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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

High Noon

**** High Noon by Nora Roberts. Romantic suspense.

Assuming I get this posted in a somewhat timely manner, High Noon is the latest blockbuster from the prolific Nora Roberts.

Police Lt. Phoebe MacNamara is a hostage negotiator. She meets Duncan Swift while trying to prevent the suicide of a bartender Duncan just fired. It's love at first sight for Duncan--or at first acquaintance, anyway, because he's entranced with her strength and skill (and beauty, of course). It takes Phoebe a little longer.

Phoebe really has too much going on to think about romance, anyway: a house she can't afford but can't move out of, a mother who's severely agoraphobic and can't leave the house, a 7-year-old fashionista of a daughter... to top it off, she's training cops in rudimentary hostage negotiation, and is catching a lot of flack from one particular misogynistic but well-connected cop.

And then she's brutally attacked in the stairway of the police station, and threatening messages and dead animals start showing up on her doorstep.

Duncan, well... Duncan won the lottery a few years ago. And he owns parts of several businesses. His best friend is a lawyer, and he's adopted his friend's family as his own. Basically, he's got plenty of free time to spend acting like the perfect man.

*sigh* Yeah, we're getting to why I'm giving a new Nora Roberts book only four stars. I... you could say I'm a fan. I'm not a squeeing fangirl for Nora the way I am with Crusie or Butcher or Pratchett or Kinsale or Gaiman, but I own every single one of her books and have read most of them multiple times, I moderate an email list, used to run a fan website, did a short stint as a moderator on ADWOFF, and have been to several signings at TTP. Yeah, I'm a fan. I tend to like her books a lot.

too many things in this book just went nowhere. Phoebe's mother's agoraphobia, for example. Okay, she has agoraphobia, she can't leave the house. It eventually gets explained why she's not doing anything about it, but then it's just left hanging there. The house is apparently completely impregnable, so there's never a worry that she'll HAVE to leave the house for her own safety, and we never find out the terms of the will, so there's never a worry that if Phoebe marries Duncan she'll lose the house. I don't consider that a spoiler--it's not a major part of the plot--I consider it fair warning.

And the romance... just wasn't. It was love admiration at first sight for Duncan (though that's better than just lust, I admit), and Phoebe just seemed to bow to the inevitable presence of Mr. Perfect in her life. There was no development of emotion between them--Phoebe just kept listing obstacles and Duncan just kept using his money and charm to remove them.

Part of that, I admit, is my own preference--I can't think of anything more boring than a "perfect" hero. Never argues, never complains, never has a thought in his head that doesn't mesh exactly with the heroine's. *yawn* I can see how this fantasy would be appealing to some people. Just not me.

Worse yet, the romance/family plot and the suspense plot really didn't overlap except only briefly. I'd expected the villain to break in or bomb or burn the house, so that there would be a point to Phoebe's mother's agoraphobia, but there wasn't. There wasn't a point to the daughter being obsessed with shoes, either, and that could have tied in so easily. There wasn't even a romantic conflict over the danger in Phoebe's job. Perfect man Duncan just calmly supported her.

The suspense plot was great, though. It kept me guessing, and I enjoyed the resolution very much.

It's as if this were two stories, loosely connected: a suspense novel, and a slice-of-life women's fiction story. I'd have preferred the suspense novel to stand alone. Cut out all the agoraphobia, and Duncan's friend's family picnics, the fashion-conscious 7-year-old (that's my own prejudice, but it got on my nerves), and the romance, such as it was. That would bring the suspense story down to 350 pages, and I'd probably have given it 5 stars.


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