Time to compile the list of recommendations from everyone about which Nora Roberts should be among the first a new reader picks up. With Roberts, there's a little of everything, too. There's contemporary romance, romantic suspense, futuristic romantic mystery (in Death) and ParaNoras. There's something for everyone… unless you like vikings. And I don't think Roberts has written a post apocalypse YA with a heroine in a prom dress, either.
For some their favorite is the one they started with, and for others it's the book they re-read most. This represents the books most-mentioned as favorites in our thread.
A word about the romantic suspense: I can't read violence, especially violent sexual assault or entrail-laden descriptions, and when Nora writes realistic men, that includes assaulting creepy ass bad guys. So I stay away from the romantic suspense because, as wonderful as the main characters are, those are the scenes that get recorded into my memory to resurface when it's dark and I'm trying to be sleepy.
There was a very considerate and enlightening conversation about triggers in the comments, too, starting with GhengisMom and qwerty, with trigger warnings on specific books from Melissa. Some of Roberts' romantic suspense novels that involve violent crime should be cautiously approached.
We did a similar thread for Carrie Lofty back in 2006, and I wrote to see if she'd read a Roberts novel, and which one. She did!
Carrie Lofty: I think the first I wound up reading was Blue Smoke ( A | BN | K | S | ARe | iB ). Is that the right one, where the badguy is a pyro who burns people in their beds, and the heroine is an arson investigator? You mentioned that it kept you up late listening for bumps in the night, so I had to read that one first
I did. I usually don't read romantic suspense so that aspect of it was rather new. Police procedurals aren't generally my thing, unless it's Matthew MacFadyen in an ascot on the hunt for Jack the Ripper (*swoons*). I think maybe because of the POV of the villain? It intrudes on my ultimate happy vs reality zone. Perhaps it's why people find the unusual settings of my historicals either hit or miss. Hot sauce in the mac'n'cheese.
All that said, Nora: She writes men *very* well. They're alpha in the best sense, and especially because the heroine in Blue Smoke was so determined about her career goals and personal motivations, Nora was able to make the man powerful and vital without being intrusive. The suspense was cringe-worthy, and I'm not used to secondary characters being killed off (again, part of the genre I wasn't prepared for), but she did it in such a meaningful and emotional way, rather than simply whacking a guy for kicks.
I've since liked her contemporaries more (comfort zone?), especially how the couples argue. Just when I'd think a big mis opportunity was coming up, even in a secret baby category, the conversation didn't turn toward the ridiculous even as someone kept a secret. The dialogue flows. It's such a strength–one of those skills I'd like to look at more closely for the sake of craft, but I don't. I like being swept up as a pure reader for a change.
Dialogue and heroes are strengths? Isn't that the truth.
Now, which books were the most frequently recommended?
The Chesapeake Bay Trilogy – also known as The Quinn Series (1998/2002)
This was one of the most frequently mentioned in our comment thread. The Chesapeake Bay series began as a trilogy with Sea Swept ( A | BN | K | S | ARe | iB ), continues with Rising Tides ( A | BN | K | S | ARe | iB ), and finished with Inner Harbor ( A | BN | K | S | ARe | iB ). A few years later, the young boy that brings the Quinn brothers together got his own story in Chesapeake Blue ( A | BN | K | S | ARe | iB ).
They're hero-focused, emotional stories with a very strong sense of place. They also have one of my favorite characters, who says at one point he's going to live in a garret and change his name to Pierre. Every time I think of it, I laugh. Laura N says, “The Quinn series, hands down. Tortured souls healed by The Power of Luuuurve=swoon.” laj loves Sea Swept because “Cameron Quinn (and Rogan Sweeney from Born in Fire)” are her favorite NR heroes.
Tabs says, “I can't pick a favorite Chesapeake Bay Saga book. I didn't realize how invested I had become in that series until I picked up the last one, read the first page, and started full-on crying because I was so relieved and happy to see Seth show up all grown-up and healthy and safe. Gah. Those books.”
Bibliophile suggests her two favorites: “I'd say Sea Swept (which will inevitably lead you to read the rest of that series, although, in my opinion you can skip book 4, which isn't that good) and Northern Lights, although I could mention several more. Both books have strong characters and good, solid stories, and the first is a great example of one of her really strong points, which is the ability to write realistic non-romantic interpersonal relationships where unrelated people have come together to form a family.”
