High Noon by Nora Roberts
The Particulars: Romantic suspense, Putnam, 2007, In Print
Why Was It In Wendy's TBR?: I picked this one up at RWA 2007. Nora was the luncheon speaker at Librarians Day that year and this book was part of the swag. Yes, I've had a book in my TBR since 2007. Don't hate the player, hate the game.
The Review: I was all set to read a historical for this month's TBR Challenge, but got derailed when I DNF'ed a category romance I requested from Netgalley (sorry Harlequin! Look, I review a ton of your books, DNF'ing one isn't all that terrible - is it?). Anywho, I was looking at the historicals in my pile that fit this month's theme and I just wasn't feeling it. The clock was ticking (I wanted to put this review to bed before I left for RWA!), and even though this book clocks in at a staggering 467 pages (have I mentioned I'm slow reader?), I took the plunge.
Nora's about as classic as it gets when it comes to romance. Some folks wonder why. Why her? Well, I'll tell you why - besides what must be a killer work ethic - she can spin a story. Is she the bestest, super supremo writer on the planet? No. But she tells a good story and keeps you engaged. After DNF'ing a category romance that didn't make me care one iota, Nora's ability to spin an engaging story was not lost on me. I inhaled this book, despite my quibbles.
Police Lieutenant Phoebe MacNamara is a hostage negotiator for the Savannah PD. She's supposed to be enjoying St. Patrick's Day with her family. Instead she's called downtown to talk down a jumper. She arrives on the scene and immediately meets the jumper's former employer and current landlord, Duncan Swift. Phoebe does her thing, the situation is defused, and Duncan is smitten. Hook, line, sinker, head over heels, smitten. Now all he has to do is convince Phoebe to give him a chance. One measly lil' drink. Surely she'll say yes to that?
Phoebe's life is complicated. She's got a rambling mansion she inherited from a relative, a sour woman who is literally running Phoebe's life from behind the grave. She's a single mother to a precocious seven-year-old daughter, and has an agoraphobic mother who has a panic attack just thinking about opening the front door. Then there's the demands of her job, the pressures of being a woman in a male dominated field, the childhood trauma that still looms over her family, and oh yeah! It seems there's a Psycho Bad Guy who's out to get her. She's used to handling things by her self. She's used to taking care of everybody and everything. She does not have time to "date." But Duncan - damn, Duncan with his charming banter and sexy eyes won't take no for an answer.
There is a lot I liked about this book. The dialogue is fast and furious, the sparks immediately fly between the couple, Roberts does a great job with the secondary characters (the folks Phoebe encounters "on the job" especially), the hostage scenes are suitably exciting and tense, and the whole High Noon theme (Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly - it's a movie, you damn whippersnappers!) is genius.
So, what didn't work for me? Well, it's a lot of little things. Duncan and Phoebe are just so....perfect. Phoebe is practically Wonder Woman and Duncan is so slick I started thinking of him as Teflon Man. Do they have baggage? Yeah. But even with that baggage they still seem so put-together, even-keeled, like butter wouldn't melt in their mouths. Phoebe is prickly at times, but she's so damn competent and good-at-her-job, that it's hard to even consider that a character "flaw."
There were also times the romance just didn't quite gel for me. The declarations of true love seem to come out of left field, but this could very well be chalked up to my being engaged more in the suspense thread than the romance. Also, as exciting as the climactic finish to this story was? I have a hard time believing that Duncan would be allowed on the scene, allowed past the barricade, and would be able to talk Phoebe. I don't care if she's running the negotiation - it just felt too Convenient Romance Suspense Novel Plot Device to me.
So where does that leave me? I liked this. I have an autographed copy, so I'll keep it - but I'm unlikely to ever reread it. The suspense is good, and there's a moment during the third act that literally had me gasping out loud (seriously, it's gruesomely good and it shocked the hell out of me - Brava Nora!). The romance? Meh. The suspense, delivering a good story and keeping me engaged? Mission accomplished.
Final Grade = B-