“Love is not enough. But, it is the rock on which all else stands.”
That’s a quote that I think runs through all three books of the series.
Suffice it to say – it’s a long romance story, that spans years, people and a great evil that threatens to rise up and swallow, first the town, then the whole world.
And it’s a great 3-book summer read!
Mini Reviews of each book after the jump!
“What was your secret?”
That brought another smile. “Learn to laugh, otherwise, you’ll beat them to death with a hammer first chance”
Every seven years, there comes a week in July when the locals do unspeakable things–and then don’t seem to remember them. The collective madness has made itself known beyond the town borders and has given Hawkins Hollow the reputation of a village possessed. This modern-day legend draws reporter and author Quinn Black to Hawkins Hollow with the hope of making the eerie happening the subject of her new book.
It is only February, but Caleb Hawkins, descendent of the town founders, has already seen and felt the stirrings of evil. Though he can never forget the beginning of the terror in the woods twenty-one years ago, the signs have never been this strong before. Cal will need the help of his best friends, Fox and Gage, but surprisingly he must rely on Quinn as well. She too, can see the evil that the locals cannot, somehow connecting her to the town–and to Cal.
As winter turns to spring, Cal and Quinn will shed their inhibitions, surrendering to a growing desire. They will form the cornerstone of a group of men and women bound by fate, passion, and the fight against what is to come from out of the darkness…
Remember those long prologues I talked about? That’s here in spades. Actually, it runs through all three books, so we’ll just mention it here so we can set up the story, shall we?
So let’s go back to 1652 – we’re in Maryland province, a place called Hawkins Hollow. We’re thrust right into a bad situation – it appears that a demon has infiltrated the populace, and wreacked havoc – ending with the death of the only person who could stop him, while his widow and their unborn triplet sons go into hiding. The demon appears to have disappeared, but no one is sure why. Everything is quiet for years until July 6, 1987 – when three nine year old boys defy their parents’ orders and sneak out to the Pagan Stone – a large natural stone structure in the woods – to celebrate the tenth birthday they share. While there, they awaken a great evil when they spill their own blood on the ground, in a pact to become blood brothers, that sparks madness in their town – a madness only they seem immune to. The madness goes away and they imagine they’re safe, but every seven years, the madness rises again and the town goes crazy, with only the three boys in the way to stop evil from completely taking over.
Fast forward to February 2008 – at this point, they have been through three of the “Sevens”. We open up in Cal’s head – he’s the kid with the great family, town son sort of reputation and a responsible business owner. He and Fox, the lawyer raised by hippies, are the two of the blood brothers who still live in town. Their other best friend, Gage, due in part to childhood trauma and in part to his own nature, travels the world playing poker. But every seven years, they come together to beat off the evil. And of course, the evil keeps getting stronger – the demon who controls the evil showing up in visions and dreams all around them. As we open up to modern day, we learn that not only has the demon been starting to creep around their dreams earlier than ever (it being months until July) but also that Cal is having a paranormal investigator type writer into town – on the thought that if she gets his side of the story (the legend of the Seven has traveled outside of the town) then it won’t be crazy – and hell, may even drum up some tourism.
That writer is Quinn – always watching her weight, always bubbly and talkative and friendly, Quinn.
I must say, I really liked Quinn – she is spunky and she is smart and she doesn’t lay down and cower in fear or pretend to be dumb just to be likeable. She’s a challenge to Cal’s self-imposed stoicism and she gathers people to her like a flame does to a moth. She is a lot of fun to read – her dialogue alone is worth a few laughs, and yet, she’s so incredibly real – the girl who has always been a little overweight, who has a best friend she’d kill for, and a job she loves but is tentative towards a forever type of man. She is seduced by the supernatural, but not cowed by it and she gets things done – even if it means camping out in a strange little town where a Demon is constantly showing up in your dreams.
The action of this book, being the foundation for the trilogy, is more shock-and-awe – sort of setting up the evil – rather than any profound punch in the gut (as it gets to be later in the trilogy). The main thing here, like in most of Roberts’ foundational books, is the gathering of people – friends – who will fight the good fight. It reminds me a lot of the first book of the The Circle trilogy (big bad there was a vampire) – though the characters are very different. What I really liked about this first book was the sweetness of it – the way the romance comes together so naturally, they barely fight it, there are no huge ultimatums or grand declarations of disinterest – there is just Cal and Quinn, and they know they are falling way before they do, and they ride it out, clutching one another. You know, the way it’s supposed to be. I liked that it was a “simple” romance in comparison to the others, which are hard-won. The couple is tested as a couple – their lives in danger, not as individuals trying to reach one another.
By the end – our stakes have been set and, the characters have all been introduced – they even manage a small victory, an appetizer to the main event …
“Do you see that out there? The strange, unfamiliar light? It’s called the sun. Let’s go get us a little.”
In the small village of Hawkins Hollow, three best friends who share the same birthday sneak off into the woods for a sleepover the evening before turning 10. But a night of pre-pubescent celebration turns into a night of horror as their blood brother oath unleashes a three-hundred year curse.
