Under Currents by Nora Roberts


Under Currents is a return to an old formula for Nora Roberts, one in which she has deviated from in her last two hardback releases, Shelter in Place and Come Sundown. Those releases read more like straight suspense mysteries with romance as a subplot. Both were good, but they showed Nora Roberts stretching her writing muscles and stepping out of her role as master romance writer. In Come Sundown, the main story was the tragic and disturbing kidnapping of a woman who was then kept in captivity for decades while Shelter in Place examined the survivors of a mass shooting. I liked both of these books, but I haven’t been driven to return to them.

Under Currents takes place on familiar ground. Like Carolina Moon, The Witness, and Obsession, we’re in a small town filled with vibrant characters, warm family ties, and the seediness that often lies beneath the thin layer of old-fashioned values. We follow the hero, Zane Bigelow Walker, primarily. He’s our protagonist for the first 130 some pages as we live through his abusive childhood and the night that changed his family and future forever. The heroine, Darby McCray, doesn’t show up until Chapter Eight. If you read Obsession and The Witness, you’re familiar with this narrative style.

I liked this book. I don’t know if I loved it. I think it’s because I just wasn’t sure what the plot was, and I didn’t know what to expect. I think that’s good in a lot of ways — having read so many of Nora Roberts’ novels, I was expecting a central plot that was hinted at in the beginning and then given to us at the climax. This was a lot more episodic in a way that I can’t quite say I was expecting.

We spend a lot of time with teen-aged Zane, then follow Darby as she sets up her landscaping business. Then we follow their relationship for a little while. Because we start with Zane, I expected his story to drive the plot. But it doesn’t. Nothing really does. And I don’t know if I like that. I guess their romance pushes the plot but I’m not sure their romance was all that interesting.

I think this is a book that I want to reread now that I know what to expect. I liked the setting and the supporting cast. Nora Roberts has a way of constructing characters that make you want to read more about them, and that’s no different here. Zane has two nephews who are quite charming, and another author might write their story later. But alas, Nora Roberts never returns to her characters in her single titles.

This is a good book and I’m sure a lot of people will like it. But it didn’t have enough of what I go to a Nora Roberts for — there wasn’t enough conflict in the romance and there wasn’t enough suspense in the mysteries. It kind of meandered in a way that didn’t entirely satisfy me. It’s well-written, and I like Darby and Zane. It just feels…thin.

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Silver Thaw (Catherine Anderson)


The first time I read this book, I rated it as three stars. This is mostly because I’ve been kind of held by back by being annoyed by two Anderson tropes that pretty much appear in every single book she’s released in the last decade or so. During my reread of the Keegan-Paxton series as well as re-reading Stephanie Laurens, I’m not going to take those aspects into account anymore. This is who she is as a writer, and since I keep buying her books, I don’t think it’s fair to make that part of my analysis.

Those two tropes are heroines with incredibly melodramatic and tragic backstories as well as her slightly unrealistic dialogue, both of which are present here. Since I like everything else about this book, we’re taking them off the table.

Amanda Banning is a young single mother on the run from an abusive husband, trying to care for her young daughter. Jeb Sterling is a typical Anderson hero who comes from a large family of mostly boys with pretty much the perfect parents and a lot of money. It’s set in central Oregon in a new setting for Anderson: Mystic Creek. Previously, her contemporary books were set in Crystal Falls. It’s sort of a shared universe because Mystic is near Crystal Falls, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there wasn’t some sort of overlap at some point.

Jeb and Amanda meet because of a really  bad winter storm that destroys her rental home, but Jeb already knows a lot about Amanda because she’s been writing things on strips of paper and letting them fly off into the wind.

This is a really sweet romance with a great dog, some interesting twists and turns, and a lot of family around the holidays which is nice to read these days. While in the past I might not have really liked just how insane they made Amanda’s husband, I’m fully cognizant of the fact that men like Mark do exist and women like Amanda are often left completely powerless, so that’s another thing we’re not judging for.

