, and it’s his brother who is one of the victims. His family is the soap opera part of this book – they are fabulously wealthy, there are many half and full siblings, divorced parents with new partners and they are all blessed with good looks.
The police are quite sure that Ashton’s brother Oliver pushed his girlfriend out of the window and then killed himself. This doesn’t sit well with Ashton, who believes that Oliver would never do anything that sinister. Oliver was an art dealer, a charmer and a thorn in Ashton’s side but never a criminal. Ashton meets Lila at the police station, and the two of them form a fairly quick bond to sleuth out what really happened.
The trail leads them into an intriguing tale of missing Faberge eggs, which a mysterious collector is greedy to add to his personal cache of art. There is a ruthless assassin on the hunt to get these for him, and she is a cold, calculating bitch that is used to getting her way. Lila and Ashton are soon targeted by her, and the trail leads from New York to Italy and back again as they try to stay one step ahead of her and resolve the mystery.
Lila is an independent woman, raised as an army brat, and she carries her tools along with her wherever she goes. Sometimes she was a little too spunky, ignoring Ashton’s warnings to keep out of trouble, but overall she didn’t come across as TSTL. Ashton was a little less well characterized; he was the eldest of his family and therefore used to telling people what to do which Lila doesn’t always take well. Since their initial relationship started under stressful circumstances, things didn’t always move along smoothly but along the way they find that their feelings change from lust into love. The romance in the book isn’t the main focus of the story, but there were enough steamy scenes to keep me happy. I did enjoy their verbal sparring and banter:
“I don’t get treadmills. You get all sweaty and go nowhere. Now, sex? You get all sweaty and go everywhere.”
He lifted his head to look at her. “Now I’m going to think about sex whenever I’m on the treadmill.”
There is a side story in the book as well. Julie and Luke, respective friends of the main couple, resurrect a past romance which doesn’t really add anything to the tale; I kept thinking something bad was going to happen to one of them along the way as that seems to be the deal with unsuspecting friends of the folks being chased by a crazy killer.
Overall, I enjoyed the book; it was an entertaining read and a strong standalone which I think is better sometimes. Trilogies can get bogged down in repetitive details and rehashing relationships.