Montana Sky (1996)
Montana Sky ( A | BN | K | S | ARe | iB) is a trilogy in one – three heroines, three stories, one book: Jack Mercy's three daughters are strangers to each other. Now they must learn to live as a family-in order to gain an inheritance worth 20 million dollars….
Jennifer O. says it best: “Years ago my best friend and I were tasked with recommending one romance novel to give to a friend who had never read them – one book to represent the entire genre. After much debate we chose Montana Sky.” Several other readers recommended this book as a wonderful introduction to Roberts' characters. GinniB said, “Three Fates and Montana Sky. I have worn out several copies and even checked them out of the library.”
Three Fates (2002)
Three Fates ( A | BN | K | S | ARe | iB ) is another ensemble romance instead of a trilogy, where three main characters do things and hook up with other characters. The summary: When the Lusitania sank, one survivor became a changed man, giving up his life as a petty thief—but keeping the small silver statue he lifted, a family heirloom to future generations. Now, nearly a century later, that priceless heirloom, one of a long-separated set of three, has been stolen. And Malachi, Gideon, and Rebecca Sullivan are determined to recover their great-great-grandfather’s treasure, reunite the Three Fates, and make their fortune.
Annette W says, “It's got all the usual trilogy elements in one novel” and Laura Reeth, Roberts' publicist, thinks this is one of her best – and I think she's probably well acquainted with all 65,745,377×10 of Roberts' books! LibrarianLizy agrees and recommends both “Montana Sky and Three Fates. It's like 6 stories in 2 books and a perfect intro into NR's head hopping.”
The Witness (2012)
The Witness ( A | BN | K | S | ARe | iB ) came out last year, and many readers named it as one of their new favorites of the Roberts library. The summary: Daughter of a cold, controlling mother and an anonymous donor, studious, obedient Elizabeth finally let loose one night, drinking too much at a nightclub and allowing a strange man's seductive Russian accent to lure her to a house on Lake Shore Drive. The events that followed changed her life forever.
Twelve years later, the woman now known as Abigail Lowery lives alone on the outskirts of a small town in the Ozarks. A freelance programmer, she works at home designing sophisticated security systems. Her own security is supplemented by a fierce dog and an assortment of firearms. She keeps to herself, saying little, revealing nothing. Unfortunately, that seems to be the quickest way to get attention in a tiny southern town. The mystery of Abigail Lowery intrigues local police chief Brooks Gleason, on both a personal and a professional level. Her sharp, logical mind, her secretive nature, her unromantic viewpoints leave him fascinated but frustrated. He suspects that Abigail needs protection from something, even if he doesn't know what – and that her elaborate defenses hide a story that must be revealed.
Meka says it has everything: “[it] has evil mafia family, super awesome and geeky yet socially-awkward heroine, and Brooks! Oh Brooks!” Carrie Gwaltney says of The Witness audiobook: “Great narrator (Julia Whelan) gets the main character just right.” She also recommends the print version. Lobo Tmia says she “would recommend The Witness which reads like a vintage quintessential Nora Roberts novel.” Tabs says, “The Witness is an excellent stand-alone with a truly unique heroine.”
Carnal Innocence (1991)
Carnal Innocence ( A | BN | K | S | ARe | iB ) is a romantic suspense with Tucker Longstreet, another awesome hero. The summary: World-famous concert violinist Caroline Waverly knows nothing of the murders when she arrives in Innocence, Mississippi. Burned out from a childhood lost to endless rehearsals and an all-too-public breakup with the conductor who was her lover, Caroline is looking for a little peace and some time to think. She hopes that a stay at her late grandmother's house–the one with a covered porch just made for soft summer nights–will provide the tranquillity she needs. But Innocence has something else to offer Caroline: a man named Tucker Longstreet.
