Nora Roberts: The Best of Her Books
So many to choose from...
I'm an avid reader. Obsessive even. And yes, I always read the last chapter before buying the book. Life is often depressing enough without reading a sad ending. That being said, there are several authors whose books I know guarantee both a happy ending and a well-written story, and thus I can buy virtually sight-unseen. Nora Roberts is one of those authors, and truth be told, there are few instances in which I have ever been disappointed in her books. However, due to the superiority of most of her novels, those that have been disappointing are disappointing in the extreme.
The O'Hurleys - (re-reading and remembering how great these are!)
I go through phases. And I am currently re-reading old Nora Roberts books. Just finished The O'Hurleys series, which includes The Last Honest Woman (my favorite!), Dance to the Piper, Skin Deep, and Without a Trace.
One of the things I love about her books is her tendency for her trilogies to be about families (brothers/sisters/etc...). I love that she gives us more than a book to enjoy all of the characters! These books don't have a lot of overlap of the characters, but just enough to wish for such varied artistic talent in my own family!
If you've never read these, pick them up! You'll fall in love with them. If you have read them, I can tell you they are worth a second (or third) read.
Getting Back Into Nora
Life has caught up and it had been a long while since I had bought a new Nora Roberts book (and clearly even longer since I talked about it here). But after reading The Search, I have to say, Nora still has it. Yes, her stories are formulaic after a while. But there's still something that just reaches out to the reader and pulls you into the story and you don't care that all her male characters are either bookishly shy and sweet or manly and standoffish.
Ultimately, I love the Idea that awful experiences don't have to break us, that we have the choice to get up every day and make something beautiful from the darkness. Fiona epitomized that for me, and watching her learn to open up to Simon, and him to her, was... well romantic. Which was the point, after all.
The Bride Trilogy
I know, Two Posts in One Day! It's a Miracle...
In my catching up with Nora's work, I have also finished The Bride Quartet. And for me her trilogies/series have been hit or miss. This was no exception, and while I loved the first three, I wish that she had ended with Laurel and Delaney. There was just something so much more compelling about them than with Parker and Malcolm. Sigh.
Advice? Definitely read it. It feels more modern than some of her other novels (because Nora has been writing forever after all. She's a champ!), which is nice for a younger person like me. Just know that the high comes in Book 3, and unfortunately is somewhat downhill from there.
If you like Nora, you might like...
Let's be honest. You can't read the same author ALWAYS. Most of the time, sure, you can read all Nora Roberts. But for those days when you need a change of pace, here are a few authors you might enjoy:
1. Elizabeth Lowell: Romance/Romantic Suspense. Her books range from historical to contemporary and she too tends to do trilogies and series. Good one to start with would be Desert Rain. It's a stand alone and will give you a good idea of her general writing style. This is more of a straight romance, so if you're looking for more of a romantic suspense, try Amber Beach. It's the first of her Donovan series, and one of my favorites.
2. Linda Howard: Romance/Romantic Suspense. There are very few Linda Howard books that I can't reread time and time again. It would be hard to list one that wouldn't be good to start with, but my all time favorites would be Mr. Perfect, Open Season, and Shades of Twilight.
3. Kay Hooper: She tends more towards the suspense part of Paranormal Romantic Suspense, but her books are so well crafted that it's hard to find fault with her formula. Most of her books are connected even if only loosely, so I would start with Stealing Shadows.
4. Sandra Brown: The old romances. I don't mind a lot of her newer books, but her older romance novels and novellas just seem to captivate me and entertain me a whole lot more than her newer stuff. Try... Mirror Image or The Rana Look.
5. Christine Feehan: Much different in genre as Feehan stays in the paranormal romance, but storytelling abilities are on par with Roberts'. She does series', but it's not necessarily important to read in order. My favorite... Dark Magic.
These aren't all of my faves, but this list will suffice for now. =)
The Best of Her Stand Alones...
The stories that are less of a time commitment...
The most common of Nora's stories are generally in trilogy-form. However, there are times when I don't want to have to wait for the next book to get the entire story. Here are my favorite of her stand alones:
1. Birthright- As I already stated, this is my fave of all time, and thus #1 on my fave stand alone list.
2. Blue Smoke- Another great one. Side note: I was supremely disappointed in the Lifetime movie version of the book. The actors did not match the characters at all for me. So boo to that. =)
3. Homeport - Again, I already mentioned my fondness for this one.
4. Honest Illusions- One of Roberts' books that follows the characters from a young age, and the one which, in my opinion, does it the best. You can't help but love Luke, even at his worst, just for the success he's made of his life, and the love he has for Roxanne, who clearly isn't the easiest woman to love. This particular novel also has a great plot with a thoroughly believable and dislikable nemesis as well as charmingly wacky supporting characters.
5. Montana Sky- As I already mentioned, the relationships in this book really carry the novel. Always seems to take me longer to get through this one as it is more in depth in the amount of "main" characters it has, but worth the time!
6. The Reef- Who doesn't love to hear a story about treasure hunters? To be honest, this is what captivated me initially about this book. Felt slow moving for me at first, really got into it once it was in present time, not the past. Still, a great beach read!
7. The Villa- I loved the male lead (Tyler) in the book, more so than the female lead (Sophie). Despite that I loved the family relationships portrayed in the book, and enjoyed the fact that the relationship between the two characters developed from friendship and familiarity long before the book's time period.
