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

Review: Bay of Sighs

Review: Bay of SighsBay of Sighs (The Guardians Trilogy, #2) by Nora Roberts
Series: The Guardians Trilogy #2
Published by Berkley on June 14th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Paranormal
Pages: 319
Goodreads
three-stars

FINAL DECISION:  I enjoyed this book but it felt like the middle book it is. It is dependent upon knowing what happened in the first book including the relationships which developed there and in the end the story feels incomplete because there is another book left to go.

THE STORY:  This book begins right after the events of Book 1 of the Trilogy.  After acquiring the first star in their quest, the band of six have moved on to the search for the second star.  Annika, the mermaid, has a special role to play here in the search for the water star.  Granted legs for only a few months, Annika enjoys her life on land and her flirtation with Sawyer King.  Sawyer is the traveler with control of a compass which can take one through space and time.  Sawyer is attracted to Annika but worries about getting involved with the lovely mermaid who will only be on land for such a short time.  As Sawyer and Annika along with their friends search for the star, danger lurks with the reappearance of their enemy. She has a new minion to threaten the six as the danger increases.

OPINION:  I really wanted to like this book.  I had been looking forward to the story of the mermaid because it had ready made angst involved since she was only given legs for a limited amount of time.  What disappointed me most in this book was the resolution or lack thereof of that impediment.  I have hopes that the issues might yet be resolved in the final book, but as a story, I was disappointed in the poor version of a happy ending that Annika and Sawyer have to endure.

I also thought that their romance was given short shrift here.  The romance seemed expected and neither fought too hard. The drama in the story came from the plot regarding the stars.

On the other hand, I thought that this was a good continuation of the first book in the series and set up the final book in a way that made me highly anticipate it.  The story was action packed and I love the relationship that has developed between the six.  The book would have been more highly rated by me except for my disappointment with the resolution of Annika and Sawyer’s story.

WORTH MENTIONING:  I want to read the final book about the immortal and the werewolf more than I wanted to read this one.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  BAY OF SIGHS is the second book in the Guardians Trilogy.  This book relies heavily on having read the first book in the series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 3 stars.

three-stars

Review: Brotherhood in Death

Review: Brotherhood in DeathBrotherhood in Death (In Death, #42) by J.D. Robb
Series: In Death #42
Published by Berkley on February 2nd 2016
Genres: Futuristic, Mystery
Pages: 388
Goodreads
four-stars

Dennis Mira is Adorable

“Time doesn’t heal, whatever they say. It’s how we use the time that can heal.”

FINAL DECISION; Perfectly adequate, this book is best in its character moments. Eve and Dennis Mira’s relationship develops here. Also, Eve and Roarke continue to deepen their relationship. The mystery had too many players to interest me as much as the personal stories.

THE STORY: Dennis Mira goes to confront his cousin over the house they inherited together when Dennis gets hit over the head but not before he sees his cousin tied up. When he awakens, his cousin is gone. He calls for Eve to help investigate. Eve has always had a soft spot for Dennis Mira and she is determined to find out what happened. This leads her to look into the expensive real estate that the cousins were bickering about but then something else happens that turns Eve’s investigation in a new direction.

OPINION: This book revisits a little of the angst of Eve’s personal journey. I appreciate that while she has largely resolved her personal issues regarding her past, she still has moments where the past wells up in her. This book is largely about the past and how a person can choose to heal and move on or dwell endlessly in the past and thus be subsumed by it. For me, the books in this series work best where there is overlap between Eve’s personal journey and the crime she is investigating. I read these book because of the characters — not because of the mysteries. This book allows both Eve and the reader to see how far Eve and traveled and what can happen when one does not allow time to heal.

WORTH MENTIONING: As a sign of how Eve has changed, she is now wearing a silly knit hat because it was given to her as a gift.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BROTHERHOOD IN DEATH is the 42nd book in the In Death series. It can be read as a standalone although there are long running characters developments that transcend the one book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars