Review: Shelter in Place

Review: Shelter in PlaceShelter in Place by Nora Roberts
Published by St. Martin's Press on May 29, 2018
Genres: Contemporary, Romantic Suspense
Pages: 439
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: A difficult and timely subject. A mass shooting alters the lives of everyone connected to the events. Simone and Reed alter and rebuild their lives and eventually find one another. A nice romance combined with the suspense of someone who wants to continue the body count.

THE STORY: On a summer’s evening, three young men execute a horrible crime in a mall and theater in Maine. Simone Knox, a teenager, ends up hiding in the bathroom at the theater calling 911. Reed Quartermaine, a college student, is in the mall when the shooting takes place. That event changes both of their lives. Their struggles eventually bring them in orbit of one another while someone else is eliminating survivors.

OPINION: I generally prefer my books heavy on the romance with some suspense thrown in. This book is much more a suspense and story of rebirth after a tragedy, but the story works so well in bringing Reed and Simone together that I really enjoyed this one.

I enjoyed seeing these characters build their lives and find one another. The story between them was sweet and sexy (even if they don’t meet until well into the story), and I was intrigued for every page and turn of their story.

The characters were well drawn. The varying reactions to the tragedy not only for Reed and Simone but also for their friends, family and even strangers kept the story grounded and compelling.

The suspense story worked well for me but I really appreciated that while it was important, it did not overshadow for me the relationships of the characters. The book ends up being about hope, about overcoming tragedy. The violence ends up being a part of the story, but not the most important part.

It’s been a long time since one of Roberts’ standalone books has interested me so much. This one will be on my keeper shelf.

WORTH MENTIONING: Although the book deals with a violent subject, I thought the depiction of violence was not gratuitous or overly graphic.

CONNECTED BOOKS: SHELTER IN PLACE is a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

 

five-stars

Review: Chesapeake Blue

Review: Chesapeake BlueChesapeake Blue (Chesapeake Bay Saga, #4) by Nora Roberts
Published by Berkley on January 1st 2002
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 357
Goodreads
three-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: Enjoyable read if somewhat forgettable in the end. The story works fine as I was reading it, but there is nothing lasting or intense in the story to make it a keeper.

THE STORY: Eighteen years since Seth Quinn came was rescued from his negligent and abusive mother to come live with the Quinns, Seth has returned home after a stint in Europe where he honed his skills as an artist. When he returns, he meets Dru Whitcomb Banks, who has shed her rich family to open a florist shop. As Dru and Seth get to know one another, Seth’s past won’t stay hidden as he has to deal with problems that arise while coaxing a woman who has been betrayed and finds it hard to trust and make connections.

OPINION: This book was difficult for me to rate. I enjoyed it while I was reading it, I really liked seeing the Quinn siblings and their families. I even liked Seth and Dru as a couple as they discussed their issues. But ultimately while I enjoyed this book, I don’t think it stands up against other books that I have read. The storyline works, but isn’t compelling enough and the characters aren’t interesting enough for this to be a book that calls for me to re-read it.

Seth is a little too good, perhaps. (Except for his blind spot for which he is rather wrongheaded). I thought he and Dru were a nice match and I really liked her character. But nothing in this case really goes deep. The characters drama and hurts just don’t feel intense. I did think their sexy encounters when Seth was painting Dru were the best part of the book. That felt emotional and intense.

I also really enjoyed the relationships between the brothers. That was a highlight of the entire series and repeated here with even more emotional resonance.

I think readers of the series should definitely read this one as it adds to the series in a nice way. I just walked away wanting more emotional connection and intensity.

WORTH MENTIONING: I’ve always wished that this book either resolved Aubrey’s story as well or that Roberts had written her story. She ended up being a really interesting character.

