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Thursday, April 03, 2008

Key of Valor

**** Key of Valor by Nora Roberts. Contemporary paranormal romance. Re-read.

This is the third, and weakest, of the Key trilogy, following Key of Light and Key of Knowledge.
I find it odd that it's the highest rated of the trilogy on Amazon. Huh. In brief, the trilogy is about 3 women on a quest to find 3 keys to free 3 fairy princesses.

Single mother Zoe McCourt is the last of the three to be tasked with finding a key. She's a hairdresser, who's lost her job and is now making up one third of Indulgence, the business the three are starting together. Her son Simon is the most important thing in her life.

Bradley Vane is heir to a Home Depot-type empire, and he'd fallen in love with Zoe's face when he saw her likeness in a painting of the Daughters of Glass. Since they've met, he's come to admire her and realize she's more than just her looks.

But Simon's father also came from wealth, and abandoned Zoe when she became pregnant as a teenager. So, of course, all men with money are evil bastards and can't be trusted. Despite the fact that Brad has been nothing but kind, thoughtful, and gentlemanly.

And there's my first problem with this book: I really dislike heroines like this. Romance novels of the 80s were full of them: women who hated all men because one did them wrong back when they were in high school. Thankfully, on this re-read, Zoe didn't seem quite as rude and nasty to Brad as she did the previous two times I read this, but she still wasn't what I'd call reasonable.

She's also a Victim Heroine, and I hate those. Particularly so in Zoe's case, because she was mostly only a victim in her own head, assuming that everyone thought badly of her because she was a single mother. Maybe that's still the case in some places, but I know far too many single moms to think that it's a big issue. And because of her assumption, her response is to be rude first before the other person gets a chance to be rude to her. Not an admirable character trait, and not a character I can really relate to or enjoy.

Then there's Brad, who's basically too good to be true. He's always patient, always kind, loves Zoe no matter what kind of shit she throws at him. Dull, dull, dull. Not really a hero I can respect.

So now that I've trashed the lead characters, I'll go on to the plot.

One of the main costs of the quest, set forth in the first book, is that if they fail, they forfeit a year of their lives, and they don't know which year. This is a consequence that was used with great effectiveness in Grave Peril. And it could have made this final book in the trilogy exciting and poignant, if a year of Zoe's life was on the line rather than simply the loss of the $1M reward. Instead, the loss of a year consequence was just dropped, ignored as if it had never been an issue, and the focus turned to villain Kane breaking the rules and trying to physically harm them. And even that threat was reduced by Pitte and Rowena somehow ensuring that Simon could never be harmed.

This is why I don't care for Nora's paranormals in general. It worked great in the previous two books in this trilogy, but for some reason, all the rules that had been set up were completely disregarded in this one.

I'm really not sure why I rated this 4 stars. It was about 2 months ago that I read it, and I always write down my rating immediately after reading. I don't feel right changing my rating so long after I'd read it, though this review sounds like it should have been much lower. I do know that I found Zoe much less annoying this time around, so maybe that's part of it. The group dynamics were well-written and interesting, and there was a little more emotion to Pitte and Rowena's story in this last volume, so that was probably another part of it. And I really loved how and where she found her key. It very much fit with her story and her personality, and was, I think, the best key-finding of the trilogy.

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Darla said: "But Simon's father also came from wealth, and abandoned Zoe when she became pregnant as a teenager. So, of course, all men with money are evil bastards and can't be trusted. Despite the fact that Brad has been nothing but kind, thoughtful, and gentlemanly."

And THIS is the main reason I detest Zoe. And I also agree about Brad taking her nonesense and not even losing his temper and telling her what for!

I agree with all your comments, save one: Each time I re-read, I can't warm up to her; just like I can't warm up to Darcy from Heart of the Ocean, lol.

LOL! Well, I'm thinking maybe I've just become resigned to her. Or that in my memory, I dislike her so much that when I re-read, she's not as bad as I remember her.

But even though I didn't find her quite as annoying this past re-read, I still don't actually like her.
Oh, and you know I agree with you about Darcy, too. Really hard to relate to a character who's that mercenary.
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