After reading a string of second and third rate romantic suspense novels, I was starting to wonder if anyone wrote good ones anymore. Nora Roberts’ River’s End was like a shot in the arm. Beautifully written, with wonderful characters and a believable conflict, this is a book to savor and enjoy.
The book begins with four year old Olivia MacBride, frightened and confused because her glamorous movie star parents are arguing all the time. One horrible night, Olivia is awakened by her mother’s screams. She walks into a horror scene in her living room – blood is everywhere, her mother isn’t moving, and her father is holding a pair of sharp scissors. Olivia runs and hides, and is found later by a police man, Frank Brady. Her father is convicted of murdering her mother, and Olivia goes to Washington to live with her grandparents.
While Olivia is growing up, her grandparents shelter her completely from the pain of the past. But one day when she’s twelve she discovers some old things of her mother’s in the attic, and the memories come flooding back. Olivia has never forgotten the policeman who found her, and she writes to him, inviting him to come stay at her grandparents’ inn – and answer a few of her questions. Frank arrives with his wife and his son, Noah. Frank answers her questions, and she develops a crush on Noah.
Years later, Noah decides to leave his life as a reporter so he can write true crime. He has never forgotten Olivia, and he feels connected to her through his father. When Olivia’s father writes Noah from prison and offers to tell his side of the story, Noah just can’t refuse. But Olivia isn’t sure she’s ready to talk about her past or hear about her father. When Noah contacts her again, her feelings for him return full force, and she doesn’t know how to handle them. Noah is more sure of his feelings, but then Olivia’s father is released from prison, it seems as if her life might be in danger. Both Noah and Olivia must discover the truth about what happened that night, so they can lay the past to rest and build a future together.
Often I find that even novels clearly labeled as romantic suspense tend to be heavy on suspense and light on romance. But in River’s End, Nora Roberts strikes a perfect balance. The reader can enjoy Noah and Olivia’s romance as they fall in love, yet the nightmare of the past is always lurking eerily in the background. The book really satisfies on both fronts.
The characterization is wonderful here, and it drives the believable conflict. Both main characters are sympathetic. Noah is a tender, passionate hero who longs to get to the bottom of the story. His goals put him in conflict with Olivia, who jealously guards her family’s privacy and is afraid to remember her past. What a treat it is to see a conflict that doesn’t involve one of the main characters acting like a jerk! As Noah and Olivia spend time together, they work through their differences until they share the same goals and dreams. This is what romance is really all about.
For me, the only real flaw was in the ending, which seemed to resolve matters a little too quickly. I would have appreciated just a little more insight into the villain. But this flaw pales in comparison to the many virtues of River’s End. I rarely think a book is worth buying in hard cover. But Nora fans can rejoice – this one is.