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Barefoot in the Dark (Suzanne Enoch)

Overall Response

For much of the decade since the last Sam & Rick book, Suzanne Enoch has pretty much specialized in Scottish Highlander romances.  Her last two series have been set or populated with wild Highlanders in the Regency period. Barefoot in the Dark takes all the contemporary fun and suspense of those historical romances and sets them in a historical setting — a village in the Scottish Highlands complete with a drafty ruined castle.

Considering the fact that this is the first book in the series in a decade, I was happy to see that Sam and Rick were still relatively the same. I’d say it took a chapter or two to get settled back into their old banter, but by the middle of the book, every piece of the plot and all the characters are trucking along.

Something that might be jarring to those of us readers who read the books a decade is that while we’re picking up two weeks after A Touch of Minx, Barefoot is set in contemporary times so there are references to Outlander (the TV series), a 2015 Honda Civic (I drive a 2009 Civic so this made me ridiculously happy), and even Downton Abbey. It jarred me a bit and took me a little out of the setting only because I had read the books when they were originally published. If you’re a returning reader like me, just be aware of this. People who are newer to the series probably won’t even blink.

This book had relatively low stakes–no one is trying to blow Rick and Sam up, slice them through with a sword, or making them commit a multi-million dollar theft from a museum. For the first time, we’re solidly in Rick’s territory. It’s his castle and his family–his history we’re steeped in for most of the book. I’m sure most readers have wondered about Sam’s mother (and I’m sure we’ll get something more about that at some point) but must of us didn’t think of about Rick’s.

I’m actually really happy that we got a more character-driven plot with ghosts and long-lost treasure to reorient ourselves to Rick and Sam. I remarked in my review of Minx that I wondered how these two would do with an engagement and predicted it would be rocky.

There were some definite bumps and bruises that told me that Sam is actually not the problem–Rick is. He’s very carefully trying to handle Sam all the time–he approaches things with the same precision he might approach a business deal. He tries to plan for all eventualities, predict all the ways she might react, and it’s probably exhausting. It also makes a lot of sense and was useful early in their relationship but it’s like a part of Rick is still pretty sure something is going to scare Sam off. I’m looking forward to seeing what is really going to convince him all the way down.

The supporting cast is great — we get a return of some of the usual suspects, Stoney and Tom, as well as Rick’s family. I liked his aunt and uncle–they’re a bit stuffy but they’re British upper class and they warm up by the end. The fact Mercia ends up loving Stoney is a huge point in her favor.  His cousin Reg and his girlfriend Eerika work great as antagonists, and there’s a small piece of me that likes Reg and hopes he finds someone better. I like exploring the dynamics of Rick’s family and how he juggles his massive success with relationships with his family.

The plot of the buried treasure was good, and I liked the resolution. I found myself as frustrated as Sam that Rick was being so cagey, so maybe if we’d gotten a more clear POV of Rick’s motives, that would have helped. I think it was halfway through before we learned Rick had made a promise not to tell the truth. Once everything gets clearer, it works just fine.

This is a great return to the world of Samantha Jellicoe and I can’t wait to see where it goes next.

Spoilers Ahead

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A Touch of Minx (Suzanne Enoch)

Overall Response

For about ten years, this book represented the end of Rick & Sam’s story, and I think it was a good finale. The romance gets to a resting place that serves as a HEA, the conflict is crazy over the top (and will make it hard to match), and the characters have come a long way in the chronological year since they met in Flirting With Danger.

I’m pretty excited that this isn’t the end of Rick & Sam’s story, though, so I’ll be reviewing Barefoot in the Park next week after its released. I’ll be holding off my on series review until I’ve read the final book.

I really love this book. It’s my second favorite in the series–my idea of favorite is for readability factor–the plot is just a smidge less entertaining than Billionaires Prefer Blondes, but the stakes are about as high as Flirting with Danger.

