Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Obsession

You can usually tell how much I've loved a book by the amount of time it took for me to read it. One-sitting reads are indicative of a barn-burner of a book that has captured both my heart and imagination. Two-sitting reads imply either a slightly lower level of sentimental engagement to the tale and characters or an undeniable need for sleep. Anything above two sittings means I'm in the weeds for any number of reasons but reluctantly trudging towards the finish line. For example, Find Her was a marathon one-sitting read without even a bathroom break; quite possibly too much information, but that little detail expresses more than words my level of enjoyment and love.

Right about now, you're probably saying, get to the point. Well, this should say it all; Nora Roberts latest novel, The Obsession, took me a week to finish. I'll share some thoughts, but first here's a synopsis from the publisher: “Naomi Bowes lost her innocence the night she followed her father into the woods. In freeing the girl trapped in the root cellar, Naomi revealed the horrible extent of her father’s crimes and made him infamous. No matter how close she gets to happiness, she can’t outrun the sins of Thomas David Bowes. Now a successful photographer living under the name Naomi Carson, she has found a place that calls to her, a rambling old house in need of repair, thousands of miles away from everything she’s ever known. Naomi wants to embrace the solitude, but the kindly residents of Sunrise Cove keep forcing her to open up—especially the determined Xander Keaton. Naomi can feel her defenses failing, and knows that the connection her new life offers is something she’s always secretly craved. But the sins of her father can become an obsession, and, as she’s learned time and again, her past is never more than a nightmare away.”

Sounds promising, right? I thought so too. The book starts off great, it's chilling, gripping and emotional. Our main protagonist, for all that she's merely a child at the book's onset, exhibits both a strength and resiliency of character that any reader couldn't help but admire. An integral part of a good book is great supporting characters and here they abound (Seth & Harry, Naomi's loving uncle and partner who become her small family's saving grace; Mason, the younger brother wise beyond his years who becomes Naomi's rock and source of love and support; her mother, a lost and broken woman unable to cope with the truth about the man she loves). Each help to engage the reader and inspire an emotional connection. As the story progresses, our heroine is yet again battered by life but not broken, rising to the occasion and facing the future head on. Good so far.

The novel falters when it reaches present day and we get to the heart of now 28-year old Naomi's tale. Here the novel's high-drama takes a back seat to a budding but less than sizzling romance (it is a Roberts, queen of romantic suspense, novel after all) and the story begins to drag, relentlessly. If you have a good mystery, who needs romance, but here Roberts adds insult to injury by integrating the drama of the novel as seemingly a mere afterthought; a couple murders occur near the last third of the book, the killer's identity is a matter of common sense, leaving the book's ending and resolution rushed and crammed into the last handful of pages.

The Obsession had limitless potential, especially coming from this brilliant author, but for a number of reasons fell short in the delivery. While I feel that this wasn't Roberts at her best, the book might still appeal to her loyal fans or those looking for more romance than riveting suspense.