I got an email from Amazon letting me know that, as “someone who purchased a similar book in the past,” I might be interested in Black Rose, book two of the In the Garden trilogy by Nora Roberts.
There are a lot of mixed feelings about Nora. Some people hate her, some are completely indifferent, and some people really love her. I used to love everything she wrote, and relied on her for unequivocably entertaining reading. If there is a new Nora Roberts within a few months of a time when I know I’ll have a lot of reading time (car trip, plane trip, vacation), I buy it, hoarde it, and read it start to finish.
However, I’m of mixed feelings regarding the Garden trilogy. I’m a little tired of paranormal-Noras. I liked the witch family in the Donovan series (there were four books in that series, which was originally a Silhouette release) and I was ok with the Keys saga, though I got tired of the magic fireworks shazaam-pow-woosh effects without an explanation as to how the characters knew they had it or how to use that magic.
But the ghosts, spirits, and otherworldly characters, particularly the malevolent ones? They don’t thrill me. Particularly Roberts’, as she usually gives them such a backstory and character development.
I’m willing to bet that either Nora or her agent/editors sat down, examined the trends, and said, “We need to access the paranormal market! There have been witches in two series and we’ve been there, done that. We’ve had a few psychics here and there, but we need ghosts! Ghosts, I tell you!”
Enter the Garden trilogy, with a crazy, whackass antagonist ghost who is either marvelously benevolent or trying to kill the characters, and it really isn’t doing it for me. I like Roberts’ books for the depth and the emotional struggles of the protagonists, particularly the men, as I think she writes some fantastic heroes. But ghosts? I don’t give a crap about ghosts. I know the ghost isn’t going to be a permanent part of the entire story, and it’s not like one of the characters will fall head-over-feet for a phantom. The paranormal-Noras are too obvious: ghost has unsettled business, therefore happily ever after for each pair and for the over-arcing storyline in the trilogy cannot be reached until ghost’s business has been dealt with, minutes respectfully submitted, and ghost-to-do list crossed off in the characters’ Day Planners.
Roberts used to write some clever conflicts between the protagonists, too, and inserting paranormal external conflicts puts a burden on her ability to create, knot together, and unwind those conflicts. I like Roberts for her internal struggles, an the heroes and heroines who have to overcome personal stuff as well as interpersonal mess, and while there is always some tracable change, including in the Garden trilogy, the external influence of said ghost takes up way too much time for my taste. Other writers have introduced paranormal elements as antagonists, or even protagonists in one young adult series I encountered, and it didn’t detract from the characters’ development. With Paranormal Noras, the main characters definitely get the shaft as the paranormal elements evolve. In the Garden trilogy specifically, the ghost is almost part of a menage a trios. (Now that would be interesting).
This might be the first time a Roberts trilogy will stop for me after the first book.