Nora Roberts is one of my go-to authors – if I’m looking for a book that is just dependable for an entertaining read, I know she’s not going to let me down. She used to be a ‘read immediately upon publication’ author, but I find that if I save her new-to-me-books for days when I just can’t get into anything, or when I’m on day three of a migraine (the day that’s more like a migraine hangover for me, where I can kind of focus, but know enough not to challenge myself too much), then I get the most Nora-bang for my buck. I don’t always succeed at saving them – I’m a mood reader 100%, and sometimes that mood is just a New Nora, thank you very much – but when I do, I’m so glad that past-me managed hold out.
Such was the case this weekend with Hideaway, which I listened to on Audible.
Hideaway is a romantic suspense, technically, although the who in ‘who done it’ isn’t really a surprise to us readers: We get told the first crime’s perpetrators pretty early, and I didn’t have a hard time figuring out the 2nd & 3rd, but I’ve read about a billion of these, so you might have a harder time. I don’t think it matters that much, either, because you just want to see what nonsense they’re going to have the gall to attempt next. The whole thing starts off with the kidnapping of a young actress – 4th generation, basically Hollywood royalty in the way that celebrities tend to be now -from the family estate, on the day of her great-grandfather’s memorial. Our heroine – Caitlyn Sullivan – is drugged & hustled out unconscious, comes back to reality in a sealed-tight, strange bedroom, surrounded by 2 men in scary masks who threaten to break all her bones if she doesn’t do exactly as they say. Including drinking the doctored milk they bring her, so she’ll continue to sleep through the whole thing. But Caitlyn is crafty even at 10, and dumps her milk down the sink, pretends to be asleep, and overhears her captors talking, then one of them leaving. She thinks about how princesses escape in fairy tales and gets to work tying sheets together and prying the nails out of the windowsill so she can get out of there unnoticed. She Rapunzel-s down the side of the house, then wanders as far away as she can get, & eventually uses the sound of the ocean & a lone light in the distance as guidance to get her to safety. She comes upon a young boy, Dillon Cooper, in the kitchen of his ranch house, sneaking a midnight snack, and the two manage to rouse his adults & get some actual, call 911 & her family, rescuing going.
The story moves from the aftermath of that experience – turns out someone she loves was a part of the plot all along – & the consequences of that, to Caitlyn’s later teen years and return to Hollywood, to her early adulthood – initial romantic relationships included – in New York, and her eventual return to the family home where her life forever changed & is about to change again. A lot happens along the way – death threats are just the beginning – to the eventual, required, Hollywood-esque happily ever after.
Highlights include the villains who do things that the main characters can’t always prevent/fix (which I find more realistic than stuff that can always be fixed), Nora’s gift of making you really describing a setting clearly enough that you can feel transported (her particular love for Ireland shines through here, as always), & the amazing supporting cast: The Sullivans – particularly the elder Sullivans – are exactly the kind of emotionally literate, smart, vulnerable, loveable, witty, on-point characters that I most love in Robert’s books: If there aren’t some grandparents raising their eyebrows & plotting wedding schemes in their heads behind the scenes, what are they even doing there, really?
A top-of-the-line, feminist-&-proud-of-it hero in Dillon, who manages to show care & concern & protectiveness towards Caitlyn when things get scary without turning into an alphahole who doesn’t understand what a boundary is also gets top marks. Caitlyn does press a few early “does this girl not understand how stalkers work” buttons, but they’re probably realistic since she’s barely 18 at the time, and I live with a 21-yr.-old and a 16-yr.-old and I can sign off on the “knows better but still makes stupid decisions sometimes” ness of the age bracket.
I didn’t know going in that this book was – eventually – about an audio book narrator, but it certainly was a nice little treat to be listening to a great narrator discuss the ins/outs of narrating books & being a character actor. Just one of those little bonuses, since I assume the narrator – January LaVoy, in this case – probably got a kick out of reading about it. She certainly personified all the things Roberts was describing as essential to a good audio book narrator – able to switch tones & tenors for different characters, able to convey even minute changes in attitudes & emotions through the dialogue, etc.
Overall it was a great read, even if the suspense wasn’t all that suspenseful for me. But that’s kind of a me-problem, so your mileage may vary. (I did, after all, accidentally spoil Stranger Things for my family this weekend as well. Ooops.)