Thursday, July 10, 2008

Divine Evil by Nora Roberts

I don't have an exact strategy for reading Nora Roberts - she's so prolific that I'm not sure I could ever catch up with her backlist. But what I have read has been good, and when I find one cheap at Hastings in hardcover, I can never resist picking it up, regardless of where I am in glomming another author or trying to scale the TBR mountain or attempting to read the AAR Top 100.

So I got Divine Evil at Hasting, and since my laptop with my carefully constructed author and TBR lists is still visiting the shop, rather than redo my research to see what book fits where in a series, I just picked it up and read it.

Gotta give it to Nora - even when I hated this book, it was great. I mean, she is a true craftsman of words - I don't think I've been this creeped out since I read The Exorcist in the 1970s. (After reading The Exorcist, I heard noises overhead, and felt the bed move several times and ended up sleeping in the shared bathroom in my dorm suite.) OK I wasn't quite that creeped out but close.

Divine Evil is a story of going home - this is a storyline I've already mentioned that isn't something I would consider doing. Our heroine Clare is a successful artist/sculptor, currently living in NYC, who is tortured by her father's death some dozen years before when she was a teenager living with her parents and twin brother in a small town in Maryland. Her mother has just remarried, something that bothers Clare more than she admits. She gets the urge to spend some time in her old hometown, just for a refuge or maybe to find out why she's having nightmares, or just to find some peace.

The sheriff in town is the former bad-boy Cameron. When Clare was in high school with him, he was the one sneaking around smoking and drinking beer and boffing the bad girls, screaming through town on his motorcycle and generally just troubled and dark. He left the burg after high school, cleaned up his act and served on the DC police force until his partner died in his arms. Having had enough of the gritty realities of big city cop life, he returned to the small town just as the former sheriff retired. That kind of police work seemed right up his alley - kids getting caught necking in the woods, the occasional speeder, accidental shootings - no more gangs and drugs and murders.

Funny that after I finished this book, past midnight, I turned back to True Confessions by Rachel Gibson for some light reading to wash the taste of this story out of my mind (bad boy turned sheriff in a small town). I was too tired to read more than the first chapter, but it helped.

One good thing to me about this book: she didn't set it in the Deep South. Something about Deep South small towns with hidden evil secrets gets me, maybe since I grew up in the Deep South. Oh, I'm sure there were evil secrets there, but I do get tired of the stereotype of people thinking Southerners are all inbred and evil. Maybe tired isn't the right word - it isn't like I read a ton of them (Deliverance) but maybe I just get my hackles up. Those are my people!! So what if they go into the woods and sodomize Yankees?? But I digress.

There are some majorly seriously hidden evil secrets in this Northern small town - secrets that have been hiding for decades, secrets that were so shocking as they were revealed I kept thinking, surely this kind of thing doesn't really go on outside Nora Roberts' fertile imagination? If only that were so. She made it real enough to me that I sat on edge, creeped out but unable to stop reading, knowing she would give the heroine a HEA and horrified she wouldn't in which case I would never sleep again.

The relationship between Cam and Clare was wonderful, and developed fast but believably so. Their chemistry was immediate, and Clare was the one holding back, not wanting to trust. Trust was a problem for Clare, and it ended up being tied up in the town's hidden secrets - and it took revealing them for her to learn to trust again.

Even the ending was creepy - I needed an epilogue or something to tell me everything would be alright, and when denied that, read the first chapter of True Confessions instead.

I have to add here that 2 Shelfari readers found the book funny. Funny? I don't think so. One called it "hilarious", the other "smart, funny and hot". Did they even read the book?

I have to give it 4 stars just because her writing was so wonderful, but I don't think I can get rid of this book fast enough. I don't want to know that evil exists, and I don't want to think about it lurking around the tiny town I live near, knowing it's all too possible.

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