8. Public Secrets- Again, takes a while to get the the present time, but worth the work. Great story line that spans decades, including the love story between Michael and Emma.
Best Trilogy... Probably the Dream Trilogy
It has treasure and horses... It wins.
Of all Roberts' trilogies, and there are many, I think my favorite, and by favorite I mean most re-readable on a regular basis, is the the Dream Trilogy: Daring to Dream, Holding the Dream, Finding the Dream. These books follow the Templeton family, most importantly the Templeton daughter, Laura (Finding the Dream), the Templeton's housekeeper's daughter Margo Sullivan (Daring to Dream), and the Templeton's surrogate daughter Kate Powell (Holding the Dream).
One of the most enticing things about this particular trilogy is the difference in each of the women's characters. They have so many clashing attributes, that it is beautiful to see that despite all those, they are committed to each other and their family above all else.
The best book of the trilogy? Usually I don't like to choose the last one as I think it's unfair to the other books as it gets to wrap up all the stories, but I honestly love Laura's book, Finding the Dream. Her "hero" is so un-hero-like for the most part, and yet Roberts' gives us these snapshots that make you realize why Laura both should and does fall in love with him.
And although the last is my favorite, you won't go wrong with any of them. So get all three and read them in order to avoid confusion and spoilers. Except this spoiler: there are happy endings. But you probably guessed that already.
Lottery Winner a Winner
The Winning Hand
As far as her novellas go, Roberts' The Winning Hand would have to be my favorite. It follows the story of small-town librarian Darcy Wallace who puts her last few dollars into a slot machine and comes out a millionaire winner at Mac Blade's casino. I loved Darcy's character - her naivete, her excitement, her bravery. And I love Mac's reluctance to fall in love with this girl he finds so irresistibly different than himself.
I usually don't care for novellas. Too often they have... well, a weak plot is the nicest way to phrase it. However, I truly enjoyed this one, and wish it hadn't been one of the last of the MacGregor books so as to see the characters again. Perhaps sometime in the future!
All Time Fave...
Birthright takes the cake... If there was a cake of some kind
My all time favorite Nora Roberts book would have to be Birthright. One of her newer novels, Birthright tells the story of archeologist Callie Dunbrook and her ex-husband Jacob Greystone who are thrown together on a digsite. The book involves many subplots including the disgruntled developers of the land the site was found on, the apparent adoption/kidnapping of Callie as a baby, and a few murders thrown in here and there for good measure.
Ultimately, I loved the book for its characters. You can't help but love Callie's feistiness, her commitment to her work and her family (in whatever form they come in), and her need for the truth. The relationship between her and Jacob is ultimately real and is what drives the book. They love each other, but it isn't easy. And isn't that just like life?! Sometimes when reading a romance novel, you love the happy-ever-after, but can't help but think, that would never happen! Roberts has avoided this catastrophe, and her clever twist in the last chapter (which, if like me, was the first thing you read!) was the perfect touch to their evolving relationship.
Buy your own copy here
The Worst... The Circle Trilogy
Let's be honest... I could barely finish it
So I don't mind paranormal romances. In fact, a good Christine Feehan, Lynsay Sands, or Jeaniene Frost book is great for a beach day. But Nora Robert's attempt at it? Train wreck.
And I hate to say it, I do. Because I love her work. But these three, Morrigan's Cross, Dance of the Gods, and Valley of Silence, were a waste of my time. It felt like she was trying too hard to fit her romance formula into a genre she had no concept of. And she's done some paranormal before with her Key Trilogy and Three Sisters Trilogy, both of which I've enjoyed a lot, but this particular blend of vampires and witches does not work for me at all.
So if you don't want your ideals about Nora Roberts broken a bit, steer clear of these books. And if you're just getting into her work, by all means, don't start with the Circle Trilogy. You'll only be disappointed.
Another great novel...
Blue Smoke takes the cupcake I guess? Smaller than the cake but still delicious...
It's no coincidence that my second favorite of her books is another of her stand-alone novels. To be honest, her trilogies can be a bit... redundant. I still enjoy them, still get drawn into the characters and the plot, but let's be frank: you know what is going to happen, how it's going to happen, and after a while, that can get old.
Blue Smoke is somewhat of a break in Roberts' normal formula, and for that I love it. It is the story of Reena Hale, who after a fire at her parent's restaurant, decides to become an arson investigator. The book follows Reena as she grows up, including her relationships which all seem to end tragically. Her love interest in the book is carpenter Bo Goodnight, who is one of my favorite heroes of all Roberts' books.
There is the inevitable conflict near the end, the happy ending for Reena and Bo, but there are enough twists to make it enjoyable to get there. All in all, Blue Smoke is one of Nora Roberts' better modern novels, and one of my favorites.
This is the first Nora Roberts book I read... And thus is one of my top 5
This one has to be one of my fave books just do to the fact that it was the book that inducted me into the Nora Roberts' fan club. Additionally, you can't help but love Ryan Boldari, the male protagonist. He's just so charming and full of surprises. And Miranda is so far from usual heroine material, you have to love her.
Additionally, I often could care less about secondary characters, but in this case, I really enjoyed the subplot of Miranda's brother. He was supremely real, and thus helped sell me on the Ryan-is-an-art-gallery-owner-and-art-thief-to-help-family. Which I think we all can admit, is a bit far fetched.
Roberts' most recent "stand-alone" novel, more in the style of Birthright than her most recent release The Pagan Stone, which is the third in her The Sign of Seven Trilogy.