Book Review

The Pride of Jared MacKade by Nora Roberts

B

Title: The Pride of Jared MacKade
Author: Nora Roberts
Publication Info: Silhouette (Special Edition) 1995
ISBN: 0373240007
Genre: Contemporary Romance

This book fascinated me because I get the feeling this was a heroine that most category readers would not have expected.  Roberts spends a lot of time slowly building the character of Suzannah Morningstar, which is partially accomplished by a gradual reveal of her backstory. There’s no giant dump of revelation, where she spills her life’s story to the hero. She reveals herself deliberately and in small portions, and that slow discovery reveals as much as the actual details. Within that backstory, Roberts tackles some heroine standards head on and knocks them around a good bit. She plays with the virginal expectation of the heroine (Suzannah is a single mom; she’s definitely not a virgin), the purity expectation of the heroine (See #1), and in doing so creates a tough, edgy, unapologetic heroine who doesn’t think much of her son’s father because he obviously doesn’t think much of them, if he thinks of them at all. No angst, no bitterness, no self-pity—just factual hard reality.  Savannah is not a victim; she made her choices and learned to work through them.

Conflict jumps into the wading pool when Jared, the idealistic hero, gets caught up in feelings of jealousy and rage. In his mind, it’s unacceptable that there WERE other men in her life, and she was a stripper and she has no regrets about either. Moreover, he has to confront the idea that she doesn’t need a man to ride in and sweep her off her feet, to make all her troubles go away. He can walk up to the door and ring the damn bell, thank you, because Suzannah has taken care of her life and her son’s well-being just fine on her own. Jared gets his BVDs in a right twisty knot and ends up asking himself the question, “What would his mama say?”

Which, in my mind, became, “What did readers say about this novel when it was published?”

In a lot of Roberts’ trilogies, there’s usually, out of three women, one “tough heroine,” the one who is prickly, standoffish, irritable, or exceptionally independent and autonomous, sometimes to the point of misanthropy. Suzannah seems almost like an early prototype of a lot of those “tough heroines” – I can see shades of a lot of other fierce, ballsy characters to come.

That said, I didn’t actually like her much. She didn’t grow on me until later installments of the MacKade brothers quartet. I thought she was too rude, too brash, too mean, and often her actions overplayed themselves when compared to the rationale behind them – however emotionally charged that rationale was. I didn’t buy the mercurial shifts between caring, doting mom, and ready to throw punches at Jared, and I didn’t get her repeated abrupt descent into rudeness to several ancillary characters. She crossed the line from independent and fierce to just over the border of batshit unstable, and it made me distrust her, while also making me question why the other characters so easily excused her behavior.

Jared, on the other hand, I imagined as a relatively standard romance hero dropped onto a wild horse and told to ride for the duration of the story. He got a lot more than he bargained for in Suzannah, and he couldn’t necessarily tame her. He has to learn to understand her, but then set limits for her behavior, limits based on respect and affection – which she’s not used to. He’s very used to control, order, and balance in his life, and has to confront that messy is sometimes very necessary.

But the title, in this case, is entirely appropriate. The main conflict between these two is pride, and as a result, the internal conflict and external conflict between them is layered, complex, and not easily resolved but worth doing so, both for the protagonists (obviously) and the reader.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    MaryKate says:

    I love the McKade brothers, but Devin is my all time favorite. I love me a care-taking hero, and Nora writes among the best out there.

    IIRC, and it’s been a while since I’ve re-read these books, I wasn’t a huge fan of Savannah until she got her HEA, then when she came back in other books, she was toned down a little.

  2. 2
    Megan says:

    Jared’s story was the least favorite of the MacKade brothers for me as well.  But I highly recommend the other three – I think Devin was my favorite too.  I think its spine is the most creased of the four!

  3. 3
    jenjen says:

    I enjoyed the McKade brothers stories as well. Devin’s was definitely my fav.

  4. 4
    Anne says:

    Oh my God!  You HAVE to read the Heart of Devin MacKade.  My most favoritist (I know it’s lame but it’s how I feel) Nora Roberts book EVER.  He’s so hot… but all the MacKade brothers are. *G*

  5. 5
    Bailey says:

    I’m gonna join you on the Devin wagon. I could fall for that man!

  6. 6
    Rox says:

    I remember this book.  I bought it in some sort of mass-media store where all the books were shelved alphabetically by author, even if they were category romances.  It’s how I discovered Nora Roberts wrote category.  And if I remember correctly, she corrects someone at some point in the book that she wasn’t a stripper, she was “an exotic dancer.”

    You’re right, that in every Roberts trilogy, one of them is the ballsy, usually sexually aggressive one, and it’s usually the character I like the least.  Still, I remember this book, even though I read it only once.  Mostly I remember it as an example of what category romance *could* be but usually was not.  I was actively trying to like it at that time, and not having much luck.  This book was one of the first I did like.  Then I discovered Jenny Crusie and a few others and I began to read category in a way Harlequin/Silhouette doesn’t intend: by author rather than by line.

  7. 7
    Meg says:

    I just have to throw in a vote for Shane…

    He’s my favorite of the four of them, and the MacKades are my favorites of all Nora’s books.

