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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Key of Light

****½ Key of Light by Nora Roberts. Contemporary paranormal romance. Reread.

Malory Price loves art, but lacks the talent to create it herself, so she works in a gallery--a job she loves. Or did, until the owner's new wife takes over, and Malory is relegated to the sidelines.

Frustrated, watching her dream slip away, she accepts an invitation to a cocktail party at mysterious Warrior's Peak, where she discovers that only she and two other women--Zoe and Dana--are the guests of the enigmatic Pitte and Rowena, who tell them a fairy tale of princesses trapped, soulless, until three mortal women find three keys to unlock their prison.

Malory's more than skeptical, but Pitte and Rowena offer them each $25,000 just for agreeing to try, with the promise of $1million each if they succeed. With the specter of joblessness on the horizon, the $25K is a (heh) godsend, so Malory agrees. They draw lots, and Malory is the first to search for her key. She has one month to find it.

Meanwhile, Malory has met Dana's (step)brother Flynn Hennessy when his huge dog knocked her down. Flynn joins the women in their quest both to protect his sister and to take the opportunity to spend time with Malory.

The three women don't just work on the quest--they're all at loose ends, career-wise, so they decide to go into business together to open a combo spa/bookstore/gallery.

I wasn't very excited about rereading this trilogy because in general I don't care for Nora's paranormals, and because all I could remember about it was that Zoe overreacted negatively to Brad, and that her son was old enough to mow the lawn yet needed help with his bath.

It was a pleasant surprise to find that I thoroughly enjoyed the story. Flynn and Malory are a lovely couple. In my summary I focused on Malory, because the story is hers, but Flynn has a nice history, sort of George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life, but with a newspaper instead of a savings and loan. Flynn's already come to terms with staying in his hometown by the time the story starts, but it makes him a three-dimensional, sympathetic character, and makes him interesting without taking the spotlight away from Malory and her quest.

The supernatural element worked fine for me, and I spent some time wondering why. Part is that the story stays in the here-and-now. There are dreams, memories, and visions, but they all happen in the now of the story. As opposed to, say, the flashbacks in Midnight Bayou. Another reason is that Malory, Dana, and Zoe remain skeptical for quite a while. Their gradual acceptance led at least this reader along the same path in a way that instant credulity would not have.

Mostly, though, as with most of Nora's best work, the reason I enjoyed it was the very real characters. Malory's frustrations at work; her growing relationship with Dana and Zoe; her romance with Flynn; and Flynn's lifelong relationship with his best friends Brad and Jordan all combine to make these seem like people I might know, or like, or be. And because they're so real, I cared about what happened to them--which is possibly the most important element in enjoying a story.

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