CONNECTED BOOKS: CHESAPEAKE BLUE is the fourth and final book in the Chesapeake Bay Saga. This book was a coda to the original trilogy and thus really depends upon the knowledge in the first three books in the series. I don’t think the plot works well without knowledge of those books.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.

three-half-stars

Review: The Quinn’s Christmas

Genres: Contemporary

This is a short vignette that follows the events in INNER HARBOR. It is about the first Christmas that Sean spends with the family. It is cute and a nice coda to the original trilogy of books. We get to see more of the developing relationship between Sean and his brothers. One thing I missed in the ending of INNER HARBOR was a wrap up of what happened with everyone. This is a nice epilogue type story and also operates as a transition to the final book in the series.

Review: Inner Harbor

Review: Inner HarborInner Harbor (Chesapeake Bay Saga, #3) by Nora Roberts
Series: Chesapeake Bay Saga #3
Published by Berkley Books on January 1st 1999
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 324
Goodreads
three-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: Enjoyable read although the drama in the story isn’t as deep as might be expected from the description. I enjoyed watching these characters fall in love, but I felt there was more that could have been explored below the surface.

THE STORY: Phillip Quinn began life as a thief until he was taken in by the Quinns. Now he wears a veneer of sophistication. When he meets Dr. Sybill Griffin, he finds her reserve attractive. But Sybill has a secret reason for being in town. Sybill finds Phillip intriguing, but she is used to a life kept apart and observing, but although Phillip appears the cool sophisticate, there is something hot and wild under his exterior.

OPINION: This was an enjoyable read, but the story stays on the surface between these characters and thus is not as memorable as it could have been.

Phillip is a sly man. Sophisticated and polished, he also retains the fiery and untamed street rat he was. I liked the combination here, but there really isn’t much drama with his background as I might have expected. I thought the book missed that a bit instead focusing on Sybill. I still felt that Phillip was a little distant as a character because I never got deeper into his character.

Sybill is a good pair for Phillip because they both hide their pain under the sophistication and a type of coldness and distance. That was the interesting part of the story between these characters as they see something alike in one another. She is a harder to get to know, but I thought the book explored her character better than Phillip.

I did really like how the relationship between these two developed, I just wanted more.

The book also wraps up Sean’s story. That part was a bit underwhelming for me. A little too neat and easy for the setup in the first book. The series decides to focus on the relationships which works for me, but the first book set up some expectations that really didn’t come to fruition in the series.

WORTH MENTIONING: This series was originally created as a trilogy but several years later Roberts added Seth’s book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: INNER HARBOR is the third book in the Chesapeake Bay Saga. This book should be read as part of the series even though the romance is self-contained because the developing relationships are good portion of the plot of this book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.

 

three-half-stars

Review: Rising Tides

Review: Rising TidesRising Tides (Chesapeake Bay Saga, #2) by Nora Roberts
Series: Chesapeake Bay Saga #2
Published by Jove on August 1st 1998
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 330
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: One of the best of Nora Roberts’ family dramas, this romance has a languid build between these two friends. The pace feels just right for a real relationship as these two overcome the pain of their pasts.

THE STORY: Ethan Quinn stayed at home when his other brothers roamed. Steady as the bay in which he works, Ethan hides turmoil and pain from his youth. Working with his brothers to raise the boy that their father took in before his death, Ethan plans to focus on their new business. But the woman he has known for years, Grace Monroe, won’t seem to let him go. Determined to keep his distance from the young mother to protect her, Ethan can’t seem to resist Grace’s pull.

OPINION: This book is a perfect example of the best of Nora Roberts’ work. The story has a tremendous feeling of place where I can almost smell the bay. The entire family of characters are three dimensional and interesting in their own right. They feel real and genuine. These are characters without the easy crutch of wealth and power.

This is one of my favorite books of Roberts because everything just works in this book.

Grace is a woman who is struggling but has pride in being independent and taking care of her daughter. She has flaws — the primary one being that she is incredibly stubborn.  She also fundamentally doesn’t know or understand the struggles that Ethan is going through. She makes assumptions without seeing the dark undercurrent of his life.