Faellie says, “I forgot Carnal Innocence. How could I have forgotten Carnal Innocence? Tucker Longstreet and all that southern heat.” Ms bookjunkie added, “After giving this many days of thought (and checking Delicious Library), I'm going with CARNAL INNOCENCE (because Tucker) and the Quinn Brothers series (because Cam, Ethan, Philip and Seth). Also, they're the NR books I reread the most. (At least they were at one time. Now they're packed away in storage. *sob*)”
The Born In Trilogy – also known as the Concannon Sisters Trilogy, or the Irish Born Trilogy(1994)
Born in Fire ( A | BN | K | S | ARe | iB ), Born in Ice ( A | BN | K | S | ARe | iB ), and Born in Shame ( A | BN | K | S | ARe | iB ) were some of the first Roberts novels I ever read. You can see a sort of Roarke-prototype in the hero of Born in Fire, but my favorite is Born in Ice. I love that the hero is a grumpy mystery writer, I love the setting, but most of all I love that the heroine, Brianna, wants to create a welcoming home for herself and for other people. I love her the best out of all the heroines, I think. She's my favorite.
So many readers agree, as this trilogy was named several times in the comment thread. Sharon says her favorite is Born in Ice, “http://www.amazon.com=””>especially if you like audiobooks. The narrator (Fiacre Douglas) is fantastic.”
Northern Lights (2004)
Northern Lights ( A | BN | K | S | ARe | iB ) is a hero-focused romance set in Alaska. The heroine is a bush pilot and the hero is a former Baltimore cop who is emotionally destroyed by the death of his partner, so he takes a job in Lunacy, Alaska, as the chief of police. This is a romantic suspense, so there's murder, plus it's Alaska, so there's bears.
Many readers love this book. Faellie said one of her favorites is, “Northern Lights. It's not as obviously romance-formula as some, because it follows a male protagonist (a cop with the requisite ansty background) and has a less than usual setting (rural Alaska, done with a real sense of presence). Then add in a strong heroine (bush pilot) and a decent mystery in the plot. It is and always will be my favourite Nora Roberts.” Pale_goddess said, “I loved a lot of her books. But the only one that ever got me so worked up that I HAD TO WRITE HER!!! and say 'thank you!!!' was Northern Lights.”
Katie Dunneback agrees: “It's the one I keep coming back to year after year, and I do it in audiobook, partially because they got a man (Gary Littman) to do the narration.”
The Irish Jewels Trilogy – also known as the Gallaghers of Ardmore Trilogy (1999)
Jewels of the Sun, ( A | BN | K | S | ARe | iB ) Tears of the Moon ( A | BN | K | S | ARe | iB ), and Heart of the Sea ( A | BN | K | S | ARe | iB ) are set in Ardmore, Ireland, and focus on the Gallagher family, with their stories set against a local legend and ghost story.
Elyssa Papa says, “I'm going with the book that hooked me on Nora when I was in college: JEWELS OF THE SUN. I mainly had picked this up because I was in the market and the cover looked pretty and it was SET IN IRELAND, and I was all, I NEED THIS BOOK because I was eighteen or nineteen and I had this fantasy that I'd travel to Ireland, meet a really hot Irish guy, etc., etc., etc. So I bought it, read, and then spent that whole summer reading everything she wrote. She's such a gobbleglom author. Also, I think if there was one author who made me want to write contemporary romances, it was Nora Roberts. Oh, and the other one I'd rec? Sea Swept, the start of the awesome Quinn Brothers quartet.”
Ejaygirl recommends, “Want a magical experience? Start with Jewels of the Sun, first book in the Gallaghers of Ardmore series, set in Ireland. After you finish the series, read Sea Swept, the first book in the Chesapeake Saga. You'll then be so in love with NR stories it won't matter what comes next.”
And Bethy1017, who also recommends this trilogy, has this bit of !!! to add: “Also, I work in publishing and have read an advanced copy of her new standalone, WHISKEY BEACH. It's phenomenal, so when that comes out, I'd add that one to the list.”
Other books that were recommended by readers: Reflections & Dreams, two of the Stanislaski books, Reflections and Dance Of Dreams. Rachelbug and Nifty both named this duo as one of their favorites.
Honest Illusions ( A | BN | K | S | ARe | iB ) was recommended by many readers. Shiloh Walker said, “Honest Illusions…. led me to my love affair with Nora Roberts… and Sea Swept (pretty sure that's the first Chesapeake book) because after you read the first, you'll want to read the other two.”
So which is your favorite? Do you agree with this collection, or are you thinking, 'What about….??' We'll be doing this again in another month or two, since there's a new Roberts novel every 36 hours, or thereabouts (kidding. It's more like a week).