Yes, it’s commercial fiction and, yes, it can be hokey, too, but sometimes you need a little bit of cheese.

This brings me to book 21 of 52, Blood Brothers by Nora Roberts. It’s also time for me to come out of the closet as a Nora Roberts fan. Do I think her books are great works of literature? Hell no. Do I think they’re fun to read every once and a while? Hell yeah.

My theory is this: Nora Roberts is brain candy. My job is to read and write, so it’s nice to take a break and settle into a novel where I already know the patterned story arc, conclusion and even character types. Sure, Nora changes the body type, the job, and the hair color (thank goodness she finally stopped thinking that a guy’s hair curling just over the collar was attractive) of her leading ladies and gents, but they’re essentially the same: slightly damaged yet ridiculous strong, smart and, of course, sexy.

I got my first dose of Nora in college. I borrowed one of her books from my grandmom, and I remember it was from my grandmom because I couldn’t believe that she read such saucy novels (granted, phrases like “he let his fingers train down to the swell of her breast” and “he slipped inside her” are tame against Penthouse or even Maxim standards, but come on — we’re talking about my grandmom here).

At the time, I was studying Great Works of Literature, but Nora hooked me in. While reading and analyzing and writing about the works of dead white men through four years of college and two years of graduate school, it was fun to turn to something light and fluffy at night, especially light and fluffy with happy endings.

In those six years, I tore through the backlog of Nora titles (she has hundreds in print) and even ordered a box of out of print titles on ebay. That was a good lesson for Jen the writer — even best sellers start out a little bit shaky.

The books also fed into my cheese ball romantic side which, even though tempered after a round robin of 20-something relationships (or attempts at relatinoships), needs a little encouragement every once and a while. Yes, I know that life is not a romance novel (and sometimes I even tell myself when looked a romantic situation that, “Jen, this is not a Nora Roberts novel”). But what’s the harm in, every now and then , jumping into a little fantasy world where love is always at first sight and forever?

Nora (and, yes, I am referring to her by her first name) has two kinds of books: the big, sweeping epics and the magic-infused/murder mystery/slightly paranormal stuff. I’m a bigger fan of number 1, but Blood Brothersis number 2 (I hope we’ll be getting a number 1 type this summer, just in time for beach reading). Even though there’s romance and sex, there’s some kind of evil to be conquered, and Nora can tend to go into dramatics:

“They sat down at the kitchen table with coffee and dry cereal–Fox in one of his lawyer suits, Gage in a black T-shirt and loose pants, Cal in Jeans and a flannel shirt. And spoke of demons.”

Oh, snap!

I’d picked up Blood Brothers three times and put it back on the self before buying my copy — at a discount — at Wegmans. It only took me two days to read it, too, which is typical (unless I’m sitting in a beach chair). Even I didn’t follow along the finer plot points, but here’s the gist: Cal, Gabe and Fox (GREAT ROMANCE NOVEL NAMES!) were born at the same time on the same day. Even though not related, they acted like brothers, and on the night before their tenth birthday, hiked up to something called the Pagan Stone and become blood brothers (cut themselves, mix the blood together — that sort of thing). While it seems like a silly little boy thing to do, it calls forth a long stifled demon who makes their town go nuts for seven days every seven years. In order to kill the damn thing, they need more power and find out that they must join forces with three women to send the demon back from whence it came, and save the town.

You can guess what happens with three guys and three girls in a romance novel, but it doesn’t all happen in this particular one (and, no, not all together — not Penthouse, remember?). Blood Brothers is part one of a trilogy and, yes, I will be reading all three. There are worse ways, after all, to spend my evenings (reality TV and shooting up would be near the top of that worst ways list).

If you’ve never sampled the sugary book sweetness that is Nora, I recommend starting in on the MacGregor series. They’re light fun, tons of books in the series, and all in paperback. If you number 2 type of Nora books, you might also want to check out the stuff she’s written as J.D. Robb. Not my cup of tea, but, then again, neither are skinny jeans and they seem to be doing just fine.


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Jen Miller

Jen Miller

Jen A. Miller is a an author and freelance writer. Her memoir, Running a Love Story, was a Philadelphia Inquirer best book of the year. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, SELF, Buzzfeed and the Guardian, among others.


  1. Sally Swift on January 6, 2008 at 11:25 pm

    Welcome out of the Nora Roberts fan club closet and into the Light Romance Brain Spa. My friends and I discovered Nora in the 80’s when she was writing some bang-up romance-cum-mystery thrillers.

    And about the JD Robb stuff… tough but damaged Eve Dallas and her hunky perfect man Roarke are a trip. Plus, think about this: Nora came up with an iPhone in that series — 15 years ago!

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