Ethan is a man good at hiding his pain and self-loathing. He has had his eye on Grace for years but has kept his distance because he doesn’t see himself as being worthy of her. But he is a good man. He is strong and reliable and everything that society sees as manly. Which makes the complexity of his character work so well. He is such a wonderful hero.

I loved these characters and the slow unfolding of their relationship works so well here. The book takes it time in showing their relationship and letting the crisis points come and pass with a natural and real timetable. This is my favorite book in the series.

WORTH MENTIONING: The overarching story line with Sean doesn’t progress much in this book which means that everything is set up for book three.

CONNECTED BOOKS: RISING TIDES is the second book in the Chesapeake Bay Saga. While each book has a separate couple and thus can be read on its own, there is an overarching story line dealing with the family and thus I believe it is better to read this in order as part of the series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: Sea Swept

Review: Sea SweptSea Swept (Chesapeake Bay Saga, #1) by Nora Roberts
Series: Chesapeake Bay Saga #1
Published by Jove Books on January 1st 1998
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 330
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: A comfortable read about a man who changes his life after the death of his father leaves him and his brothers with the responsibility for a ten year old and begins a relationship with a social worker. The story builds towards the end and offers a springboard for the series.

THE STORY: Cameron Quinn has sailed around the world racing boats and wooing women. The death of his father brings him home where he and his two brothers face decisions on what to do with the ten year old boy that their father brought into their family. The three men have to find a way of building a family in order to keep guardianship of the young boy which challenges all of the lives they have built. They also have to satisfy the watchful eyes of Anna Spinelli, a social worker, who has her doubts that the three men can build a home for a wary and damaged child.

OPINION: This book’s romance suffers a little from the introduction books. The situation and the characters all have to be set out which means that Anna and Cam get less “screen time”. Their romance was only okay for me until the last quarter of the book where things pick up and end on a high emotional note.

I enjoyed this book primarily because of the Quinn family dynamics. There is something really special in how these three men and a young boy figure make a family. The story is both inspirational and sweet. And I love watching these strong men give up whatever they have to for the love of family.

Anna and Cam are both damaged people who have triumphed through the love of others. Unfortunately, we don’t get much into their heads in this book. So while I really enjoy the story of this book, I wish the romance had been stronger.

At the same time, the comfortable nature of this story makes it one that I’ve read before and would read again on a rainy day.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book clearly is part of a series so ongoing story lines are not finished but the romance is complete here.

CONNECTED BOOKS: SEA SWEPT is the first book in the Chesapeake Bay Saga.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Born in Shame

Review: Born in ShameBorn in Shame (Born In trilogy #3) by Nora Roberts
Series: Born in Trilogy #3
Published by Paw Prints on April 9th 2009
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 368
Goodreads
three-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: I’m split on this book. I loved so much of it because I loved the first two books of the series, but I thought the romance here wasn’t nearly as developed or as good as the others in the series.

THE STORY: New York graphic artist Shannon Bodine has her life turned upside down when her mother reveals that Shannon is the result of an affair with a married man. Losing both parents in a year and discovering that her entire history was a lie, Shannon feels adrift in her life. When her half sisters in Ireland reach out to her, Shannon decides to travel to Ireland to meet them and see if she can recover her sense of balance in her life. In Ireland, Shannon meets Murphy Muldoon, a man wedded to the land his family has farmed for generations. The attraction between them is immediate although Shannon does not want to get involved in a temporary relationship that she knows will end when she returns to New York.

OPINION: This book frustrates me in many ways. I loved so much about it. As a continuation of the series, I would give the book a very high rating. I loved seeing the couples from the previous books and I enjoyed the resolution of the three sisters’ story. That familial part of the book was incredibly satisfying as their relationship developed in this book.

But in many ways the time spent on the developing relationship between Maggie, Brianna and Shannon was robbed from the romance between Shannon and Murphy. Indeed, I think that is why there is an “insta-love” destined element to their romance — the book couldn’t both develop their relationship in a deep fashion and also the sisters’ relationship.

