Monday, September 15, 2008

The Last Honest Woman by Nora Roberts ***

I have all 4 of the O'Hurley family books as audio books on my iPod, and since I had to make a trip to town, decided to start with this one, the first in the series. I live really far from town so I was able to finish it in one day (about 6 hours).

There are 3 triplets, Chantal or Chantelle (not sure, since it's audio), Maddie or Mattie and Abby, and the 4th book is about their older brother Trace. The O'Hurley parents are old vaudevillians*, traipsing about the country singing and dancing in whatever venue they can. The kids all grew up as part of the act, and now Maddie's a Broadway star, Chantal's a movie star, and Abby's a... SAHM. (for the uninitiated that means Stay At Home Mom) Go figure.

This is Abby's book - apparently at age 18, during a show in Florida, Abby met Chuck, a famous Grand Prix driver. They had a whirlwind romance and got married, had 2 kids, then he was killed in a race. Since he was so famous and so infamous, a publisher has hired famous/infamous biographer Dylan Crosby to write his authorized biography. So what do biographers do? They move in the home of the widow for weeks and weeks and ask a lot of obnoxious questions while taping interviews.

Ok, tiny credibility slip #1 for me. Maybe they do, what do I know? It just seemed sorta, I dunno, cozy. And being a romance novel, I knew where that would lead.

Abby is making do on her Virginia farm where she plans to breed and sell horses. The rumors have it Chuck was a philanderer/adulterer/drug abuser, born with a silver spoon in his mouth and raised by his over-protective and over-bearing mother. The young bride spent the first few months of their marriage traveling with Chuck, but got pregnant and then lived with Mother until buying the farm

Ok, it was Chuck who bought the farm (heh heh, couldn't resist the silly pun).

Dylan has already done a lot of research, and Abby's story is apparently the last piece he needs. And dammit, he wants the TRUTH!

Uh, but while she's telling the truth, she's just not telling all. His preconceived notions about her come from the tabloid stories and photos - Abby in white mink, Abby on the town in Monte Carlo. So, where are her servants and staff? The expensive luxuries? What is it about this cozy, homey farmhouse, messy with kids' toys, that tugs at Dylan's ... heart? He's convinced she's a lying bitch - so why is he so attracted to her?

Slowly, the truths come out - meanwhile, he's gotten very attached to these 2 loving, trusting little boys and their wary, not-trusting mom.

I had a couple of issues (beyond some mild credibility things) with this audio book. First, the narrator - she was ok, but breathy, like she was whispering loudly in my ear. Well, Abby's voice was breathy, and her narration was breathy - but Dylan's and the children's voices were strong. I wanted to say STOP WHISPERING AT ME. I prefer all scenes, even SEX scenes, to be read straight-forward, not as if we were at a golf game listening to on-the-scene commentary.

Second - omigawd - the ending thing that brought it to a head. I just muttered and shook my head. I won't give it away, but to me it was so out-of-left field and I had so many questions (exactly how did the kid get up there, anyway?). I was ready for them to get together and didn't need a weird accident to do it.

I also need to check the publication date, cuz I'm having a hard time with the hero smoking in her house. I don't always have issues with characters smoking (sometimes the author even makes it attractive, normal or even necessary), but in the beginning one of the kids remarks about it being a dirty habit. Dylan never even asks Abby if it's ok if he smokes in her house where she has 2 young children. She even has trouble finding something to act as an ashtray - hello? Hint? Second hand smoke? It wasn't like NR used smoking as a plot device, unlike another book I read recently where the hero could see only the heroine's red-tipped cigarette glowing in the dark (whichI found very effective). But that didn't ruin the story for me, it was just a niggling incident.

So while it hovered on a 4 star read at times, it dropped neatly into 3 at the ending, for Average or even Mediocre. Dang. It didn't even fit any of my challenges, I just got it on sale for 1 credit for all 4 stories...

*about that "old vaudevillians" statement - since I'm 53 and the parents are about my age, it may seem odd to call them old. I mean old vaudevillians, not old in age. After all, how long has it been since anyone even was a vaudevillian?? Apparently the book was published in 1988, so someone 50 in 1988 was born in 1938... Maybe there was still vaudevillians then. Entertainment act. Whatever. I just felt the need to explain since it seemed a little weird for me to call them old.


Heather's Books said...

Isn't it weird to read books that were written 20 years ago and want to shout get a clue.

I love this series, heck who am i kidding I love all of Nora's books, have since the very first one I read back in 1989.

The series gets better and the family never really goes away, they are in one of the Stainislaski books.

aunt rowena said...

good to know the series gets better, thanks! I'm a Nora fan too, even when the book only rates 3 stars it's still good.