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Saturday, August 19, 2006

****½ Angels Fall by Nora Roberts. Romantic suspense.

When Reece Gilmore arrives in Angel's Fist, she's been running for a while. I was going to be cryptic about why she was running, because it was a bit of a mystery for me while I was reading it, but the reason is on the dust jacket blurb and in all the reviews, so what the heck. (This is one of the main reasons why I don't read dust jacket/back cover blurbs before reading a book.) As the sole survivor of a massacre in a restaurant where she'd worked as a chef, she recovered from her physical injuries only to be left with more serious psychological ones.

She takes a job as a fry cook and focuses on living one day at a time, slowly starting to feel at home in the small town.

Then she goes hiking and sees a woman being murdered.

Eccentric writer Brody believes her--he met her on the trail shortly afterwards and saw her distress. But he's pretty much the only one who does. The sheriff is unable to find any evidence of a fight, much less a body, and even her friends seem inclined to think that maybe she's imagined it.

Then strange things start happening, and even Reece isn't sure she's not doing them herself, backsliding on her recovery because of the stress.

There are a couple things that keep this from being a 5-star read. First, the title. Okay, that's not really a part of the story, but I think the publisher messed up on this one. I've seen it written "Angel Falls," "Angels Falls," "Angel's Fall," and "Angel's Falls" more often than "Angels Fall"... and that's on a Nora Roberts fan list. Besides which, "Angels Fall" doesn't get echoed in the book, except obliquely.

Then there's the secondary romance, which I had trouble believing, between Linda-gail (whose name I kept wanting to fix) and Lo (short for his nickname of "Lothario", which is another complaint altogether--do people really call man-sluts "Lotharios"? nowadays?). From the moment I met the characters, I knew their entire story, and yet it didn't convince me, the way Faith and Wade in Carolina Moon did, for example.

The real appeal of Angels Fall is the characters, particularly Reece. She's tough and strong, though she doesn't think she is. She recognized that she needed help after the restaurant shooting, and she sought it, then she also recognized when the drugs and psychiatrists had helped all they could and she had to do the rest on her own. Even when she's being made to think she's losing it again, she doesn't give in. She keeps working at making herself whole. And yet, at the same time, she has very realistic neuroses and phobias that make her both more sympathetic and more admirable than someone who'd triumphed over such a tragedy without any psychological effects. I'd like to think I'd react the same.

Brody isn't everyone's cup of tea in a hero. He's rude and abrasive, and what's probably most attractive to Reece is that he doesn't treat her with kid gloves. In fact, it's just the opposite. He flat out tells her not to cry, not to get hysterical when reporting to the sheriff. Which is just what she needs--he treats her, in short, like an equal, the way he'd want to be treated, not like a fragile victim.

Like most of Nora's single titles, Angels Fall is romantic suspense, heavier on the suspense. The mystery and Reece's personal journey are the focus of the story--the romance happens because of them. I admit, I was expecting a... bigger suspense story, I guess. I was expecting, frankly, for the killer to have been the same killer from the restaurant massacre. And that would have been exciting, but it would have made it a more ordinary story, and turned Reece into just another on-the-run romantic suspense heroine. I enjoy it when a book doesn't follow the expected path, and this is no exception.


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