I almost didn’t read this one. Nora Roberts been disappointing me lately. She’s published three series recently. The first was the Bride Quartet; the second the Inn BoonsBoro Trilogy.

I’ve read a lot of what makes good romance, and conflict is key. There always needs to be some kind of conflict that is pushed the hero and heroine apart, and the plot turns as they overcome those challenges.

For those two series, the conflict was…just not really there. For Brides, it was “OMG! We run a wedding industry but we are so resistant to love!” For the Inn BoonsBoro Triology, it was “we’re building an inn! AND THERE’S A GHOST.”

Yes, that oversimplifying both series, but they weren’t that great. It felt like Roberts was off her game, and that she was writing copies of books she’d done before, just with a lot more brand names mentioned over and over again, and hooking them into series because that made financial sense.

So I’m glad to report that Whiskey Beachis a much different kind of book. It has a lot of conflict and complications, and a murder mystery wrapped inside. Eli Landon has just had a horrible year. His wife – from whom he was separated – had been murdered, and he was the prime suspect. Despite there not being enough evidence to charge him, he’s still seen as guilty in the eyes of public opinion, and he loses his friends, his job, everything. So he retreats to the family estate called Bluff House in Whiskey Beach, north of Boston. His grandmother had lived there until she took a nasty fall. The woman who had been taking care of the house, Abra, has been charged with continuing the upkeep – of the house and eventually Eli.

Sure, there are the hallmarks of her work: the importance of family, the importance of a place, and there’s someone fabulously wealthy involved. But Whiskey Beach didn’t feel like a re-tread. It felt like something I wanted to read, and something she wanted to write.

It’s not perfect, though. The book could have been about 50 pages shorter and not lost anything. I was impatient for the resolution – not because of the fast paced action, but because in spaced I was bored.

Still, it’s encouraging that the book was so much better than those series. I have hope yet.

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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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