Book Review: Black Hills by Nora Roberts (Audiobook)

[What can I say? It’s a Nora Roberts Review type of week … Last one,  I promise. ]

“Do you know how many ways love can hit you? So it makes you happy, or miserable? It makes you sick in the belly or hurt in the heart. It makes everything brighter and sharper, or it blurs all the edges. It makes you feel like a king or a fool. Every way love can hit you, it’s hit me when it comes to you”

And such sums up the often turmoil-ridden relationship primary to the book.

Sigh.

I love the difficult ones.

Synopsis:

A summer at his grandparents’ South Dakota ranch is not eleven-year-old Cooper Sullivan’s idea of a good time. But things are a bit more bearable now that he’s discovered the neighbor girl, Lil Chance, and her homemade batting cage. Even horseback riding isn’t as awful as Coop thought it would be. Each year, with Coop’s annual summer visit, their friendship deepens from innocent games to stolen kisses, but there is one shared experience that will forever haunt them: the terrifying discovery of a hiker’s body.

As the seasons change and the years roll, Lil stays steadfast to her aspiration of becoming a wildlife biologist and protecting her family land, while Coop struggles with his father’s demand that he attend law school and join the family firm. Twelve years after they last walked together hand in hand, fate has brought them back to the Black Hills when the people and things they hold most dear need them most.

Coop recently left his fast-paced life as an investigator in New York to take care for his aging grandparents and the ranch he has come to call home. Though the memory of his touch still haunts her, Lil has let nothing stop her dream of opening the Chance Wildlife Refuge, but something … or someone … has been keeping a close watch. When small pranks and acts of destruction escalate into the heartless killing of Lil’s beloved cougar, recollections of an unsolved murder in these very hills have Coop springing to action to keep Lil safe.

Lil and Coop both know the natural dangers that lurk in the wild landscape of the Black Hills. Now they must work together to unearth a killer of twisted and unnatural instincts who has singled them out as prey

As I have mentioned before – Nora Roberts is a fan of long prologues. This book is no different: We start in the 1980s with a young hero and a young heroine, who are more interested in batting cages than making gooey-eyes at one another. We move onto teenaged heroine and young adult hero, now very much into more than just gooey-eyes at one another, a lot more. And then we finally open up into fully adult hero and heroine, years after they’ve last seen one another, with a lot of past between them, and a lot of hurt and silence.

I got the audiobook for this from the local library to aid me out of the boredom of my commutes and the horrible mornings shows on the radio. I was looking for something light and funny and romantic … and instead found something intense, a little dark (a lot dark) and romantic. Ah well – can’t say I hated it though. It was a pretty rock solid book.

Let’s start with our heroine, Lil. She’s a strong-spirited, intelligent PhD who also opened up her own animal refuge center on the South Dakota hills she grew up in. Though she’s spent the last decade and a bit pursuing her own dreams, she had never really found a person to light the passion fires the way her old friend, first real boyfriend, Coop did. And she resents him for that – as well as hating him a little bit for breaking her heart into so many pieces so long ago. As we open up into the present, she is coming home for a six-month trip to South America where she was studying pumas, only to find out that Coop – who previously lived in New York City – has decided to stay on at his grandparents’ farm in South Dakota.

Coop has a similar trajectory as Lil’s – but instead of animals and PhDs, he joined the police force, then opened up his own PI shop, then sold it with a hefty profit and now wants to settle down in the one place he feels truly at home: the Black Hills. Coop, himself, still loves Lil – even if it’s a hard thing to do, and he wants to win her back, much to the enncouragement of his crotchety grandfather and sweet tempered grandmother.

Basically, we have our love story set.

Here’s the interesting thing about this novel, something which I don’t often find in other novels (romance or not) but do in Nora Roberts’ novels a fair bit. In most novels, the girl will come from a shady past, or a broken home, or something else that isolates her. The man, on the other hand, is usually of more solid stock. In this – it’s reversed: Lil’s family is rock solid, whereas Coop’s parents are pretty awful, and he ends up only having his grandparents for any kind of love. I cannot express how much I love this reversal – it’s wonderful to see a female character from a loving family for once. Just for the novelty of it, I would love it, but added to that is the hominess of it all – perfect to counterbalance the dark themes of the book as Lil is stalked by a killer.

Yep, I slipped that in there, didn’t I?

There’s a killer on the loose, though it takes a while to materialize, and the killer has his sights set on Lil. Again, this takes a while to figure out. Nora Roberts is the queen of dawdling without seeming to dawdle, filling in action scenes with normality and world building, so you don’t even realize it’s been a while since you heard from that would-be murderer. When the climax come – it’s quick and it’s paniful and yes, very dark, but it’s because of all that world building and time spent on the normality of their lives that the stakes seem so impossibly high and so incredibly close. Like I said, she’s a queen.

All in all – a good book for a winter’s night (even though it’s set in springtime, it’s South Dakota people).

Would highly recommend reading it while curled up on the porch at the cottage!

 

What are you reading this week?

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