Born In Fire
Born In Ice
Born In Shame
Captive Star
Carolina Moon
Chesapeake Blue
Considering Kate
Cordina's Crown Jewel
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
Inner Harbor
Irish Rebel
Jewels of the Sun
Key of Light
Key of Light
Key of Knowledge
The MacGregor Brides
The MacGregor Grooms
The MacGregors Alan~Grant
Megan's Mate
Midnight Bayou
Montana Sky
Once Upon a Castle
The Perfect Neighbor
The Reef
Rising Tides
River's End
Secret Star
Tears of the Moon
Three Fates
True Betrayals
The Villa
Waiting for Nick
The Winning Hand

Key of Valor by Nora Roberts
(Jove, $7.99, R) ISBN 0-515-13653-0
Key of Valor is the third in Nora Roberts newest trilogy. In the first story, three women are approached with a fantastic story from Celtic mythology. A King married a mortal and had three daughters. The souls of those daughters were trapped by evil opponents, the leader being a sorcerer named Kane. A spell was cast. The box holding these souls could only be opened by keys found by three mortal women, and their gifts were art, knowledge and courage. Because of the experiences they have had, the three women of this trilogy have come to believe this tale is true.

Zoe is the third of the group to now search for her key. Her clue is full of unanswered questions and her connection to valor and courage is much less clear. Malory was an aspiring artist and worked in an art gallery – hence art. Dana was a librarian and always loved books – hence knowledge. But Zoe is a hairdresser and single mother. This is one of the things that make the story different enough from the others so that it is an enjoyable, thought-provoking tale of its own.

Another difference for Zoe is her son. Malory and Dana were both single unattached women. When Zoe was sixteen, she fell in love with the local rich boy and she ended up pregnant. When he deserted her to her fate, she went out on her own. She built a life around a job and raising Simon. Eventually, with her hairdressing license in hand, Zoe settled in Pleasant Valley, Pennsylvania, the setting for our tale.

Simon is all boy. Now eleven, he is into video games and TV. He also loves dogs. Both of these are good, since he must now share his living space with Moe, a mammoth dog that loves to play, run and create havoc whenever he is. He belongs to Flynn, good guy from Key of Light. Moe is also the designated protector of the woman on her quest, as he seems to sense when Kane, the sorcerer is in the area.

The man connected to Zoe is Bradley Charles Vane IV, heir to the Vane family business, Homemakers. It sounds much like a Home Depot. Brad, to his friends, and Bradley to Zoe (and his mother), he is rich but unpretentious about it. Zoe doesn’t know what to make of him. Throughout the series, he doesn’t act like she expects. Growing up in a trailer park is as far as she can get from his life, but they have much in common. Both love to work with tools and their hands. Both have a sense of understanding what works in a house, or a room. Both love children.

Brad is an all around good guy. He reminded me of the star football player that everyone adored, but he just did what he did and couldn’t understand all the hoopla. He and the men (Flynn and Jordan) have been friends for life. He is connected to the quest first by a picture he bought that depicts the Daughters of Glass. He bought it because he was drawn to the face of one of the princesses, the one with Zoe’s face. Now he must continue to convince Zoe he sees her for herself. He must also convince her that he is not like Simon’s father, and he will stay around.

The magic in this story is slightly different. The rules changed in Key of Knowledge, and now the stakes are higher. Someone could die and the clue says someone must bleed. The dealings with Kane are fewer, but they are more intense, in a violent sort of way.

The story moves quickly as Zoe gets into her quest, must face her past, deals with the present and her relationship with Brad and also helps to get her new business started. She, Dana and Malory are opening up Indulgences, a shop with a bookstore, an art gallery and a salon specializing in massage and facials. And she must do all this while keeping Simon safe.

When I tried to envision reading this without any knowledge of the previous two books, I think I would have been totally lost and would have missed a major part of the story – the connection between the three women and their men. While there are some reminders of what happened in previous books, there is not a retelling.

This story packs more emotion than the other two, maybe because I am a sucker for a man who can love someone else’s kid. Or maybe because the connection between the reader and the heroines builds so intensely over the three stories that all the emotions culminate here. Whatever it is, I found myself laughing more and crying more than in either of the other two.

Key of Valor is a wonderful story. But the key is to read all three tales in order. If you do, you’ll find a treasure that is more than three gold keys.

--Shirley Lyons

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