Originally released in 2004, Northern Lights details the adventures of an almost-but-not-quite washed up Baltimore cop turned rural Alaska police chief. His new post involves keeping order in the tiny town of Lunacy, with only 2 deputies to help him. It’s a far cry from the streets of Baltimore, but that’s exactly what Nate Burke is hoping for. After suffering through the guilt of seeing his partner die, he needed a change as well as a chance to redeem himself.
Very soon after landing in Lunacy, Nate meets local pilot Meg Galloway. it doesn’t take long for the attraction to burn hot between these two, but each has their own reasons for shying away from any sort of deep commitment. After his experiences in Baltimore, Nate has his own traveling baggage train. Meg, for her part, had a father who left when she was in her early teens and her mother’s constant roaming from bed to bed in search of a man to basically fill all the empty places in her life didn’t exactly give Meg a positive outlook on romance and commitment.
At 600+ pages, this book’s main weakness is also one of its strengths. For those used to Roberts’ category romances, Northern Lights will feel very different. As far as I know, this is the author’s first and only book set in Alaska and as I read, I had the feeling that she enjoyed stretching her writing legs and meandering a bit through her plotting. While the romantic side of the plot does start cooking fairly early in the book, much of the action in the first few hundred pages simply centers around Nate getting settled and getting to know the quirks of the town. And a quirky town it is.
I liked the town and all of its local intrigues, so I found Northern Lights fun reading. However, the suspense plot does run on quite a slow burn. There are hints from the very beginning that someone (or a few someones) in Lunacy might be hiding some dark secrets, but the nature of those secrets takes a while to surface. And the hint of present danger in town takes longer still. Toward the end, I did start to weary of the slow and wandering plot, but if you like slow burn suspense, this one is fairly entertaining.
I wouldn’t consider this book the be all and end all of great romantic suspense, but it is an entertaining read. And while I’m not an expert on Roberts’ books, the tone did feel rather different from some that I’ve read. In Meg, I did recognize the strong, independent heroine that I’ve seen elsewhere(she does have just a bit of that Eve Dallas edge to her) and despite his tragic backstory, Nate was strong enough to make a good match for her. However, the pacing felt much more relaxed than any of the In Death series or other suspense books from this author that I’ve read.
As I said above, this novel isn’t groundbreaking. However, it is definitely entertaining and it’s a perfect book for curling up by the fire (or the space heater, in my case) on a chilly afternoon or several.