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RFG Recommends: The Obsession by Nora Roberts

27 May

The Obsession NRoberts

I have made no secret of my love for La Nora. The woman is a romance writing MACHINE. For a full list of her very impressive collection of work you can check out her website here:

http://www.noraroberts.com/

She writes stand-alone romance/romantic suspense novels, series books that are straight up contemporary romances or those with a paranormal twist (I think the Smart Bitches Trashy Books site calls them, ParaNoras, heh) as well as an Urban Fantasy series that she writes under the pen name JD Robb. This UF series centres around a cop in a New York of the future named Eve Dallas who may be one of my absolute favourite urban fantasy heroines (along with Kate Daniels) and the hero, Roarke well, if he isn’t one of your ultimate book boyfriends after reading these books then… we can no longer be friends. Really.

The Obsession is one of her stand-alone romantic novels with a suspense element. Let me preface my love for this book by stating that NR has published around 33 stand-alone novels and although my love for her work is (seemingly) boundless I have to admit that of the 33 there were some that were awesome (Birthright, Montana Sky, The Search, Angels Fall among others) and some that were good but I probably didn’t bother re-reading (Black Hills, The Liar, The Reef). This probably comes down a little bit to personal taste and a little bit to the fact that she is such a prolific author that some of her books may come off as a little more formulaic than others.

I was afraid to read this book as I didn’t particularly like the last stand-alone book she published, The Liar, as it didn’t grab my attention the way a really good book is supposed to. Also, the premise of The Obsession book is dark- very dark. So if kidnapping and rape is a trigger for you keep far, far away. NR handles it very well and descriptions aren’t too graphic but the book IS about a serial rapist and murderer so Rainbow Bright this book is not.

“She stood in the deep, dark woods, breath shallow and cold prickling over her skin despite the hot, heavy air. She took a step back, then two, as the urge to run fell over her.” 

Naomi Bowes lost her innocence the night she followed her father into the woods. In freeing the girl trapped in the root cellar, Naomi revealed the horrible extent of her father’s crimes and made him infamous. No matter how close she gets to happiness, she can’t outrun the sins of Thomas David Bowes.

Now a successful photographer living under the name Naomi Carson, she has found a place that calls to her, a rambling old house in need of repair, thousands of miles away from everything she’s ever known. Naomi wants to embrace the solitude, but the kindly residents of Sunrise Cove keep forcing her to open up—especially the determined Xander Keaton.

Naomi can feel her defenses failing, and knows that the connection her new life offers is something she’s always secretly craved. But the sins of her father can become an obsession, and, as she’s learned time and again, her past is never more than a nightmare away.

In spite of the dark subject matter of the book I really, really loved it. The story sucked me in and the pacing was really good. There were quite a few chapters devoted to Naomi in her growing up years and it never felt like an overly extended introduction or padding for the book but a natural progression of her development from that pivotal moment in her life when she discovered her dad was a serial killer to how that then reverberates through her life in so many ways and for so many years.

Naomi was one of the best things for me about this book. I adore books with strong female leads (hence my love for romance novels) and this one is a doozy. She’s naturally cautious as life has taught her to be but never falls into brittle or bitter. Every time I think about the chapter where she is only 12 years old and discovers her dad’s victim it gives me goosebumps. The fact that she didn’t then curl up into a whimpering ball in horror and instead helped the victim speaks volumes about this character at an age where her only concern should have been getting her first pimple.

NR does the tough but reluctantly kind heroine very well and this one gets dragged kicking and screaming into making friends, being part of a community and having a dog. Speaking of the dog- some of the BEST scenes in the book revolve around that dog. In spite of the dark history, there are laugh out loud scenes in this book that make it so easy to read.

Aside from my love of the heroine, I think what also makes this book so good is the cast of secondary characters, from the builder and his wife, to Naomi’s uncle and his partner all the way to the darn dog there was so much likeability built into this book it almost fell into the too cute for words category. Of course then you have Xander Keaton, mechanic and band member. Xander falls into the more gruff, tough talking NR hero mold than the affable, easy going one but somehow manages to charm the literal pants of cautious Naomi anyway. Here’s an excerpt of the two of them having a disagreement in Chapter 20 of the book:

He crossed over, sat beside her again. “You’d have slept with me. I saw that the first time you came into the bar.”

            “Oh, really?”

            Not yet settled but getting there, he picked up his beer again.

“I’ve got a sense about when a woman’s going to be willing. But if you believed all that crap all the way though, this wouldn’t have turned into a thing.”

            “It wasn’t supposed to.”

            “A lot of good things happen by accident. If Charles Goodyear hadn’t been clumsy, we wouldn’t have vulcanized rubber.”

            “What?”

