In A Nutshell

    • Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Mystery, Thriller, slight Paranormal themes
    • Notes: Less than ten years ago, this was my first Nora Roberts book and it made me want to read all of her novels. To this day it remains one of my faithful, favorite books to pull out on a beach and read.
    • Recommended For: People who enjoy a murder mystery with their romance and can handle the idea of a psychic in a contemporary reality.

A book that’s able to juggle childhood friendships, romance, psychic ability, along with murder, child abuse, and the always intricate dynamics of families . . . When I picked up this book, I was a teenager and believed that television was the best form of story telling and that books were things forced on us by teachers (I know, I know — late bloomer.) But the moment I picked up this book I saw the world in a different way. I was suddenly the best director in my own mind. As long as someone provided the screenplay, I could imagine it all miraculously in my head. That’s why, this book – for me – will always get 5 stars. But, having said that, I’ve read and reread this book a trillion times and I can see new things, both good and bad, with each reading.

The story line is as follows:

Tory Bodeen grew up in a small, rundown house where her father ruled with an iron fist and a leather belt–and where her dreams and talents had no room to flourish. But she had Hope–who lived in the big house, just a short skip away, and whose friendship allowed Tory to be something she wasn’t allowed to be at home: a child.

After young Hope’s brutal murder, unsolved to this day, Tory’s life began to fall apart. And now, as she returns to the tiny town of Progress, South Carolina, with plans to settle in and open a stylish home-design shop, she is determined to find a measure of peace and free herself from the haunting visions of that terrible night. As she forges a new bond with Cade Lavelle–Hope’s older brother and the heir to the Lavelle fortune–she isn’t sure whether the tragic loss they share will unite them or drive them apart. But she is willing to open her heart, just a little, and try.

But living so close to those unhappy memories will be more difficult and frightening than she ever expected. Because the killer of Hope is nearby as well.

To this day, I think this story line is one of Roberts’ most interesting. Not that it’s her all time best, but it shows her willingness to ride that line of reality and fantasy. As a best-selling romance novelist, most famous for her contemporary romances set in reality, it takes guts to try to sell a credible “Psychic” plot line in a gritty, gory murder mystery.

I’m a paranormal fan and love fantasy so this little touch to the book only enhances it for me, but I do remember reading it that first time and being thrown that a book so set in the harsh realities of the current day would have the touch of fancy that a psychic brings. But, obviously, it’s not something thrown in there for fun. Tory’s psychic abilities are the key to the entire plot and help shape how she’s seen by the world and how she fits in it herself.

One thing I have found different since I read it that first time is that Tory gets a little angsty from time to time. Completely understandable, considering her life and the events that shape her in the book, but there get’s to be a point or two where you want to Cher-slap her and shout, “SNAP OUTTA’ IT!” Cade helps to liven her up as well as open her up to a relationship and to let go of the trauma of the past and that adds more color to the book. But for me, the show stealer is Faith.

I always get a little peeved that they don’t mention Faith in the synopsis as she’s just as important, if not more so, to the central plot. Faith is Hope’s twin sister and the rebel of the Lavelle family. Whereas Tory is an easy protagonist to cheer for as she’s had a rough past and tries to do the right thing, Faith is a girl with a rough past that did just about every wrong thing. Tory’s commendable, Faith’s relatable. I also find her one liners and comebacks are hilarious and the real reason this book keeps tempo and has rhythm. In fact, some of my favorite scenes are the ones between Faith and Tory. Faith brings out the snark in Tory, where no one else can.

As for the romance in the book. I never find that it’s lacking in quantity, between the two main couples you get your fair share of lovin’. And I do love Cade, the goes-against-the-grain farmer who chooses to turn his back on the old ways of farming and make his farm grow organic cotton. I do notice, it’s a consistent thing for Roberts’ romances, that he falls for Tory almost immediately. I mean, I can understand needing to get that out-of-the-way when you have a murderer running around, but I sometimes think – really? Already?

As for the mystery, I found it engaging, well-developed and I honestly didn’t know who it was in the end. I don’t know if that came from me never having read a Nora Roberts’ novel or if you’ll have trouble guessing who dunnit, but I recommend you try to take a look. Also, there was a Lifetime, made for TV-Movie of this book a few years back. If you want to truly enjoy this story – read the book.  The movie should just be considered paraphernalia, like a t-shirt at a concert. For me, the real deal will always remain the book

Bottom Line: A Katie Classic. It will forever remain on my bookshelf and I completely recommend it for yours. I can bet most of you will finish it in 2 days, tops.