  8. 8
    Anonym287 says:

    Hmn.  You know, Jarod’s book is my least favorite of the four, though I couldn’t have specifically told you why, other than to say I liked the others more. But you pretty much nailed it. And I do like both Savannah and Jarod as characters, but liked them more in the other books than in their own.

    The Mackades are probably my favorite short connecting category series by Nora. Today anyway. Tomorrow that could change. Of the four, it’s tough to pick a favorite, since I like them each for different reasons, but I suppose the one whom I have the most affection for would be Shane. Of course, that could be because he’s not only wonderful in his own right, but the book wrapped up all the loose ends from the previous books too.

    Diane

  9. 9
    c says:

    I haven’t read this one, or the others in the series, but I’ve been on a NR glom lately. I’m up to about 20 of her books so far, and I’ve discovered that likely than not I dislike her heroines for one reason or another. Maybe it’s because she writes such yummy heroes that I found them undeserving (I am more deserving dammit). I loved her Chesapeake series, but was not as enamored over the Spinelli heroine as most. Didn’t like the heroine in Midnight Bayou either. Off the top of my head, the heroines I did like were in the Key Trilogy, Birthright, Sybil in Inner Harbor (3rd of Ches. series), and a few others, just to show I’m don’t have an inherent bias against her heroines.

    While we’re on NR, I’m currently reading Honest Illusions, a favorite cited by many here and elsewhere. I’m find it really interesting so far- only on page 76. I notice there seems to be a lot of thievery going on. In my mind, I can’t think of anything that would justify that, even a Robin Hood situation, so I’m waffling on whether to continue or not. Want to know if there’s a compelling reason for the thievery?

    Also, forgive this long post, but I wanted to ask something else. A lot of people cited the McGregors as a favorite as well, so I started with Playing the Odds (a 2 in one book) and I’m just not feeling the love like I did with the Quinns. Should I just skip to the next story, or chalk it up as just not working for me?

    I know NR reads here and want to say you rock! I’m so glad she has a huge backlist for me to peruse.

  10. 10

    Loved the MacKade brothers.  The heroine in this one was a revelation.  After reading a bunch of category romances where the heroine was the plucky young virgin, this was a refreshing change.  There is a scene where Jared is trying to figure out what Suzannah did to survive and feed her son during the lean years.  She tells Jared the harsh truth.  She refuses to apologize or feel bad for anything she ever had to do to protect ehr son.  It’s brilliant in that it’s a very real conversation between two flawed peple.  Not the type of thing I saw in category romance before then.

  11. 11
    Becca says:

    The MacKade brothers are ok, but give me the Quins any day (says she, currently waiting to get Rising Tide from kitabe.com so I can continue listening to the Chesapeake Bay books while I exercise). But I rather liked Suzannah – as HelenKay says, she did what she needed to to to survive, and she didn’t apologize to anybody for it – I like that in a character.

    btw, Honest Illusions is my least favorite Nora – there’s no overriding excuse for the thievery, just that it’s their way of life. I couldn’t get past that.

  12. 12
    Jeanette says:

    I just can’t believe that not one person has mentioned Bad Boy Rafe!!!
    Loved them all but The Return Of Rafe was my fave. He was soooo sexy.

  13. 13
    Bev Stephans says:

    “The Pride Of Jared MacKade” is my least favorite of the quadrology. I liked Susannah but couldn’t stand Jared. I thought he was a class-A jerk! I have to go along with the majority and say that Devin is my favorite. Over all, all four books are pretty good. Nora’s best books are still the ones that she sets in Maryland.

  14. 14
    oakling says:

    That’s interesting because so many of the chicklitromancenovels that I read feature protagonists who are insane like that. Swinging from one extreme to another, acting out their rage on people inappropriately, clearly borderline and portrayed as if they are sympathetic, enviable characters… and I can’t think of any examples right now! Oh no, I did think of one: the antagonist in Something Borrowed, who then gets her own book in Something Blue. And apparently another book by the same author, BabyProof, has characters just as unsympathetic.

  15. 15
    pkg says:

    How bizarro. I liked her the most. Didn’t like the rest. Insipid heroines. Didn’t like Jared either. But I thought she was more real than the usual run of the Mills.

  16. 16
    Jennifer says:

    I outright quit reading this the second the “OMG U HOOR” crap started coming out. Couldn’t take any more.

  17. 17
    Isabel says:

    I love all MacKade brothers but my faves were Devin and Shane.
    Also, Sarah, are you sure her name was Suzannah, because in the spanish version was Savannah.

  18. 18
    Jim Stinson says:

    These comments offer fascinating female perspectives for this male fan of Nora Roberts. For me, Savannah is a powerful personality and powerfully attractive physically too. (I too was oh please! about her lover’s hangups re The Men In Her Past.) On the other hand, for me at least, Sheriff Devin is kinda feepy and his injured-bird lady seems sort of paint-by-numbers, though her situation is, of course, horrific. Having been through all the trilogies, not to mention the sprawling MacGregors, I’m interested in the range of Roberts’ heroes and heroines and how she pairs them. BTW, for me, her best spread of female protagonists are all in one book: Montana Sky.

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