Heaven and Earth
Few authors, in any genre, can match Nora Roberts’ ability to create characters that instantly leap off the page. In a few quick scenes the personality and identity of each is made clear. Since she has this incredible ability, Ms. Roberts rarely writes a hero or heroine who doesn’t come alive for me. Heaven and Earth has the benefit of her expertise in a hero who leaps, jumps, and bounds off the page, but it also has the rare instance of a heroine who doesn’t.
Heaven and Earth is the second book in the Three Sisters Island trilogy. It picks up not long after Dance Upon the Air left off. Ripley Todd is thinking about moving out of her family home so that her brother Zack and his new wife Nell can have some privacy. Her suggestion to Mia Devlin, owner of the local bookshop/cafe, that she rent her vacant cottage is met with a rejection. Mia just rented the cottage to Dr. MacAllister Booke, a paranormal researcher who’s going to spend time on Three Sisters Island.
MacAllister “Mac” Booke has come to the island with the intention of researching Mia. For the past several months Mac has followed the news reports about Nell’s dangerous ex-husband and the mysterious happenings on the island; he knows that there is more to the story. He’s doubly intrigued when he meets Ripley and realizes she too was involved in the paranormal event. His instant attraction to her is an added bonus.
As I write this review I keep wanting to return to Mac. There’s a reason for that. The character of Mac was the strongest element in this novel. Ripley doesn’t make that kind of impression. Her emotions seem to be dictated more by a need to create conflict then by the development of her as a person. We’re told a lot of things about her: she’s extremely competent as a police officer, she’s ornery, and she’s completely self-sufficient. All of that plays out by-the-numbers which makes her an astonishingly flat presence in the book.
The central conflict of Ripley’s life – her paranormal powers and the reluctance she feels to acknowledge them – is given relatively little play considering the size of this book. The reasons for trying to live in denial are only briefly described. Instead the author introduces another dastardly character out to get Ripley and the people she cares about. More time is spent on getting this guy to the island and explaining his motivation than explaining Ripley’s past.
I loved Mac. He writes in journals, both professionally and personally, and we’re able to see Ripley through his eyes and feelings. Those journal entries and his many foibles made for some very charming scenes. It was also great to see the characters introduced in the first book of the trilogy, especially Nell who’s gained confidence and happiness.
Are a likable hero and supporting characters enough to carry a story? I didn’t think so. The plot took a long time to develop and when it did it didn’t interest me all that much. Factor in a heroine who doesn’t match any of the others in character development and the result is one of those rare Nora Roberts’ books that doesn’t stand out amongst the crop of current romances. Rather than reaching for the heavens, this one is stuck right here on earth.