Nora Roberts and a beach

The prolific romance writer weaves a classic tale for reporter Sally MacDonald's Summer Reading Challenge

I’m more than halfway through my Summer Reading Challenge, and I’ve settled into a routine.

During the week, I read for only an hour or so before bed. Then on the weekend, I realize that I’m only 20 per cent through the novel, and spend every spare minute for the next two days struggling to finish it before Sunday night.

Ready in a hurry is not nearly as enjoyable as reading at a leisurely pace.

It works with the kind of books I’ve been reading over the past three weeks, which seem to be written to devour in a few sittings, but I’m tiring of that kind of summer read.

I’m ready for something with a little more meat on its bones.

***

Nora Roberts’ latest bestseller, “Whiskey Beach” has something for everyone. It’s part murder mystery, part treasure hunt, part romance.

If any one of those genres doesn’t interest you, then the hectic combination will certainly draw you in as you rattle along at a rapid pace.

Eli Landon is retreating to his family’s long-held estate on the Massachusetts coast.

Bluff House has loomed above the seaside village of Whiskey Beach for centuries, and there has always been a Landon in Bluff House.

Eli is hoping to escape the court of public opinion he has been trapped in for the past year, ever since he walked in to find his estranged wife beaten to death in their home, the same day Eli found out she was having an affair.

The police can’t prove Eli committed the murder, but they don’t have any other suspects.

To Eli, the cloud of guilt has become unbearable, and he escapes to seclusion in Whiskey Beach to mind Bluff House while his beloved grandmother recovers from a fall.

He soon meets the dazzling Abra, housekeeper, yoga instructor, cook, jewellery maker.

Eli is both fascinated by her and irritated that someone is breaking his self-imposed exile.

When there is a series of break-ins at Bluff House, it seems like Eli’s troubles may have followed him to Whiskey Beach.

Who hired the private investigator who is sniffing around Whiskey Beach, asking questions about Eli? Does the detective know something about the break-ins at Bluff House?

Now Eli and Abra must join forces to learn who is behind the crimes, and what it has to do with a centuries-old Landon family legend.

First published in 1981, the prolific Nora Roberts now has more than 200 romance novels under her belt.

I was born in 1981; in my entire life I haven’t written a single romance novel. Now I feel like a failure.

Back to the point: Roberts is a pro when it comes to this kind of novel, the kind you devour and discard.

In fact, I think I’ve read a Roberts novel before, but I’ll be darned if I can remember when and which.

Still, page-turners occupy a cosy nook in my heart, and “Whiskey Beach” was no different.

With instantly likeable lead characters (who might be a little stereotyped, but who’s complaining?), you will quickly get rolled up in the story, which progresses snappily from crisis to crisis.

It was nice to read a strong female character who was independent and perfectly capable of looking after herself in a tight spot; in fact, it’s Abra who is really the “knight in shining armour” in this romance.

While it was predictable at times, corny and clichéd at other times, I still enjoyed “Whiskey Beach” for what it is.

But now, I really need to read something with substance.

Sally MacDonald is a reporter at the Cranbrook Daily Townsman.

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