Angels Fall
Black Rose
Blood Brothers
Blue Smoke
Born In Fire
Born In Ice
Born In Shame
Captive Star
Carolina Moon
Chesapeake Blue
Considering Kate
Cordina's Crown Jewel
Dance of the Gods
Dance Upon the Air
Daring To Dream
Face the Fire
Finding the Dream
From The Heart
Heart of the Sea
Hidden Star
Holding the Dream
The Hollow
Inner Harbor
Irish Rebel
Jewels of the Sun
Key of Knowledge
Key of Light
Key of Valor
The MacGregor Brides
The MacGregor Grooms
The MacGregors Alan~Grant
Megan's Mate
Midnight Bayou
Montana Sky
Morrigan's Cross
Northern Lights
Once Upon a Castle
The Perfect Neighbor
The Reef
Remember When
Rising Tides
River's End
Secret Star
Tears of the Moon
Three Fates
True Betrayals
Valley of Silence
The Villa
Waiting for Nick
The Winning Hand

by Nora Roberts
(Putnam, $26.95, PG-13) ISBN 978-0-399-15491-1
Cilla McGowan is many things: child star, failed actress, disgruntled daughter, ex-wife, college dropout, and lately, a contractor who flips properties. When she takes over the family farm in Virginia with the intention of rehabilitating it, what stands out about Cilla is that she is the granddaughter of Janet Hardy, who bought the house, loved it, and later killed herself there.

Cilla is not unused to the attention about her late grandmother, especially since her mother, a struggling actress herself, brings it up every chance she gets. Cilla's work is, expectedly, stirring up old memories for the people in town, even though who weren't around thirty-five years ago. Even the bitterness that tinges some of those memories doesn't surprise Cilla, who is a little more sharp-edged than most people. However, the violence and anger she experiences through several acts of vandalism and assault catch her entirely off-guard.

Cilla's neighbor, Ford Sawyer, catches her off-guard as well. Due to family history, as well as a failed marriage of her own, she's a little gun-shy when it comes to serious relationships. Ford, a local boy with a massive support system, isn't so hobbled, and what they took to be a chemistry thing evolves into something else despite Cilla's objections.

When Cilla finds a series of love letters to her grandmother hidden away in the attic, she's forced to wonder, given some of the content, if her grandmother actually did commit suicide. The idea grows into fruition as the violence against her escalates. Cilla's committed to renovating and living in her family home and staying with Ford, but has to wonder: is who or what killed Janet Hardy going to be the death of her as well?

I'll be blunt and say I didn't like this book. If it hadn't been Nora Roberts (plus a pretty disappointing year for the summer read in general), I would have put it down before Part One was finished. I can only think of one previous incident of Roberts being so disappointing, and that was 2005's Blue Smoke. With the exception of Cilla's ex-husband being attacked, this over-400-page book completely missed the mark for suspense. Too many details about Cilla's work on the house drag the plot down as well, and the occasional "true dream" involving Cilla traveling back in time to have conversations with Janet distracts from the already meandering story.

Normally, Roberts writes characters that, even without the plot, suck a reader in; however, it seems that Cilla never really connects with any of the characters; even her relationship with Ford is dull. With the exception of Spock, Ford's ugly-yet-adorable dog, pretty much all of the characters are lackluster.

This book doesn't deserve only two stars, simply because if it were anyone but Nora Roberts writing it, it wouldn't seem so bad. In fact, it probably would have been considerably more palatable if a hundred or so pages had been shaved off of it, especially from the beginning.

Nora Roberts enthusiasts will likely still want to read this book, although I imagine they will be – as I am — the strongest critics.  Other fans of romantic suspense in general may want to forego the read, or at least not expect too much excitement out of it. Unfortunately, this year is not producing too many "hot" novels, so if you're one of those people who insist upon reading the latest, this won't be any worse than anything else you've read over the last six months. For some reason, I doubt I'm alone in hoping for a more satisfying read out of The Pagan Stone when it comes out late this fall.

--Sarrah Knight

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