Born in Ice by Nora Roberts
****
Nora Roberts takes us into the Irish mist with Born in Ice, but it's an interesting trip. This, the second book in her "Born In..." trilogy, offers us a slower, cooler, more restrained look at Irish life and love through the eyes of Brianna Concannon, younger sister of Maggie from Born in Fire.

Brianna is the proprietress of Blackthorne Cottage, a bed-and-breakfast establishment set up in her family home. Shrewish mother Maeve is now installed in her own house in town, and Maggie is married to Rogan Sweeney and expecting their first child. Brianna, known in the family as the "cool rose", longs for a family and children but is content to run her business and see to the comfort of others. Until the rainy night when American mystery writer Grayson Thane enters her cottage and her life, that is...

Gray has a few bitter memories of his own to deal with. Raised in foster homes, he has isolated himself from deep emotional entanglements and prefers to bury himself in his writing. Drawn to Brianna, he finds himself writing her into his latest novel, foil for a protagonist modeled after himself. The conflict in this book is in Gray and his unwillingness to admit his feelings for Brianna.

Familiar characters from the first novel pop up again, and the running subplot of the bitter mother is continued. Roberts also introduces a new subplot, a packet of mysterious letters addressed to the girls' dead father, which hint at an illicit affair and a half-sister in America (novel number three, no doubt).

Roberts is an expert at characterization through the spoken word rather than description. Her dialogue is tight as a tick and never sounds forced; you have to look hard to find a "she said". The Irish rhythms are skillfully woven through the dialog and the attention to detail made this reader feel as though she was right there, listening in.

Heroines who are naturally reserved and self-controlled make for more difficult romance. Brianna is no exception. Gray's character has all the fire and flash, while Brianna's is just...cool. We don't doubt that she's a warm and loving person underneath, but it's not allowed to surface very often, and it makes her difficult to identify with. Nevertheless, this book kept me interested right through to the end. Read this on a rainy night - you'll be right in the thick of it.

--Cathy Sova


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