I’ve chronicled my love of Nora Roberts books on this site before. They are a wonderful escape valve for me, especially in times of stress. Now is one of those times, so I was jazzed to find out she had a new book coming out in April 27 (which will be the next review after this one).

But at the time, April 27 was too far away, so I dove into my library and pulled out what might have been the first Roberts book I ever read: Daring to Dream, originally published in 1996. It’s the first in a trilogy I have read twice already, and I knew the characters well: Margo, the daughter of the housekeeper who at 18 years old fled to chase her dream and become a fashion model in Europe; Josh, the heir to the Templeton resort and hotel fortunate – and son of the family that kept Margo’s mother as the housekeeper. When Margo is caught in a drug scandal and realizes she’s broke, she comes back home. Sparks fly between the two. They have sex, they fight, they live happily ever after.

Typical Roberts, but can I admit something? This book frustrated me. Maybe it’s because Roberts is a better writer now, or maybe I’ve read this too many times before, but all the nonsense of descriptions about the Templeton’s fabulous wealth, and the strength of female friendships was annoying. It’s also fabulously out of date. Homes along the cliffs of California cost, apparently, only $350,000. Margo’s the perfect fashion model at a size 8, and she smokes – indoors – constantly. This was also in Roberts’ “hair curling slightly over the collar” phase for men. Thank God the mullets are gone.

I almost put this aside once I had my hands on the new book, but I stuck with it through a very sunny Saturday on the beach. It’s a good reminder that even writers I’ve enjoyed get better over time – a key lesson for me to remember as I continue with my writing and try to approve.

But I’ll do without the smoking and mullets, thank you very much.

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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.

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