Sunday, May 30, 2010

Nora Roberts: In the Garden Trilogy

Here we have three women, each at a different stage in their lives, who come together in one place and through their affection for each other and the men they come to love, become as close as family.  While different in age, experience and social class, they are linked through something more.  They’ve each experienced personal loss.  They each have, or are having, children.  They are each alone and lonely.  And they each love to garden.
Stella Rothchild is in her mid-30’s, she’s a widow and has two young sons.  After losing her husband to a plane crash, Stella decides to move south to be closer to her father and step-mother.  She’s hired to manage In the Garden, the gardening center owned and run by Rosalind Harper.  Upon taking the job, Stella and her boys move in to Harper House, the antebellum mansion Roz, her housekeeper David, and her eldest son Harper call home.  In the house the Rothchild’s discover the family ghost who is referred to as “the Harper Bride,” and each have different experiences with her.  It isn’t until Stella and Logan Kitridge, In the Garden’s resident landscape designer, begin to date that things really begin to get interesting at Harper House.  The typically benign ghost suddenly become hostile and objects to Logan’s addition to the family.  Eventually Stella is able to connect with the ghost long enough to make her understand that Logan would never hurt the boys.
When 47-year-old Rosalind Harper decides to investigate who and what the Harper Bride really is, she calls upon Dr. Mitchell Carnegie for help.  And when she decides to call upon Mitch for more personal reasons, the Bride once more becomes hostile.  Roz and Mitch, as well as the rest of the residents of Harper House are determined to figure out the truth of the Bride, if only to remove the presence from the house.  Only once Roz is able to make the ghost realize that she’d never again bring someone into her home that would hurt her, the Bride again backs off after giving the members of the household a bit more information that will help them find her.
After arriving on the steps of Harper House 6-months pregnant and needing help, 24-year-old Hayley Phillips doesn’t think that she’s in any position to be lusting after Harper, Roz’s eldest son.  But she does.  And unbeknownst to her Harper has been lusting after her, since the first moment he met the pregnant woman.  Neither acts on their desires for over a year until Hayley just can’t handle not acting.  After a year of hiding their feelings for one another they come together in a burst of heat and passion that leaps from the page and into your heart.  The only problem: the Harper Bride has some serious issues with their young love and she’s growing in power and ability.  Undeterred the couple forges their own path and they find a love for each other that neither believed possible.  Through their love, their affection for their friends and their determination to rid themselves of the suddenly hostile ghost, they are able to discover the entire story of the Harper Bride and are able to put her to rest.
This trilogy gives something of a familiar message – family is the most important thing.  Whether it’s the family you’ve always known, the family you choose to create through love, or the family you are just discovering you’ve always had - it is always the most important thing. 
Blue Dahlia, 2004
Black Rose, 2005
Red Lily, 2005
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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Nora Roberts: The Chesapeake Bay Saga

Like most authors in the romance genre, the majority of Nora Roberts’ novels focus, at least primarily, on the heroine.  As a way of connecting with the audience – consisting mostly of women, though I do know many men who read romance too – it’s the easiest and quickest way to make sure that your reader is interested enough to buy your book and keep reading the story.  It’s an industry norm because it works, yet every once in a while you’ll run across a book that isn’t, mostly, from the female point of view.  Case in point: the Chesapeake Bay Saga. 
Beginning with Sea Swept and the introduction of the three eldest Quinn brothers – Cameron, Ethan and Phillip, we are drawn swiftly into the Quinn family and the mystery of the fourth, and much younger brother Seth.  The death of their father puts the four men in the difficult position of wondering “why” their father died, and trying to secure the guardianship of 10-year-old Seth. 
It is through the guardianship battle that the brothers meet Anna Spinelli, the social worker assigned to the case.  It is only luck, or fate, that has Anna and Cam falling in love.  On the surface they couldn’t be any more different – she’s practical and a planner, he’s impulsive and rash.  It’s not until you search their depths that you discover that for all their differences both Cam and Anna have very much in common.
Grace Monroe has known the Quinn brothers since they first came to St. Christopher, the small community on the bay that became home to them all.  In all those years Grace’s heart has been Ethan’s, though she’s never admitted as much to anyone and he’s never realized, even though he watches her, wants her, yearns for her.  Whether it’s the situation or the timing, after Anna and Cam are married Ethan loses his control over his desire for Grace, and Grace finally admits her own.  It’s not a smooth path to the altar for them but in Rising Tides Grace and Ethan finally manage to connect with each other and discover just how wonderful life can be when you love and are loved in return.
Phillip Quinn owes his life to his parents, Ray and Stella, and it is because of this that he and his brothers are willing to do anything to honor their father’s last wish.  To keep Seth with them, to make him theirs, and to give him the chance at life that Ray and Stella gave them.  And that’s why he splits his time between Baltimore and the Shore, between the advertising company he works for and the boat building business that and he and his brothers start up.  It’s because of that promise to his father that Phillip is around, in inner Harbor, to meet Dr. Sybil Griffin when she comes to St. Chris to find out what the situation is with Seth – her half-sisters son.  Sybil knows her sister is a liar and a manipulator, a thief and a cheat, but for all that she knows what her sister is she can’t believe that her sister would lie about Seth.  She should have.  With the Quinn’s Sybil discovers a way of life and of living that she never knew existed.  With Phillip she discovers that love is real and when it is, it’s worth any sacrifice to keep.  And within herself she discovers a core of strength that she didn’t know she had.
When Ray took him, and took him in, Seth had no idea the man was his grandfather.  When Ray died and the Quinn brothers and the women they loved made him theirs, Seth found his place in the world.  They gave him safety and love.  They made sure that he had every chance in life to do as he desired. They made him family and gave him everything he’d ever had that was good.  And so when his mother crawls back into his life he’s willing to do whatever it takes to get rid of her, if only for a little while.   When he comes home in Chesapeake Blue and finds that not everything is exactly as he’d left it, he knows that he never wants to leave again and that if he’s ever going to be truly free, he needs to get rid of his mother once and for all.  Knowing what needs done and doing it are two different things though and in the end it is only his love for socialite-turned-florist, Drusilla Whitcomb Banks that gives him the strength to do what he must.  Tell his family the truth and ask, once more, for their help.
The entire series is a study of men – what they think, what they feel, how they’ll act or react, and how far they’re willing to go to succeed and get what they want.  The Chesapeake Bay Saga is one of my favorites of Nora’s because it demonstrates that family doesn’t only come through blood.  The family you choose, the one you make, can be just as important as and sometimes even more important than the one you’re born into.

