Since I first discovered her work in the summer of 1997, I’ve looked forward to Nora Roberts’ standalone romantic suspense titles every year. Not all of them end up on my keeper shelf, but each of them has brought me an overall feeling of warmth and comfort, sort of like being wrapped in a fuzzy blanket. So, it should come as absolutely no surprise that I devoured Under Currents, Ms. Roberts’ most recent release, in a little over twenty-four hours.
Before I get into my actual review, I want to alert potential readers to the presence of some pretty graphic scenes of domestic violence. They’re not on every page, but they are a central part of the story, and the author doesn’t hold anything back when she’s describing them. Those portions of the book made me tear up a bit, so be prepared if that’s something you’d rather not read about.
Everyone in town knows and loves the Bigelow family. Graham is a successful surgeon, and his wife Eliza is smart, pretty, and willing to put her husband’s dreams before her own. Their two children, Zane and Britt, appear to have everything their hearts desire, and no one, not even Eliza’s sister – who lives just across the lake – knows the hell Graham is forcing his family to endure.
But one night during Zane’s junior year of high school, everything comes to a head, and the truth about the Bigelows is finally revealed. Fortunately, Zane and Britt are taken in by their aunt Emily, and slowly, they begin to recover from the horrors of life beneath their parents’ roof.
Decades later, Zane, now an attorney ready to go into private practice, returns to the small town which holds some of the worst memories of his life. He’s spent several years away, but he feels it’s finally time to lay the ghosts of his past to rest once and for all, and what better way to do that than to live and work in the community he once called home? His aunt Emily still lives there, as does Britt, who is working as a social worker and has started a family of her own.
Zane isn’t the only one ready for a fresh start. Darby recently moved to town in hopes of outrunning the demons that have plagued her for years. She also wants to start a landscaping business, and something about the peaceful town in the Blue Ridge mountains calls to her. Zane and Darby meet and sparks fly, but ghosts from both their pasts are lurking on the horizon.
Ms. Roberts’ previous romantic suspense titles, Come Sundown and Shelter in Place, were both incredibly dark and intense, and both ended up being five star reads for me. Under Currents is a completely different kind of story, one that took me a little while to settle into. I went in expecting to be on the edge of my seat with my heart in my throat as these two damaged people fought to claim their HEA, but the suspense wasn’t all that suspenseful and the conflicts were wrapped up pretty easily, all things considered. Even so, I found myself totally committed to the easy comfort of Zane and Darby as a couple, and I cheered as they overcame each obstacle life put in their path.
Zane is a fabulous hero. He’s a genuinely nice guy, smart, funny, and compassionate. His upbringing didn’t turn him into someone dark and tortured, and I was grateful for that. Romance is full of alpha heroes, so it’s refreshing to run across one who doesn’t feel the need to prove himself at every turn. He loves Darby for who she is, and I loved that he wasn’t constantly trying to stifle her.
Once again, Nora Roberts has created a cast of characters I wish I could meet in real life. I loved the warm and inviting nature of the town and the people who make their home there. Of course, there are some unsavory individuals who have parts to play, but their presence doesn’t do much to dampen the spirits of Zane, Darby, and those who support them. Often, there’s a feeling of impending doom that pervades books like this; we know the characters are waiting for the other shoe to drop, and their hard-won happiness is tinged by fear, but that wasn’t the case with Under Currents.
Some readers might take issue with the ease with which Zane and Darby achieve their happy ending, but I was quite willing to suspend my disbelief and fall into the story. There’s definitely a place in my reading life for fast-paced, high conflict stories, but there’s also a place for books like this where the hero and heroine don’t have to work quite so hard for the good things in life. Under Currents isn’t my favorite of Ms. Roberts’ books, but it’s one I’m glad I read.