has also reviewed:

Born In Fire
Born In Ice
Born In Shame
Captive Star
Daring To Dream
Finding the Dream
From The Heart
Hidden Star
Holding the Dream
Inner Harbor
The MacGregor Brides
The MacGregor Grooms
The MacGregors Alan~Grant
Megan's Mate
Montana Sky
Once Upon a Castle
Secret Star
Rising Tides
True Betrayals
Waiting for Nick
The Winning Hand

As J.D. Robb:

Ceremony in Death Holiday in Death
Immortal In Death
Rapture in Death
Vengeance in Death

River's End by Nora Roberts
(Putnam, $23.95, PG) ISBN 0-399-14470-6
As a book reviewer, I really should have your sympathy. At last count, The Romance Reader has reviewed over 25 books authored by Nora Roberts and our lowest rating was a very rare 3 heart review. (And oh boy, did we hear it!)

After all that reviewing and critiquing, it's difficult to think of anything original to write about a Nora Roberts novel. Every experienced romance reader already knows that she's a consistent, top-notch writer, and if not, you must be living in a cave. And since you're reading this on the Internet, that would no doubt be highly unlikely.

Olivia MacBride's fairy tale Hollywood childhood abruptly ended when she was four years old and discovered her movie star mother brutally murdered and her drug addicted father, covered in blood, standing over her body. Whisked away by loving grandparents to River's End, their isolated resort lodge in Washington state, Olivia grew up far removed from her frightening memories.

Twenty years later, Livvy has managed to suppress those memories and now lives a happy, but confined life amidst the beauty of the rain forests. She is horrified to discover that journalist Noah Brady, a childhood acquaintance and the son of the lead detective in her mother's murder case, is planning to write a true-crime story of the murder. Even more frightening is that Livvy's father, Sam Tanner, soon to be released from prison, will be telling his story to Noah.

This situation soon becomes even more complicated as Olivia realizes that she still cares for Noah. And a threat to their safety soon enters their idyllic wilderness retreat.

What always strikes me about a Roberts book are her characterizations. Whether she's writing about Hollywood glamour stars, forest rangers, journalists or cops, they come alive for the reader. They always act believably and talk realistically and the research shows.

With River's End, this is the first time that I ever recall that Roberts made me care about a place, too. Her beautiful descriptions of River's End, the resort, the rain forests and the wilderness of Washington state were captivating. When I finished the book, I immediately wanted to go make reservations.

After those superlatives, I feel it is necessary to say that the mystery/thriller element of River's End really is a no-brainer. Anyone who is very surprised at the ending or who hasn't speculated on the eventual outcome long before arriving there should be forced to audit Mystery/Suspense Class 101.

But did I care? Actually no, because suspense aside, the Roberts trademark features are all still there: the often wounded, complex characters, the family drama, the compelling romance and they make for a very pleasurable read.

--Dede Anderson

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