With a back list as long as the Mississippi, Nora Roberts is a well-known entity in the world of romance. Whiskey Beach is her latest installment in the field of romantic suspense, a genre in which she has excelled in the past. This book contains all the things we have come to expect from a Roberts novel: gal pals, romance, close knit family, and a cozy style mystery. However, there were some things missing which caused the novel to be a rather lack-luster read.
To Eli Landon, Bluff House is his grandmother’s home. To many of the locals, it is an important piece of history and part of the community. To yet others, Bluff House is the center of a legend, a story steeped in pirates, a love affair gone wrong and a treasure of immense value. When Eli comes to Whiskey Beach to take care of the home, he has no idea that it is the latter that will be setting the tone for his stay there.
Once a well-respected Boston attorney Eli has spent the past several months battling the Boston PD. Accused of – but never arrested for – the murder of his soon to be ex-wife, he has been scrutinized, questioned, investigated and searched until he no longer has any fight left in him. Now that his grandmother is recuperating from a nasty fall, he has come to take up residence at Bluff House until she is well enough to do so again herself. Hopefully, the new location will provide respite and healing as he launches a new career as a novelist. The house is far too much for any one person to keep up with though, and he is pleased that Gran’s housekeeper has agreed to continue coming several days a week to help him maintain it.
Abra Walsh – housekeeper, yoga instructor, jewelry maker, and massage therapist – is a woman of many talents and passions. As a good friend of Eli’s grandmother she is absolutely convinced of his innocence. When she realizes that the forces bent on destroying him in Boston have followed him to Whiskey Beach, she determines to help Eli get his fighting spirit back. Together they battle the people intent on seeing him pay for a crime he didn’t commit. But will their new found commitment to each other be Eli’s salvation – or his downfall?
My problems with the novel started the moment Abra waltzed on to the page and lasted throughout the tale. The main reason for that is that I never felt Abra was a real character. Who she is is communicated almost entirely through what she says. We get Abra’s opinions on everything – what people should eat, how they should behave, theories on meditation and incense (both of which should be seen as serious crime solving techniques), what to wear (ties make you feel powerful), and what kind of flowers to buy. In the end, every time she opened her mouth or even appeared on the page I braced myself for a lecture. You could be sure that if she wasn’t telling you what to think, at that moment she would be thinking what you should think. Since this is a book, we get nailed with her opinion either way.
I would love to say that Eli or even the mystery make up for that, but they really don’t. The pacing on the mystery is so slow that it never managed to capture my attention. Eli is a piece of clay for Abra to mold into the man she thinks he should be. I understood this – the whole point of the novel is that he lost himself as a result of the battle in Boston and had essentially faded away until he was a shadow of his former self. Whiskey Beach, Bluff House and the love of a good woman were all meant to restore him. However, he is such a stock Nora Robert’s character in terms of background that this lack of personality in other ways makes it hard to get a handle on his character.
The good news is that Roberts is such an experienced writer that even these factors don’t destroy the book. The history and legend make for interesting reading. The secondary characters have enough life to them they make up for the leads. The conclusion, if not breathtaking, is interesting enough to make turning the pages worth your while. Overall the story is fine. It just lacks that spark that would make it good.
I would recommend the book but only if you are a fan of the author and obsessive about reading everything she writes. Otherwise, much as it pains me to say it, I would pass on this one.