Monday, August 11, 2008

Born In Shame by Nora Roberts *****

The last of the Born In trilogy, Born In Shame is the story of the third Concannon sister - a half sister to Maggie and Brianna, Shannon. Her mother Amanda had a brief affair with their father when the girls were still babies, and although she told Tom she was pregnant in a letter, she never asked him to make a choice - she went off, leaving no trail to follow, met another man, married and raised Shannon as his daughter - in America.

Shannon lost both parents within a year - and on her death bed, her mother reveals the truth about her biological father.

I finished the book yesterday and since I was working, picked up another book to pass the time (and finished it last night) - the result being, I feel I'm having a hard time writing this review. I loved Born In Shame almost as much as Born In Ice, and I think I will need to re-read Born In Fire soon to see why it did not affect me as much.

Shannon's mother was being pursued by the sisters in the second book, and the private detective hired to find Amanda arrives after her funeral. Shannon is heart-broken, both by the revelation of her true parentage and by her mother's passing, and in her grief she feels only anger at the news that her half-sisters are looking for her. She doesn't want to have anything to do with them.

I feel like I'm giving an inordinate amount of attention to this part, when what the story is about is her actually going to Ireland and finding family and love. But it takes her time to acknowledge all this - and it's wrapped up in her life in New York, her life as a commercial artist, with a boyfriend who is also a co-worker, with an apartment, a life - such as it is. When she returns to her job after the funeral, she looks around and feels that what she had, what she depended on, seems to have been based on a lie - that who she really is is not who she thought she was, and her world has tipped on its axis.

Going to Ireland, at the request of Brianna, does not right her world. Although she is drawn to Ireland - for reasons beyond the curiosity of who her sisters are, where her mother found love - it's new to her, and so different from what she is accustomed to. She's very much a stranger in a strange land here. And she has dreams at night that further confuse her.

Somehow her upheaval struck a note with me, and her reactions seemed so real. While she is almost more like Maggie in her demeanor, I liked her more than I liked Maggie in her book. Where Maggie's tempermental outbursts just seemed childish and reactionary, Shannon's seemed to come from her confusion and her grief and her world upheaval.

We met Murphy Muldoon in the first book: he's a neighbor and has always felt like a brother to Maggie and Brianna. He's there when they need him, for chores and help, and they are there for him, but none have felt more than brotherly love one for the other. When he meets Shannon, however, he's struck dumb - literally. He can only stare, tongue twisted, and she thinks perhaps he's slow witted. It takes her much longer to feel Cupid's arrow - and longer still to acknowledge it.

Murphy's not at all slow witted, as we already know from the first two books. He's a farmer and he's also a gifted musician - and he's a damn romantic too! He's determined to have Shannon - well, if you are sensitive to this sort of thing, it's almost to the point of stalking. OK, not exactly stalking - but he's damned determined, and isn't planning to take no for an answer. However, when his POV is revealed we see him as vulnerable and often hurt by Shannon's rejections, despite his outward confidence. She not only rejects him, she mocks him - he's serious about courting her, and she's a 20th century New York woman who can't believe his type even exists.

It seems Shannon and Murphy are brought together by Fate, having been lovers in a past life that is in both their dreams. Their past relationship ended badly - he left her, with the idea of returning, but left her nonetheless because he had other matters that took precedence. He was killed in battle and never returned. And now, in the present, it's her life in NY that is taking precedence. She can only see, with blinders, that her time in Ireland is temporary, that her life in NY is what she is destined to complete, no matter what her feelings for Murphy are.

It's the same type of conflict that Brianna and Gray faced in Born In Ice - he had another life, and his stay was intended to be temporary. But in Shannon's case, it wasn't just Murphy to which she was drawn - it was family, and her talent as an artist, both factors in showing Shannon that she had reached a crossroad, and that traveling on in the same direction she started was not her only option in life. The tighter her ties to Ireland became, however, the more confused she got because she couldn't open her blinders on her mind enough to realize that she held her future in her own hands, and she had the power to take any road, to realize any life path.

Her stubbornness to look around, to wake up and smell the Irish coffee, was the main obstacle. And in her stubbornness, she broke Murphy's heart a thousand times - and it was his sweet heart and gentleness that broke mine while reading this story.

OK, spoiler spoiler, she stays - it is a Nora Roberts romance after all, and we knew - didnt' we? - that she would give Shannon and Murphy a HEA. But the getting to it, the ride, the journey - it was wonderful and awful and heart wrenching and romantic and of course, I cried like a baby.

5 stars - a wonderful if bumpy ride, a quest for self and happiness and family and love, all found.

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