The relationships between the couples in the first two books took place over months and thus the sacrifices they agreed to make felt reasonable and natural. Here, Shannon is in Ireland for just over a month but is willing to toss everything away — it just didn’t feel as natural as the other books. Instead, I think the book relied on its paranormal crutch too much to explain the intensity of the relationship.

I loved Murphy — who is just adorable. A gentle and talented and completely centered man. He knows who he is and is satisfied with his life. He also knows exactly what he wants when he sees Shannon.  Shannon was more prickly and more difficult to like (she is similar to Maggie in that sense), but by the end of the book I understood her and even liked her. I especially liked seeing her relationships develop in this book.

The best part of this book is the relationships between the six main characters in the series. Whether it is the women bonding or the men drinking themselves silly or the caring “sister”-“brother” relationships between the men and the women, I loved seeing this family be created. That is the highlight of this series as a whole. This is the creation of the next generation.

But I still find the relationship between Murphy and Shannon to be more shallowly explored than the other two books.

WORTH MENTIONING: Small spoiler that this book has some paranormal elements although it is not the main part of the story.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BORN IN SHAME is the third and final book in the Born in Trilogy. This book should only be read after the first two in the series because it resolves the overarching story in the series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.

three-half-stars

Review: Born in Ice

Review: Born in IceBorn in Ice (Born In Trilogy, #2) by Nora Roberts
Series: Born in Trilogy #2
Published by Berkley on November 1st 1996
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 384
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: My favorite book of the trilogy, BORN IN ICE has two characters whose past has kept them from moving forward with their lives. I loved how Brianna wins over the wandering Gray with a quiet simplicity.

THE STORY: Brianna Concannon has made a life for herself after converting her family home into a bed and breakfast inn. The younger sister, the dutiful daughter and the one always seeking to make peace in her family, Brianna is looking forward to a quieter winter with only one scheduled guest. Grayson Thane is a famous mystery writer who has come to Ireland seeking peace and quiet and inspiration for his next novel. Gray enjoys his gypsy life traveling from place to place working on his writing. Attracted to Brianna, he wants her but knows that things will end and he will move on.

OPINION: This is my favorite book in the series because I loved both the hero and the heroine in this book from the start.

Brianna is the peacemaker in the family. She has always tried to smooth over the difficulties in her family and yet this book shows how she has been effected by the discord between her parents and the resulting familial difficulties. Despite or perhaps because of this, Brianna has sought to make a peaceful domestic atmosphere that she has translated into her small business of her inn. I loved how Brianna uses the domestic arts to make a “home” for travelers. She is the “ice” in the story because of her place in her family and also because of her quiet personality. This book reveals secrets in her past which result her re-evaluating her life. Into that disruption comes Gray who pushes Brianna from her safe space.

Gray is a man who is so scarred by his past that he has built a great life, but one of a nomad with few personal connections. He sees this as a kind of freedom, but he is challenged by Brianna and the town where she lives. A man who insists that he will not stay when he starts an affair might seem callous, but Gray is so open and honest and caring that I understood him as a character rather than thinking he was a jerk. This book also delves deep into the writing process (something the author certainly understands) and I loved the depictions of how Gray works as an artist.

When I think of this series, I always think about the characters sense of place in Ireland and also how they all connect to the artistic process. There is such an expansive understanding of artistry in this book. Gray is the obvious artist because of his writing, but Brianna is an artist in her own right as she cooks and knits and gardens. The appreciation for these arts is something that I appreciate in this book because such great talent is something that is often overlooked.

This book has a small subplot of mystery which fits the story because of Gray’s profession, but this book is really focused on the relationship between Brianna and Gray. The subplots only serve the purpose of the romance which is exactly how I like my romance books.

