Friday, 18 January 2013

The Last Honest Woman by Nora Roberts

The Last Honest Woman (1988) (Mills & Boon)
Nora Roberts
Grade: B-
Genre: contemporary romance
Sex scenes: mild
Source: own
O'Hurley: (1) The Last Honest Woman

I really should stop reading books that I own and start cracking on my NetGalley backlog, but when these are NR books, I really can’t help it, especially since Waiting for Nick gave me a tantalising glimpse of the O’Hurley family that I just can’t get out of my mind.

Abby O’Hurley Rockwell has put off offers to write biographies of her late, infamous husband’s life for a long time, but now that a few years have passed and she desperately needs the money, now is the time. She’s letting accredited biographer Dylan Crosby into the farmhouse she shares with her two sons while he gets his interviews with her and she must be careful to not reveal too much of the truth …

Dylan Crosby is good at his job and he’s going to require the perfect balance of aggressive questioning and honest intimacy in order to get the truth out of Abby and do this book justice. Chuck Rockwell was infamous in gaming circuits and only became more so when his young wife stopped appearing at the racetrack and he flaunted his affairs in her face. Now that he’s long dead and buried while his two young sons have flourished, Dylan is determined that this book will invade where no other journalist or camera has gone before as he provides the most honest biography he can.

As Dylan’s job requires him to move into Abby’s home and into her son’s lives while he gathers all the information he needs, he can’t help but feel that even as the solid writer and observer he is, his own initial assumptions about this woman were deeply wrong. He enters what seems like a perfectly normal, happy family environment, but when the children are at school and Dylan has Abby to himself, he begins to realise that life for Abby was not as much of the media portrayed it and despite the contract between them, Abby has too many secrets that she’s hiding from him. Will she be able to find the strength to let the truth be told once and for all?

I met the O’Hurley family in Waiting for Nick and like the Stanislaskis, they’re a big, loud and beautiful bunch of people. Of course, they weren’t always that big and The Last Honest Woman has allowed me to go right back to the beginning of their story to see how they’ve become the family that I’ve already met. This is a charming introduction to the series and while it’s not NR’s best starter to a series, I’m already hooked.

I love Abby. She’s the epitome of a strong NR heroine and there’s not much more that I can respect than a heroine than one who has brought up her two young sons alone when her husband first abandons her then leaves her penniless. For too long, Abby has kept the truth about her relationship with Chuck private, even from her kids. While she plans to keep the deepest truths from Dylan, she finds that the more time she spends in his company she becomes more disposed to answer his questions and reveal to him truths that she’s only ever told her sisters, if at all.

Dylan expected Abby to have a house full of servants to keep house and bring up her kids for her; he couldn’t have been more wrong and I love that. Abby doesn’t do anything to get rid of the seed that he’s planted in his mind and when he finds out that he has been wrong all along, humbled is just one word that describes how Dylan is feeling. He doesn’t expect to fall for Abby and her sons like he does, but once he realises it, there’s no going back.

As usual, the children are charming. They’re young enough to welcome and accept Dylan into their lives instantly as a new and exciting playmate, yet Ben is old enough to be wary of Dylan’s relationship with his mother and the book he’s writing about his father. I may have read a different version of the same thing tens of times before, but it’s a NR classic for a reason and I love it. Ben and Chris aren’t my favourite kids, but they’re definitely up there.

The O’Hurley family is awesome. Trace is the oldest kid and the most reclusive of them all. Then came the O’Hurley triplets and what a triple act they made. Frank and Chantal O’Hurley have been performers all their life and tour the country with their children in tow. Once the O’Hurley triplets are old enough, they join in the show and it’s wonderful to hear about the adventures they had across the country. Frank is a brilliant personality and a man I would love to see more of during the rest of the series. Reconciling the image of Abby as a showgirl is difficult given the character we’re presented with in the book, but it’s an intriguing picture and it’s so NR to think up a family like this.

Abby’s sisters have created completely different lives for themselves, mostly because they were able to pursue their careers where Abby married young. They’re an actress and Broadway star respectively, taking the performing that’s in their blood and following it to its natural conclusion. Their temperaments and natures are still very different and I can’t wait to get my hands on their stories. I managed to pick up a copy of Without a Trace when I bought The Last Honest Woman but I’m steering clear for the time being so that I can read the books in order. It’s lucky that we haven’t got more than an impression of Trace yet, otherwise I would be cracking open that cover like a woman possessed.

I think this is going to be a great series. NR's older, family-based ones are like my drug and I just wish she did more of these today. Coming from a large family myself, I can relate to the lifestyle and I wish we had teh same banter and sense of togetherness that I see reflected in all her books. Of course, there's no such thing as a perfect family in the real world but it is nice to become absorbed in fiction for a few hours under NR's spell. Can't wait to find Dance to the Piper - let's see if I can finish this series this year.

Image courtesy of Book Depository

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