            “Weatherproof rubber-tires, for instance, as in Goodyear. He was trying to figure out how to make rubber weatherproof, dropped this experiment on a stove by accident, and there you go, he made weatherproof rubber.”

            Baffled,she rubber her aching temple. “I’ve completely lost the point.”

            “Not everything has to be planned to work out. Maybe we both figured we’d bang it out a few times and move on, but we didn’t. And it’s working out all right.”

            The sound of her own laughter surprised her. “Wow, Xander, my heart’s fluttering from that romantic description. It’s like a sonnet.”

And then there’s this funny interaction in Chapter 24:

“As a matter of fact, I’ve been looking at grills online.”

            You can’t buy a grill online.” Sincerely appalled, he stared at her –with some pity. “You have to see it, and-“

            “Stroke it?” She offered a bright smile. “Speak to it?”

            Appalled pity turned on a dime to a cool disdain that made her want to laugh. “You have to see it,” he repeated.

Rating: A 

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RFG Recommends: Uncommon Passion by Anne Calhoun

11 Mar

Uncommon Passion A Calhoun

I was listening to the DBSA (Dear Bitches Smart Authors) Podcast recently, going through all of their old podcasts hoping that I would find a book or books to break this reading slump that I’ve been on lately. One of the books that Sarah from Smart Bitches Trashy Books recommended was Uncommon Passion by Anne Calhoun.
The thing that made me want to read it was the description of the heroine. Her name is Rachel Hill and she is described in the summary as someone who has recently left a fundamentalist commune called Elysian Field. Having grown up in this very restrictive environment, she is a 25 year old virgin. Wanting to rid herself of her aforementioned virginity she buys the hero, Ben, at a bachelor auction thinking that he looks like the kind of guys who could do the job and walk away. Ben, at first, seems to be nothing more than a really hot adrenaline junkie police officer with too many notches on his bedpost.
One of the things that I really LOVED about this book was how thoughtful it was. There were no stereotypes to be found anywhere in the story. A lazier writer could have easily portrayed Rachel as an uber innocent (verging on too stupid to live) traumatised young thing and her father and everyone in the commune as evil and mean. What we do get is one of the strongest heroines I have read in a good long time.
Rachel’s strength is quite different from the outwardly tough, I will kick your ass to the moon and back strength of the urban fantasy/paranormal heroine, but by the end of the book I thought: wow that is one strong, self-aware woman. Anne Calhoun was able to write a character of such quiet inner strength and grace, I finished the book with an incredible amount of respect for the character and for AC as a writer for not turning Rachel into a caricature of what people think “escapees” from cults or communes should be like.
It also would have been easy to just vilify Rachel’s father as this oppressive man and in some ways, he was because of his beliefs. At the same time, he was also the man who baked cookies with her and read her stories and all these other things that show that he was a very loving father. There’s a scene where Ben and Rachel are talking about her life in Elysian Field and she says that people think she left because of the lack of fashion or long skirts but that’s not why she left at all. She left because she wanted to decide things for herself without her father or one of the elders telling her what to think or feel. I found it fascinating that she wasn’t even supposed to be mad or grumpy as this was being ungrateful to God so she had to be serene or cheerful all day.
Ben as a hero seems really simple in the beginning but is actually a really complicated character. I LOVE that he had to work through his issues and come to realizations about himself before he felt he had anything to give in terms of a relationship. I love how the romance developed slowly, completely apart from the steamy sex which would have been about an 8 or 9 in the steamy charts. I LOVE how the heroine , even being inexperienced knew to stand up for herself after a raunchy sex sesh and say you know what? You didn’t treat me right that time, buh-bye. I love how AC made Rachel brave enough to fully accept and experience all emotions even negative ones.
I know I may be repeating myself but it has to be said again; this was a very well-written and thoughtful romance that I will remember in the jumble of all the other meh books that I have read lately. My only criticism is that I didn’t get that ‘chest hurts oh my God this book is ripping my heart out’ feeling that I get with the some really good books. It’s a solid B+ for me though, hope you like it.

More Sex Scene Funnies

29 Jan

Late last year wrote a blog entry about some things that I found strange, disturbing and hilarious about sex scenes: https://romancefangirl.com/2013/08/ . One of my absolute favourite romance blogs, Smart Bitches Trashy Books recently published an article on sex scenes that had me rolling-on-the-floor-oh-my-goodness-I’m-going-to-wet-my-pants laughing. I then read all the comments that other romance fan girls like me made on the article and there commenced another round of undignified snorting and snickering. Any long time reader of romance novels is sure to have her (or his) particular pet peeve when it comes to these scenes.

Anyway, here is the link to the article:  http://smartbitchestrashybooks.com/blog/10-things-i-hate-about-sex-scenes. Enjoy y’all. If both these articles left something out that has you rolling your eyes when you read it, I’d love to hear from you!