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Monday, September 25, 2006

***** Inner Harbor by Nora Roberts. Contemporary romance. Re-read.


I always thought that Sea Swept was my favorite book in this trilogy, but on this re-read, it seems to be Inner Harbor instead.

This is Phillip and Sybill's story. There's also the end of the trilogy arc--we find out Seth's history and resolve things with his guardianship. Phillip is the advertising executive brother--the detail-oriented urbanite. Sybill is a PhD psychologist and author, and Seth's aunt, though she hides that fact at first.

Seth's mother Gloria has contacted her sister Sybill with a sob story about how the Quinns have stolen her son and how she needs money to pay a lawyer to get him back. Sybill wants to help, but she doesn't trust Gloria and wants to check out the situation for herself. Phillip is attracted to her, and when he finds out her identity... You might expect the usual romance-novel cliches here: self-righteous accusations and the complaint "why didn't you trust me?" It's much more real and emotionally intense than that.

I was struck by how impressive Nora's characterization was in this whole trilogy. All 3 brothers' personalities were definitely formed in their various childhoods. Even though they all had horrible childhoods, there were slight differences, and differences as well in how they dealt with them, and that's reflected in their adult personalities.

That prologue.... You know, I normally hate prologues--I don't think they're necessary, and they tend to distract from the story. But this one. Damn, it was well-written, and yeah, I think it was necessary. She could have fit in Phillip's past in bits & pieces with the present-day story, but it wouldn't have had the same impact. Everything he says and does and feels in the book relates back to what we learned in that prologue.

Sybill's character is likewise very well-written. I never had trouble warming up to Sybill--I liked her right off the bat. It's a minority opinion, though, I think, from comments I've heard in the past. She's intelligent, but that's the only place where she has any confidence--and that's also well-supported by her past. She lives too much in her own head, and tends to view life from a distance--a consequence of focusing her life on her academic career. She cares, and deeply, but has trained herself to discount emotions because that's not something she can quantify, and because she's "learned" that they're irrelevant.

One thing that really pushed Inner Harbor over the top for me is that the heroine in particular is not perfect. Perfection is something that a lot of romance heroines have in common, and that's why I like Sybill more than her new sisters-in-law, Anna and Grace. Sybill screws up really badly. And she's still redeemable. She's still deserving of an HEA. I love this.

I always like intensely emotional stories, as long as there's a positive payoff at the end. I hate crying, and if an author's going to make me cry without making it up to me later, I'm going to feel angry and betrayed. Inner Harbor had tears literally rolling down my face for several chapters. Part of that is likely because Sybill's character does hit pretty close to home for me. Which also explains why I like & understand her so well.

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This whole series is so good!
Darla - I ditto what you said. That why I love Nora so much!

The Quinns are always one of my favortie trilogy :)
It is a really good trilogy. I don't think I appreciated it as much until this recent re-read, though. I noticed the characterization much more this time, and it really made an impression.
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