WORTH MENTIONING: Readers of the first book in the series will get a nice update on Maggie and Rogan.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BORN IN ICE is the second book in the Born in Trilogy. While the romance here is self-contained and thus can be read as a standalone, this series is meant to be read together as there are overlaps in characters and an overarching storyline.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: Island of Glass

Review: Island of GlassIsland of Glass (The Guardians Trilogy, #3) by Nora Roberts
Series: The Guardians Trilogy #3
Published by Berkley on December 6th 2016
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 352
Goodreads
three-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: The trilogy ends on a decent but unexceptional book. Focused more on the plot than the romance (which feels like an afterthought), the “big bad” is just not compelling enough to compete with the first book in the trilogy.

THE STORY: This book continues the story of the six guardians who are searching for the three stars that will help them defeat the evil goddess. The final romance is between Doyle, a man cursed with immortality over three hundred years ago, and Riley, an archaeologist who also happens to be a shapeshifting wolf.

OPINION: I waited almost a year to read this book. Unfortunately after book two I didn’t have any real compulsion to finish up the trilogy. This book ended the series better than book 2 left me, but the romance was flat in this story.

The highlight of this series was book one and I still loved seeing Sasha and Bran. They were the best fleshed out couple in the series and they still seem the most interesting. While the pairing of Doyle and Riley was expected, this book didn’t really develop their characters any further. Doyle has some backstory dealing with his past with people dying, but Riley is not developed at all which was disappointing. These two seem to fall together more from being the only ones in the house not having sex rather than any real connection. The romance here felt like an afterthought that the story could have done without.

The strength of this story was the formed family connection between all six characters. Their pursuit of their quest felt purposeful and interesting. Even though the final confrontation with the “big bad” was lacking somewhat, I enjoyed the journey these characters went on.

What I really did not like was the epilogue which magically solved all the problems. As a spoiler, I can say that Sasha and Bran didn’t need anything — which just goes to demonstrate what a great couple they are.

I liked this book more than book 2 (although the “fixing” of the problems in book 2 done here mitigates many of my complaints), but this trilogy isn’t one that I’m putting on my keeper shelf.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book fixes the serious problem with the ending for the couple in book 2.

CONNECTED BOOKS: ISLAND OF GLASS is the third and final book in the Guardians Trilogy. The series has a continuing storyline and characters with relationships which overlap. A reader should start with book one and read the series in order.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.

three-half-stars

Review: Born in Fire

Review: Born in FireBorn in Fire (Born In Trilogy, #1) by Nora Roberts
Series: Born in Trilogy #1
Published by Berkley on September 3rd 2013
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 368
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION:  This book is a great introduction to one of my favorite trilogies.  Maggie is difficult to understand and get to know, but that reflects her closed off nature.  The story of how she opens up and learns to trust is wonderful and fulfilling.

THE STORY:  Maggie Concannon is the eldest sister and a glass artist.  When her father dies, family secrets are revealed.  Strong and independent, Maggie wants to control her career.  Rogan Sweeney a renowned gallery owner who wants to help promote Maggie’s career.  As the two stubborn and determined Maggie and Rogan fight against one another, a deep passion arises between them, Maggie struggles with the scars from her family which have taught her to rely only upon herself.

OPINION:  This is, at its heart, the story of a family and the lasting damage that the pain and secrets in that family can have on the next generation.  Maggie is a woman who has learned from her parents’ dysfunctional marriage to keep herself apart.  She especially will not open herself up to love and trust. This prickly independent woman must open herself up to find love.  As she finds the man perfect for her, the question is whether or not she is willing to risk herself.

The characters in this story are so bold and well-defined that they are the centerpiece of a book that has a lot packed into it.  Maggie’s artistic drive, stubborn will and intense fear. Rogan’s determination to win Maggie as an artist and as a woman. The best part of this book is the connection between Maggie and Rogan.  The two battle and argue and work their way into a love that can last.

I loved the characters in this story and the quiet personal nature of the conflicts here. As the secrets in this story are revealed, this novel sets up the rest of the series.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This is one of the best Nora Roberts’ trilogy.  She has written other trilogies set in Ireland after this one, but I think this is my favorite of them.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BORN IN FIRE is the first book of the Born In Trilogy.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars