Nora Roberts is one of those writers who rarely, if ever, does wrong. Most of what she writes, in my opinion, is worth picking up. I don’t know how she does it, but her new contemporary romantic suspense High Noon is another great book.
Lieutenant Phoebe McNamara is a former FBI agent now working with the Savannah PD as a crisis negotiator – a job I think is very cool. She’s the one who convinces suicidal people not to jump, and hostage-takers with bombs not to blow up their hostages. Phoebe lives with her agoraphobic mother, an honorary aunt, and her seven year-old daughter Carly, the wonderful outcome of a terrible marriage. All reside in a gorgeous mansion that has been a prison to her family for years after a traumatic event that shaped her future. On a job talking down a man planning on jumping off a building, she catches the eye of Duncan Swift, the charming friend, former boss, and landlord of the possible jumper.
Phoebe has no plans to get into a relationship with anyone since she thinks her life is just too complicated, but Duncan disagrees. After an altercation with a fellow police officer results in an assault that leaves her in the hospital, she calls Duncan. When the man who assaulted her is punished, Phoebe thinks her life can get back to normal and she will be free to explore what she has with Duncan. But then someone starts leaving dead animals on her doorstep.
One thing I especially liked about Duncan and Phoebe’s relationship is that it starts out startlingly normal. In most romantic suspense books, two people are thrown together and there is no actual dating before they fall in love – and into bed – and get married. But here Duncan asks Phoebe out for drinks, then dinner, then to a family barbeque, and so on. It’s a terrific change of pace from all those other romantic suspense novels in which the entire story moves at lightning speed.
Both Duncan and Phoebe, along with the rest of the cast, are well-written characters. Duncan isn’t necessarily the type of man I’d fall for in real life (he’s just a bit too smooth for me), but he is very charming and clearly cares for Phoebe’s family. He flirts with all of the women, from Phoebe’s daughter to her elderly mother, and in addition to being very smooth, he’s very funny. Again, not my type in real life, but definitely appealing to read about.
I do have to admit that when I read the blurb and saw that Phoebe was a police lieutenant, my gut reaction was that she’d be similar to Eve Dallas, the heroine of Roberts’ In Death series. However, I shouldn’t have underestimated her ability to create different characters, as Phoebe and Eve are each their own person. There are some similarities, such as anger at the male-dominated police force (which is a pretty major part of the plot in this book), but Phoebe is a great character on her own. She clearly loves her family, and is a strong character – independent, caring, and very good at her job.
The secondary characters are another feature of Roberts’ writing that I always enjoy. I thought all of the friends and family of Phoebe and Duncan were characterized strongly and each given a unique personality. I especially liked Carly and Essie, Phoebe’s daughter and mother. Essie is agoraphobic and she is portrayed really well – not as a crazy person or mentally unstable in any way – she just doesn’t want to leave the house. Duncan’s best friend and surrogate mother are also great characters.
The plot is also really strong. The romance between Duncan and Phoebe didn’t build too fast or too slow. It was just a natural progression from attraction to caring to love, and I really liked that. The mystery was also a bit of a surprise to me since it wasn’t until the last part of the book that I realized the person I thought was guilty the whole time in fact was not. The book kept me guessing, and ended in a great conclusion incorporating many aspects of the plot.
Nora Roberts is amazing in that she can turn out so many great books, and this is another terrific story. I loved High Noon and wholeheartedly recommend it.