Twenty-one years later, Fox O’Dell and his friends have seen their town plagued by a week of unexplainable evil events two more times – every seven years. With the clock winding down on the third set of seven years, someone else has taken an interest in the town’s folklore.
A boutique manager from New York, Layla Darnell was drawn to Hawkins Hollow for reasons she can’t explain – but the recent attacks on her life make it clear that it is personal. And though Fox tries to keep his professional distance, his interests in Layla have become personal too
So we left off, our heroes had banded together once – still not everyone completely on board the whole banding together thing, and not everyone agreeing on the right method to deal with evil – but hey! They gave evil a good butt kicking once, so they were now in it to win it!
This book focuses on our mind reading couple, Fox and Layla. Unlike our previous couple, Cal and Quinn – these two do not have it easy: First of all, there’s Layla herself who is definitely not so gung-ho about supernatural forces as Quinn is, and who definitely doesn’t plan on staying in the little town beyond her vague mission. Then there’s Fox – outwardly the very picture of well-adjusted, he harbours some pretty awful secrets in his past that have scarred him well beyond fine. And of course, there’s also a demon who is trying to break them, factions of their group that refuse to get along and the near-certainty of death.
Regardless of all that – they manage to be a fun read.
I liked this middle book because it set up everyone so very clearly for the last installment, without sacrificing story telling. You sometimes get that middling book – the book in the center of a series that acts as a bridge from the beginning to the end, with no real purpose in and of itself, and instead here we have Roberts weaving in new elements and broadening already discussed ones in order to really flesh out this world. The friendships are still there, the bonds created in the first book, but more so – there’s a relationship with the town that deepens here. Fox’s relationships with his family, his secretary, the other townsfolk (including some real unsavoury fellows) and his past really add colour to the rest of the books, forcing all these little quirks and nuances out of the woodwork to make the town come alive.
The relationship part – the sex, the romance, the sex – is pretty hot. I think the contrast between the first book, where everything was a little more simple in this regard, really brings out the tentativeness of the characters in this story. Layla and Fox circle each other closely (as opposed to our last couple – below – who circle each other warily and on guard) each fearing what it would mean to fall so completely for another person – the danger that would put that other person in, the commitment and restriction it would mean for them, etc. They’re not exactly wishy-washy as some romance characters can be, but more, again, tentative. They test the waters, they reach out and cup one another with soft hands, always conscious of the fact that the other person may not be entirely there, in the moment – ironic, since as I mentioned, they can read minds (sort of).
All in all, the second book is a good execution of the story – and I just fell in love with Fox, so so much.
I can’t help but fall for a man so sassy.
And finally …
“In that case, you ought to go downstairs, or outside until you have a chaperone to protect you from my wiles.”
The Pagan Stone
The Pagan Stone had stood for hundreds of years, long before three boys gathered around it to spill their blood in a bond of brotherhood, unwittingly releasing a force bent on destruction…
Gage Turner has been running from his past for a long time. The son of an abusive drunk, his childhood in the small town of Hawkins Hollow was tough–his only solace his friendship with Fox O’Dell and Caleb Hawkins. But, aged ten, the boys unleashed evil on their town: every seven years murder and mayhem reign, and each cycle is more extreme than the last.
Now Gage has returned home to help his friends save Hawkins Hollow, but a lifetime as a loner has made him wary of emotional ties. And who can make plans for the future when their present is so uncertain? For unless they find a way to use the Pagan Stone against the demonic force, everything they know and love will be destroyed..
And here comes the conclusion to the story.
At this point, our heroes have faced off with their demon foe a few times and rounded off pretty well. However, our main couple for this story are the two most head-strong and indepedent people in our group. And they are not having this destiny-true-love-meant-to-be crap. They may have sex, they decide, because they enjoy sex, but there is no reason to get all emotional about it. Especially since both plan to leave the Hollow the second this business is done.
They are Gage and Cybil.
The last third of our rag tag team, neither has had a particularly good life. Their power is to see the future – though that in and of itself can be deceptive. To say much more about their childhood traumas would be giving away too much, but suffice it to say, there is a reason they come togetehr as peers rather than one feeling sorry for the other.
I liked them both, though I did find some elements of their story too much for me – you’ll know it when you get to it. I get that the demon is evil sort-of-incarnate, but he really is an ass – and he brings it down hard on Cybil once too often for my tastes.
The relationship aspect to the book is good – like I mentioned above, this one is a lot of tug and push – they are not going into this love thing without a real fight. It works for them – since the first book they’ve both been established as headstrong and very independent – with only their friends as anchors to their whirlwind lives.
There are a few twists you see coming. I will say that. However, most of those twists had me balling my eyes out on the couch instead of rolling my eyes, so there you go. Nora Roberts could always make me cry 🙂 That being said – you will figure out these twists. You will draw your mouth in a tight line and demand that the characters pay attention to the pattern of events so they, too, can figure things out a couple of chapters ahead of themselves. But, in the end, the magic of storytelling really does make the wait (for the characters to catch up) worth it.
So do I recommend this series?
Do you like stories of a rag-tag team of heroes that will come together to fight big evil for the sake of those they love? If yes, then hell yeah – I recommend it.
I also recommend these similar Nora Roberts titles:
What are you reading?