We find Sam returning to the idea that she could help museums recover stolen artificacts–which would allow her to use her black hat expertise and skills on behalf of the white hats. Rick is less enthusiastic since he knows it might bring Sam danger from thwarting other thieves, and the two conflict over how much danger she should put herself in and what lines she should break. Sam also investigates the theft of Donner daughter Olivia’s anatomy project which allows the mood to be a bit lighter in some areas.

The plot of Sam working in museum recover doesn’t just bring her conflict with Rick, it also brings conflict with her surrogate father, Stoney. Stoney isn’t in this book much (which is a plot point) and his absence is keenly felt. Stoney was left interested in retiring than Sam and this factor remains a thorn in their relationship. Aubrey plays a bigger supporting role here and I find him really entertaining.

One of the small recurring bits about Rick and Sam arguing about Aubrey’s sexuality hasn’t really aged very well. They go back and forth based on what trait Aubrey exhibits as part of one “team” or another. This was definitely more common a decade ago, so I’m not taking any points off. I have high hopes that it won’t show up in the next Rick & Sam books because it’s really just not funny.

It’s like watching the Chandler jokes on Friends about whether or not he was gay — and yeah, that was funny in the 1990s. It’s just not anymore. Like I said, I’m not going to take any points in this last 2007 outing. I just hope it’s gone going forward.

The new cast of possible museum thieves bring us some interesting supporting characters, and Wild Bill Tombs is…colorful. I also like that Kate and Tom are back–their normalcy is such a lovely contrast to Sam and Rick–and their kids are great too. Olivia reminds me of my own niece, Olivia.

This was a great finale to the series, but I am so excited to see where Rick & Sam go next.

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Twice the Temptation (Suzanne Enoch)

Overall Response

This is a dual book in which we get the Regency-era romance of Rick’s ancestors, Connell and Evangeline, before moving ahead two centuries to a contemporary tale of Rick and Sam set in Devonshire. What connects them is the reputedly cursed Nightshade Diamond — keeping it in your possession brings bad luck while setting it aside draws good luck.

The Regency era story is fine. I’ve never been a huge fan of novellas with brand new characters meeting and falling in love because I’m often left with a sensation of not having enough space. They often come off as superficial and lacking depth. That’s relatively true here. Gilly is an intriguing character but she isn’t given enough space to really develop into the kind of heroine I believe would attract Connell.

I like the supporting cast (if you’re a regular reader of Enoch’s Regency romances, Francis Henning showing up made you giggle) and I was intrigued by Gilly’s parents, but there wasn’t enough softness in her mother, Eloise, to make her truly interesting. I liked her father, but like I said — there wasn’t enough space to really make this work as well as I think it could have.

It’s fine, again, but it’s nothing spectacular. It does, however, a good job of setting up the contemporary story which is much better.

Sam and Rick are at his Devonshire estate where the Victoria & Albert museum are using Rick’s converted stables for a traveling gem exhibit. Sam is in charge of the security and locates the Nightshade diamond that Connell and Gilly hid in the first half of the book. Naturally, Rick doesn’t believe in superstition, and Sam lives her life trying not to attract bad luck. Meanwhile, the gem exhibit is threatened by a thief from Sam’s past.

This was better than Don’t Look Down, but not as good as Flirting with Danger and Billionaires Prefer Blondes.I’m glad we didn’t spend an entire book wit this plot — I think it was a bit thin. I didn’t love the mystery/suspense aspect, but the romantic conflict was mostly decent. There were a few things that kind of tripped me up and kept me from really giving this book a higher rating.

It’s a good book, however. The second story is much better than the first half, but neither are a waste of your time.

Spoilers Ahead

First, with the Connell/Gilly story: I’m not a huge fan of men who pursue women who have told them no (See: To Distraction). However, I think it works better here than it usually does because Connell doesn’t do anything super irritating. He follows all the normal rules — he comes to call, asks for a date. It’s slightly better but still one of my least favorite tropes.

