Since I first discovered her about two years ago, I have worshiped at the altar of Nora like many other romance readers. I have enjoyed her family sagas, especially the Concannons of the Born In series and the Stanislaskys of Those Wild Ukranians. I also absolutely love the In Death mystery series she writes under her J.D. Robb name. That said, I think I’ve finally found her type of books that I’m not so crazy about – her hardback romantic suspense. I also thought her last hardback romantic suspense book, Homeport was just average.
The Reef has many appealing elements: buried treasure, exotic locations, romance and suspense. The Beaumont family – father Ray, mother Marla and daughter Tate are amateur treasure hunters/excavators. The Lassiters – uncle Buck and nephew Matthew encounter the Beaumonts at sea. They are working the same site and team up. They discover a wreck but lose it to Silas VanDyke – a ruthless villain who takes what he wants and who killed Matthew’s father many years before. Matthew and Tate fall in love but don’t stay together. Fast forward eight years and the group is reunited to search for Angelique’s Curse, an amulet of incomparable value that VanDyke is obsessed with owning.
Okay, I’m going to start with the say something nice rule. The beginning and end of this book are fast-moving and keep you reading. I wanted the characters to find the good stuff so I could discover it with them. I think a lot of people have a fantasy about discovering long-lost treasure. Also, the final resolution involves some magic that kept me riveted.
However, I did have some problems with this book, chief among them the character of VanDyke. He was as cardboard a villain as I have seen. He’s mean and ruthless, and as many a bad villain does, he descends into madness. He believes that Angelique’s Curse is “meant” to be his. Yawn. Another thing about VanDyke. If he’s as rich, powerful and intelligent as we’re lead to believe, why didn’t he find the wreck with Angelique’s Curse instead of waiting for the Beaumonts and Lassiters to lead him to it? Granted, he was missing a clue, but if he had truly been obsessed with it, I doubt that would have stopped him.
I also found myself strangely detached from Tate and Matthew. There was the standard conflict: I love you, but I’m doing this for your own good. Oh, you hurt me and I’ve got to be distant now to protect myself. They had some nice, charming moments, and Matthew did get over his misunderstandings pretty fast, but I was actually more interested in mom, dad and uncle Buck. I also thought Roberts carried her sea theme too far. Relationship talks about the past were mostly phrased in terms of excavations (Tate’s a marine archaeologist) as in, “You started this excavation. Now we’ll finish it.” When Tate got caught up in passion, her “sea began to toss”, waves broke over her and storms tossed inside. Ugh!
It may sound as if I couldn’t stand this book. Not true. I just expected more from Nora Roberts and technical pickiness on my part distracted me from the story. I still admire the quality of her books and the amazing number of books she puts out. A not-so-great Nora is still better than most. I just think I’ll let the MacGregors, Concannons, Stanislaskys and Eve and Roarke toss my sea and steer clear of the suspense.