4 stars out of 5
As I neared the end of this book - which I'd call a romance/mystery, I guess - I thought to myself, I'm enjoying this. But when I tried to determine why, my brain just couldn't spit out an answer. The mystery part is predictable (I suspected the "twist" by the end of the third or fourth chapter and yes, I was spot-on). The romance part is borderline sappy - but then I admit I'm not big on the lovey-dovey stuff unless you count the interaction between the dashing Roarke and Lt. Eve Dallas, characters from one of my favorite series penned by this author writing as J.D. Robb. In fact, this is the first book by Roberts writing as Roberts that I've read in a very long time.
Still, whatever the reason, the book is worth reading; I won't say I hated to put it down when the need arose, but neither did I ever consider not finishing it. It begins as Shelby Foxworth, the mother of an adorable, precocious three-year-old, starts to collect her life following the death of her husband in a boating accident. What she learns is a real shocker: Not only was he a cheater and liar, he left her with a staggering amount of debt. A would-be singer, she'd run away from her small-town Tennessee home to pursue a career and married the guy on the spur of the moment, and now she is forced to return to her family and start life anew.
As she collects things from her highly mortgaged Philadelphia house that's headed for foreclosure, she discovers a key in one of her late husband's jackets that appears to be from a safety deposit box. She runs to every bank in town until she's successful (begging the question in my mind as to why a liar and cheat would open a box he clearly wanted to keep secret under his own name). In it, Shelby finds not only a substantial sum of money which she uses to help pay down some of the debt, but documents that reveal her husband had, and no doubt used, multiple identities.
Back home in Tennessee, she's welcomed with open arms by her picture-perfect family that includes a policeman brother and good friends (well, most of them, anyway), and within days she meets - you knew this is coming - the picture-perfect guy. Needless to say, she's more than a little gun-shy at this point, so there's plenty of angst as she tries to sort out her feelings. Then, her past comes back with a vengeance as outsiders come to town - both good guys and bad - all believing that she knows more about her late husband's illicit past than she's admitted so far. Spice things up with a couple of murders and an ending that wraps everything up with a big bow, and there you go.
That the ending is too neat and tidy, I suppose, is my biggest complaint (in fact, that description pretty much sums up the entire book). Still, as I said at the beginning, it's quite enjoyable, if only for the in-depth look at down-home-style family dynamics and relationships. From now on, though, I think I'll stick with the author's far more enjoyable J.D. Robb books.
The Liar by Nora Roberts (G.P. Putnam's Sons, April 2015); 501 pp.