Gilly’s mother actually seriously annoyed me, and I don’t know how her father put up with this nonsense for nearly twenty years. I don’t have much more to say other than that.

For Sam and Rick, my biggest problem was that it’s hard to believe Sam and Rick didn’t catch on to Larson faster. I guess Sam was distracted by Bryce, but I would have thought Rick would do more vetting. I don’t know. I liked the idea of a plant, I just think they’re both smarter than that.

I’m super glad that Sam flipped out on Rick for putting the Nightshade diamond in her pocket. She’s in the middle of a security threat and her entire reputation (and yours) is at risk. This is not the time to prove your point about superstitions. I’m glad Sam called Rick out on this idiocy — it doesn’t matter how Rick feels about the diamond — he knew she felt.

I’m not sure how I feel about Rick being jealous about Bryce and his history with Sam. His heavy-handed nature is definitely his least attractive quality, and I’m glad that Sam continually calls him out on trying to solve problems she hasn’t even had yet. I don’t think Rick really believes Sam would cheat on him, but I guess given his past and Sam’s adrenaline addiction, I get why he can be a bit waffly on the topic.

I like this book but it’s definitely not one I pick up to reread often.

Billionaires Prefer Blondes (Suzanne Enoch)

Overall Response

With the comfort of having finished the entire series, I can honestly say this is the best book of the five stories. It has the strongest romantic conflict, the best page turning plot, and some of my favorite supporting characters in the series.

The action takes place in New York City where Rick and Sam are staying while he buys a hotel from a Japanese businessman and attend a special art auction. Sam spots her supposedly dead father, and while she’s sneaking out to meet with him, someone else is stealing one of the million dollar paintings Rick just won at the auction. Sam is arrested for the theft and finds herself drawn into an increasingly dangerous ring of thieves, trying like hell to stay on the right side of the line and keep herself and Rick alive.

The best thing about this book is the resurgence of Sam’s father because Martin is a giant influence on Sam’s character–a huge source of vulnerability–and she’s not thrilled with Rick meeting him. Martin drags Sam into an art theft ring whose leader gives Sam the choice between helping them or death. It’s a high stakes game with a ton of organic conflict because Sam is being forced back into her old life, and Rick knows there’s a small part of her enjoying the adrenaline rush.

I love this conflict between them because it reminds the reader that Sam isn’t really a white hat. She has a good heart, but she also grew up with a different set of moral codes being drummed into her. Her line is not the same as Rick’s, and the gap between those lines drives this plot forward. Sam is always sure that there’s a point where Rick can’t accept her baggage, and it’s that need that keeps the emergency pack and set of clothing close at hand.

Rick drives me less crazy here than he did the last time — he’s really learning how to best handle Sam’s vulnerabilities, and even the moments where I want to slap him, there’s never a point when I don’t understand exactly what he’s thinking. That character motivation was lacking just a bit in the last book.

The supporting cast is great — Patricia comes back and plays a minor role which is fun. The cop that investigates Rick’s theft, Sam Gorstein, is a great foil for Sam — he puts up with way less of her nonsense than Frank does back in Palm Beach.  I also like the bad guys we get — Martin is a frustrating character that completely explains Sam’s inability to trust Rick doesn’t have a breaking point.

This is my favorite book and considering how much I love this series, that’s saying something.

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Don’t Look Down (Suzanne Enoch)

Overall Response

As a second book, this is a great continuation of the world Suzanne Enoch began to build in Flirting With Danger. While I don’t think I’m as invested in the mystery because it doesn’t affect Sam and Rick personally, it’s still a really good plot that keeps me guessing.

We open almost where we left off in Flirting in Devonshire with Sam and Rick still figuring out what their relationship looks like with no around trying to kill them. Sam is setting up her security business, and Rick is trying to help (though his help is often more like trying to do it for her). When they end up back in Palm Beach, Sam begins to investigate the murder of a man who was on her verge of asking her for help.

