RITA Reader Challenge Review

RITA Reader Challenge: Whiskey Beach by Nora Roberts


Title: Whiskey Beach
Author: Nora Roberts
Publication Info: Berkley April 2013
ISBN: 978-0425269817
Genre: Romantic Suspense

Book Whiskey Beach This RITA® Reader Challenge 2014 review was written by Betty Fokker. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Contemporary Romance category.

The summary:

For more than three hundred years, Bluff House has sat above Whiskey Beach, guarding its shore – and its secrets.

To summer tourists, it's the crown jewel of the town's stunning scenery. To the residents of Whiskey Beach, it's landmark and legend. To Eli Landon, it's home…

A Boston lawyer, Eli has weathered an intense year of public scrutiny and police investigation after being accused of murdering his soon-to-be ex-wife. And though there was never enough evidence to have him arrested, his reputation is in tatters as well as his soul. He need sanctuary. He needs Bluff House.

While Eli's beloved grandmother is in Boston, recuperating from a nasty fall, Abra Walsh has card for Bluff House, among her other jobs as yoga instructor, jewelry maker, and massage therapist. She is a woman with an open heart and a wide embrace, and no one is safe from her special, some would say over-bearing, brand of nurturing – including Eli.

He begins to count on Abra for far more than her cooking, cleaning, and massage skills, and starts to feel less like a victim – and more like the kind of man who can finally solve the murder of his wife and clear his name. But Bluff House's many mysteries are a siren song to someone intent on destroying Eli and reaping the rewards. He and Abra will become entangled in a centuries-old net of rumors and half-truths that could pull them under the thunderous waters of Whiskey Beach…

Passion and obsession, humor and heart flow together in a novel about two people opening themselves up to the truth – and to each other.

And here is Betty's review:

The nice thing about Nora Roberts is that you can always, in my experience, count on her to have written a book that is at least pretty good. The bad thing is that she has written books that were fokking A+ amazing and that means the pretty good books can seem “meh”.

Expectation, thou art a prick.

This book was, no surprise, good. Eli was a nice hero and suffering real human doubts. The heroine was a Manic Pixie Dreamgirl yoga instructor, but she didn’t suck too badly. In fact, she had the sense to cut Eli some slack in some places because of his emotional recovery from depression and the signs of PTSD. There were historical pirates. There was a cool old house with secret passages. There was a reasonable and cogent solution to all mysteries. There was sex and a cute rescue dog with a name that Eli and Abra disliked, but were stuck with and took with good grace..

There was a lot of good in this book; can you tell?

There were, of course, some issues with it. Too much stuff happened “off screen” as it were. The romance was a little too easy and the murder victims were a little too much in the “sluts & assholes deserve to die” category.

Frankly, I didn’t feel like either protagonist had to reach, had to grow, to embrace the relationship. Abra was as different from Eli’s first wife, Lindsay, as one thin, well-educated white woman could be from another thin, well-educated, white woman. Instead of thinking Eli had moved on from his first wife, I felt like he had supposedly found the “right” woman instead of those “wrong” women who have high-powered affairs and cheat when they are unhappy. Granted, I dislike cheaters — but I am not certain murder-victim is always their just and due fate. Moreover, Abra was his housekeeper and did all the Donna Reed stuff (albeit for a meager salary) for him that Lindsay would not do. Abra was the good girl, Lindsay was the bad girl, and I was the slightly over-it reader.

I would have liked the romance better if Eli and Abra had been required to struggle more. What if Abra had been another career woman and Eli had to get over his mistrust of career driven women? What if Abra, instead of coddling Eli and knowing he was innocent as a newborn lamb before she had even met him, had to struggle with the idea of falling in love with a man whom she had some tiny suspicion might be capable of murder in the heat of passion? Especially since (Semi-spoilers ahead – highlight text to read):

Abra had survived a rape and abuse at the hands of a very charming stalker. She trusted Eli WAY too easily for my way of thinking. A slick hottie accused of killing his wife should have at least made her a little nervous. She, of all people, knew how charming psychopaths can be.

On the plus side, there was less what I call “Nora-speak”. If you have read a Nora Roberts book, you have read a little (or a lot) of dialog where one or more characters speaks in short, didactic sentences or sentence fragments that have a paucity of articles. Here’s some examples:

“I could see when you two came to my home the two of you had something strong between you. I’ve always believed in that, and the promises that come out of it. I built my adult life on that, only to have it broken.”

“She’s your grandmother, Eli, but she’s been one to me, too. I love her. You should take a picture of the house from down at the beach and send it to her. She’d like that.”

“You’re a bundle of stress, boy. Do you think I can’t hear it in your voice? Your life went to hell in a handbasket, and that’s not right. It’s not fair. Life too often isn’t either.So it’s what we do about it. What you’ve got to do now is the same as everybody’s telling me I have to do. Get healthy, get strong, get back on your feet.”

However, also on the plus side was the usual Nora Roberts plethora of excellently written and evocative descriptions of places and things. She sets the bar high. Thus, as I have said repeatedly and at length, the book was good. But it wasn’t great.

I give it a solid B, and an affectionate hug for being a book that didn’t bore me in spite of some occasion “meh”.

This book is available from Goodreads | Amazon | BN | Kobo | All Romance eBooks

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    library addict says:

    Though overall I liked her, the heroine’s chirpy attitude got on my nerves at times, so I was glad to see her called out on it at one point in the story. For me, the book started slow and meandered a lot, but the pace reflected the hero’s healing and state of mind so that worked more for me than not. I liked the hero’s family and wish we had seen more of them. I also liked the heroine’s BFF and her husband. The ending was super rushed. I gave it a C+/B- but only because there are many NR books I liked more. She’s still an autobuy for me and I tend to hold my autobuy authors to a higher standard.

  2. 2
    Emily A. says:

    Great Review!  Those issues sound like they might bother me too. I was wondering if Betty Fokker has any particular A+ Nora Roberts recommendations for people, who are still reading their way through the Nora Cannon..

  3. 3
    jane says:

    This isn’t my favorite of Roberts’s books, but it’s ok, I guess. You were spot on with the review—her sentence fragments get really annoying, even her bad books are better than most other author’s, and this romance was particularly easy. I always look forward to her hardback books but lately they’ve been “meh” for me. I can’t remember the last hardback—honestly, even paperback—that I was really excited about after reading. And this latest cousin magic books are awful. I didn’t even make it through the first one and I think I’ve read everything she’s ever written.

  4. 4
    Dancing_Angel says:

    This was solidly “meh” for me as well.  Part of the problem with being such a super-prolific author is that everything starts to sound alike after awhile.  I thought this particular group of characters had more interesting versions in different novels. Plus, I really don’t like super-nurturing heroines, anyway – that bothered me more than her chirpiness.  His grandmother, I did like. 

    Then again, I haven’t really liked one of her books since “The Witness.”  Even her JD Robb books are starting to feel a bit tired to me.

  5. 5
    monica t. says:

    I TRIED to read this book. I did not succeed because Nora does this thing and I think I am about to be the first person to bring this up and even if I am not here goes…. Nora Roberts uses the following phrase… (she/he thought) WAY TO MUCH.  this has kept me from reading her books of late and this one…after the first chapter I just could not. I love me some Nora but I could NOT.DO.THIS.AGAIN. Too TALK NOT ENOUGH ACTION. STOP TELLING GET TO THE SHOWING. PASSION IS MISSING FROM HER WRITING PERIOD. It has been there in the past and I wish she would find it again. The library saves me great expense from buying her books and for that I am FOREVER GRATEFUL.

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