Sea Swept, 1998
Rising Tides, 1998
Inner Harbor, 1999
Chesapeake Blue, 2002

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Nora Roberts: The Bride Quartet

I can’t remember which of Nora Roberts' romance novels was the first that I ever read but if I had to make a guess, I think I’d either say “Dance Upon the Air” or “Jewels of the Sun.” Since I finished that first book, which ever it was, I’ve gone on to read dozens more. I have an entire section of my library that is devoted to her books – I’ve got all of her trilogy’s and more than half of her single titles, as well as a couple of her anthologies. Nora is one of my favorite authors. Every story she writes pulls me in, mentally and emotionally; every story connects to my heart, my mind, and maybe even something more. 

Cover of "Savor the Moment (The Brides Qu...I always watch for the new titles. She is my favorite after all. So last year when I saw some mention of the new series that Nora was writing I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the book (Vision in White, May 2009). In the fall when Bed of Roses was released I couldn’t get my hands on it fast enough. And when the third in the ‘Bride Quartet’ came out early this month, Savor the Moment made me stop and think. 

I’m not even sure what it was that really clicked inside of me. The dynamics explored within the story don’t apply to my life. As of now I’ve made no major career choices or decisions – I want to write, I am writing my own stories now but I still haven’t managed to get anything printed. My life is nothing like any of the four “brides.” I am neither rich nor poor. I have yet to complete any “higher education” or decide what I want to do with that education should I eventually finish it. I’m already married and have kids. I get along with my family and my in-laws. There is nothing beyond the simple fact that I’m female, and love weddings, which connects me with these women. But it is there and I feel it, which is exactly the point.

When crazy, chaotic Mac meets her sane, sensible Carter you could feel the meshing of their lives, the balance that they gave to one another. When they fell in love, it warmed my heart. When Emma and Jack finally stopped pretending not to watch each other and finally started moving on the other, you could practically feel the sparks jumping off the page. And when Laurel and Delaney realize that for as close as they’ve always been, like brother and sister, they really have no idea what goes through the other’s head, or what’s in the other’s heart. 

Now we’re left with Parker. The controller, the negotiator, the 'boss.' The last of the four best friends to remain unattached and who despite her best efforts is envious of what her friends now have. Through the stories we know who is going to end up paired with the strong willed, serious minded, detail-driven woman. We know that at first glance the pairing doesn’t appear to fit. I also think that everything we’ve seen and experienced, everything that we’ve felt along the way with the other women is going to combine within the story of Parker’s life. It will be powerful and intense, and like all of Nora Robert’s novels it will blow our socks off. 

I can’t wait.
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Friday, May 14, 2010

A Month of Nora Roberts

I got the idea earlier this month to re-read all of my Nora Roberts novels.  The idea doesn't stop there.  After I read them, I figured that I should write about them. So I will.  It starts with Nora's new series - the Bride Quartet, and will continue first with her other triliogy's and then with the single title novels that I've collected.  I'm going to post the first of these installments in a just a little while.  The rest will come periodically as I finish reading the series and then the novels.  Don't worry, I will be getting back to and finishing my 'Feehan's Dark Carpathian's' series, but I figure after more then six months waiting for the next part there, a couple more weeks won't hurt.

Enjoy my friends and I look forward to chatting with you later.

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