Because the murder mystery here is someone who we don’t know, who Sam only meets briefly, and Rick doesn’t know that well either, the stakes are low. In fact, to get Sam and Rick really arguing about what boils down to a private investigation, they make a bet to see who will get to the murderer first — Sam or the police. It feels a little forced. Not in a bad way, but just enough that you can see the effort. This is something that doesn’t happen in the rest of the series which is definitely a good thing.

The supporting cast here is a really plus — we get the return of Stoney, Castillo, and the Donners with the addition of Rick’s ex-wife, Patricia, and the Kunz family: Charles and his adult children, Laurie and Daniel. We also get the introduction of Aubrey Pendelton, a walker who assists Sam and returns in subsequent books.

The plot is great, the characters are great, and the romance…it’s great with some qualifications. I’ll get into the spoilers, but I think the conflict between Sam and Rick feels slightly artificial. Sam was going to consult with Charles on personal security, and it’s not crazy that she feels guilty about his murder which happens only hours after she met with him for the first time. What Sam proposes, initially, is really the equivalent of what a private investigator would do. I don’t really understand Rick’s issue with that or why he comes down on her so hard for it.

I mean, maybe it’s related to wanting her to stay wholly on the right side of the law, and I guess he’s afraid straying even near the line might encourage her to go over it. They’ve only been together for a few months, so the trust is fragile. I get it — I think sometimes, though, Rick just feels like he’s overreacting. I mean, it’s not insanely in your face. I was just trying to figure out why I don’t love this book as much as the rest of the series (I still love this book) but I think it’s because the romantic conflict doesn’t feel organic.

It’s still a great book, though, and I heartily recommend it.

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Flirting With Danger (Suzanne Enoch)

Overall Response

I actually finished this yesterday and since then have read nearly the entire series, haha. I forgot just how addictive this series could be, and I’m already fighting the temptation to start the last (until next week) entry in the series. I absolutely adore this series. Last year, I did an entire reread of the series and purchased digital copies because I love it so much. Normally, having just finished a reread, I wouldn’t have done a second one this year except Suzanne Enoch is releasing a brand new novel, Barefoot in the Dark, after over a decade. Sooo excited!

I don’t read a ton of contemporary novels, and I read even fewer series with the same couple featured over and over again — I think, other than this series, my only other series like this is the J.D. Robb In Death series. It’s hard to see the same couple again and again, particularly since the romance genre is supposed to have a HEA.

Rick Addison and Samantha Jellicoe have a unique meet-cute in this first book when she saves Rick’s life during a botched robbery of his Palm Beach estate–she’s actually trying to steal from him at the same time but she’s not responsible for the explosion or the dead guard. They team up to find out who’s behind it and trying to kill them both.

The plot is really good even if it gets a bit dodgy from time to time. I only get tripped up on some of the finer points after maybe my seventh reread so that’s probably me being an anal-compulsive moron, haha. The characters and romance are really great. Both of these characters are used to being in command and not answering to anyone else so they really have to find ways to compromise–particularly since Sam lives on the wrong side of the law and Rick has to try and figure out just how much of that he’s willing to deal with.

The HEA is a good stopping point. We get enough resolution fit the definition, but there are so many issues still to be mined between these characters that conflict still remains.  The romance can occasionally feel driven by lust–and it definitely begins that way, but there are points where there is genuine connection between them and it’s fun to watch them try and one up each other throughout the book.

The supporting cast is great, particularly Rick’s lawyer, Tom, and Homicide detective, Frank, who will both come back in later books. I particularly adore Stoney, Sam’s fence and only real personal connection. I was excited to see all of them come back.

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Spring Forward (Catherine Anderson)

I get very distracted with Catherine Anderson’s books by two things: the overly ridiculous melodramatic backgrounds of some of her characters and the incredibly artificial way that people speak in her stories.

The first one I can overlook because this is the fourth book in this series, and overall, her last 15 books have featured heroines whose back stories are just over the top insanely crazy. It’s just a trope of her writing, so I just whistle past it.

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