Inspired by a real-life event, when Miles’ sister was told that Nora Roberts was to blame for the dissolution of her marriage, Miles combined her love for the romance author and her background as a Midwestern journalist to craft a story that is a lovely homage to Nora Roberts while having a unique flair.
As a fan of Ms. Roberts myself (who reads romance and doesn’t like her work?) Nora Roberts Land reminds me of the first of the Inns Boonsboro trilogy, where we are introduced to the characters and the world that will be the stage for the next two books. Nora Roberts Land is a satisfying stand-alone that melds perfectly into the opening for the second book, French Roast, recently published. (The final book, Grand Opening, is to be released in September, so we don’t have long to wait to consume the series.)
Meredith Hale, a reporter from New York, returns home to seek healing from her divorce — not just from the sudden lack of confidence she has in herself, but to repair the fairy tale that has been her foundation. It has shattered upon the impact of her husband’s assertion that her naïveté and failure to understand real life ruined their marriage and led him to cheat. But if she can find proof that “Nora Roberts Land” (an affectionate term coined by her mother to embrace the love and magic of Ms. Roberts’ novels) does indeed exist, then Meredith will find her way to becoming whole again.
I loved the character of Arthur Hale, the tough-but-tender journalist who will do anything to protect his family, and who is the rock in many more ways than one. The relationship between the heroine (Meredith Hale) and her sister (Jill, who features in the sequel) was also on target, balancing the tension and the support nicely.
But of course what took center stage was the love story — the blossoming of a romance between our recently-divorced-and-rallying Meredith and the new professor in town, Tanner McBride, who stirs something in her that she never expected to find (even if she is on assignment to discover and prove the existence of Nora Roberts Land). It’s a treat to switch points of view between chapters, and watch as the two build things in each other’s hearts, and slowly tear down walls of habit and safety. Both are hiding secrets, however, and even if they find themselves falling in love, some things can’t be forgiven.
Meanwhile, something is terribly amiss in the usually convivial small town, and people are dying. Can Meredith and Tanner solve the crimes, and find their way out of the maze of promises, blackmail, uncertainty and love, to a place where they can be honest with each other and start something real?
There is a cute map on the front, showing the lay of the small town and also giving a bit of the flavor of the story. Nora Roberts Land is a well-paced love story, laced with intrigue, humor, sweetness, tension, warmth and the kind of things that make you smile, no matter how crappy the world outside feels at the time. It captures the best of what I love in a Nora Roberts novel, while humbly acknowledging that there can be no story “like Nora Roberts” because what she creates is one-of-a-kind. This comes quite artfully close, though.