About a year or so ago, I bought a few of Nora Roberts’ romantic thrillers, but only found this one this week after getting Katee Robert’s Dark Olympus titles through Apple Books (normally I read ebooks via Kindle). The Nora Roberts formula seems to be: throw two characters with traumatic or difficult pasts together in a small town setting, and have them resolve some of their past issues through dealing with a current threat. In previous titles, it’s been the nominal hero disregarding the heroine’s boundaries to pursue a relationship (that in the end she realises she needs and wants); changing it up a little, it’s the heroine, Abra, who does this to Eli.
Eli Landon has come to his grandmother’s old house on the Massachusetts coast partly to look after the place while his grandmother recovers from a serious fall; in part to escape Boston, where for the past year he’s been under suspicion of killing his wife; in part to write his first novel. Bluff House also has its secrets, which might involve ‘Esmerelda’s Dowry’ a lost treasure of pirate booty which has been a piece of local folklore for years but which nobody really takes seriously nowadays. Abra Walsh came to Whiskey Beach after her own traumatic experiences (which involved domestic violence and stalking), and is now working at several jobs – yoga teacher, jewellery maker, errand runner, waitress, etc. – including cleaning for Eli’s grandmother, which is how the two meet.
There’s a really interesting plot in this which involves both finding out the truth of the legendary Dowry as well as finally clearing up who killed Eli’s wife Lindsay. The romance between Abra and Eli is the least interesting part of it, although I do like that Roberts has them resolve difficulties by talking, and they’re adult in describing their needs and what they want from each other. However although Eli was easy to sympathise with and root for, it was less easy to do that with Abra (although, as always with Roberts, she’s given understandable psychological reasons for being that way). I’m always wary of boundary pushers who do it for the other characters’ “benefit”, and the way Abra pushes Eli into doing things that he’s told her he doesn’t want, because she’s convinced it will do him good, is frustrating to read (partly because I’m the kind of person who hates that in real life, and it makes me want to do the exact opposite, and partly because Roberts’s writing makes them justified in so behaving). Still, there are people like that, and their relationship does equalize a little once they get to know each other better: I think I’d probably run a mile from her cheerful certainty.
The usual array of Roberts’ characters are on display (when you’ve written as many books as she has, there can’t help but be formula involved, however well it’s disguised) – the older, still active Hester Landon, Eli’s grandmother, or Maureen O’Malley, Abra’s best friend in the village, for instance, are straight out of stock, but with enough life that they’re not entirely flat.
Anyway, the thriller plot is interesting and convincingly worked out, and Roberts doesn’t cheat by having the murderer only appear at the end (although there aren’t too many clues as to their identity), so if you like thrillers with a dash of romance and sex (not described in detail), this will definitely while away a day.