I love Nora Roberts’ romantic suspense novels. They usually offer up a good balance of the two, which is important given my love of thrillers and suspense and antipathy towards romance. (As such.)
Interestingly, though this includes some suspense, it’s kinda short-lived. It grapples with some unpleasant themes (domestic violence and family violence, so trigger alert for some), but the thing I enjoyed most about this book was, in fact, how the romance played out and the relationship between our two lead characters.
by Nora Roberts
Published by Piatkus
on July 9th 2019
Source: Hachette Australia
Genres: Romantic Suspense, Thriller / Suspense
ISBN: 0349421927, 9780349421926, 9780349421926
Zane Bigelow grew up in a beautiful, perfectly kept house in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Strangers―and even Zane’s own aunt across the lake―see his parents as a successful surgeon and his stylish wife, making appearances at their children’s ballet recitals and baseball games. Only Zane and his sister Britt know the truth, until one brutal night finally reveals cracks in the facade, and Zane escapes for college without a thought of looking back...
Years later, Zane returns to his hometown determined to reconnect with the place and people that mean so much to him, despite the painful memories. As he resumes life in the colorful town, he meets a gifted landscape artist named Darby, who is on the run from ghosts of her own.
Together they will have to teach each other what it means to face the past, and stand up for the ones they love.
There was something very satisfying about the first third of this book. I was initially worried it wouldn’t offer readers (well me, cos it’s all about me!) the justice we (well, I) deserved. Oh, and not to mention the characters, cos they have something to do with this after all.
I’m so accustomed to frustrating injustice magnified in novels (as a reflection of life I guess) that I really did expect that my faith in humanity would yet again be dashed. So… I was pleasantly surprised. Of course, it really just kinda kicks off the book but felt like a nice sense of closure. For a while.
There’s an obvious sense this may not be a HEA (happily ever after) scenario when there’s so much more of the novel to go.
We leap forward eighteen years to now and keep a focus on Zane, his aunt Emily and police officer Lee. His sister Britt fades into the background a little as we meet Darby. It’s obvious from the moment she’s introduced that she’s ‘leaving’ her old life. She’s a landscape gardener and picked Lakeview as a potential new place to re-establish herself.
And what I really really liked about Darby (and HUGE kudos to Nora Roberts for her character) is that she is vivacious, funny, flirty, sociable and so forth. In the book she’s described as being able to tease information from anyone and she’s certainly a magnetic lead. It’d be tempting – when we learn a bit about her past – to have her be suspicious, distrustful and secretive. But she is not at all and I loved how empowered, forthright and confident she is.
It’s probably not much of a spoiler to comment on the fact romance blossoms between Darby and a recently-returned-to-Lakeview Zane, and again I loved the way this plays out. Their characters are honest and happily unmessy. There is no game-playing while we readers wait for the predictable will-they / won’t-they scenario. Perhaps I just don’t read enough romance but I adored that this wasn’t dragged out with tortuous coyness. (Having said that, if I was to write romance there’d definitely be the lack of certainty re the others’ feelings thing happening! 😕 )
It’s kinda obvious that Zane’s old life is going to return with a vengeance… (almost literally). But again, Roberts deals with this surprisingly swiftly. So we know there’s more. I felt it’s kinda obvious what that ultimately is and was surprised none of the characters considered it (and yes, I know they’re fictional, but still…).
But Roberts has several subplots at play, so the pace continues in between moments of crisis. There is – of course – an underlying theme around domestic violence and it impacts on several of our characters. Occasionally it felt a little heavy-handed but I’m conscious those who’ve lived through it are overly sensitive to the power imbalance between others as a result.
So, this was an interesting read for me. It felt long, but not tedious. It offers a great sense of place, which – for reasons unknown – surprised me. There are a few moments of tension in between a burgeoning romance, not to mention the whole unfolding plot of two people restarting their lives having made big changes in pursuit of happiness. (And yes, unemployed lil ol’ me enjoyed the whole ‘will I make a go of this new life?’ element.)
Regular readers of my reviews know I adore Roberts’ JD Robb (In Death) series but I also make a point to read her romantic suspense because I’m rarely (if ever) disappointed. They’re not cheesy, I don’t (well rarely) cringe at the sex scenes and, like I said at the outset, there’s an excellent balance between the suspense and the other stuff.
It makes me happy Roberts is such a prolific writer.
Under Currents by Nora Roberts was published in Australia by Hachette on 9 July 2019.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.