Monday, 15 September 2014

Black Hills by Nora Roberts

Black Hills (2009) (Piatkus)
Nora Roberts
Grade: B+
Genre: romantic suspense
Sex scenes: mild
Source: own
Romance RBC 2014: A book with more than 500 pages 

When Cooper is packed off to his grandparents’ farm in South Dakota for the summer, aged 11, while his parents ‘work’ on their marriage, he’s convinced that this will be the worst summer of his life. No baseball camp, no live games at Yankee Stadium and no friends to help alleviate his boredom. Instead, he’s got weeks of collecting eggs, mucking out stalls and chores to look forward to. Similarly, he’s resigned to dislike neighbour Lil Chance on sight simply for the reason that she’s a girl, but what he doesn’t expect is for this unlikely friendship to be the most important and meaningful of his entire life.

Fast forward 20 years and Coop has packed up his life as a PI in New York to move back to the farm when his grandfather breaks his leg. Lil has returned from her latest research stint in the Andes and cannot wait to return to her baby: the Chance Wildlife Refuge, a safe haven for wild cats and the culmination of her childhood dreams. On learning that Coop is back for good, she’s naturally wary – after all, he broke her heart ten years ago – but Lil is determined to put it behind her and rekindle their former friendship. When it becomes clear that someone is targeting Lil and her refuge with devastating acts of violence, Coop isn’t going to leave Lil’s side until he’s caught and the pair are going to have to get over any residual animosity from their past – fast.

I don’t think I’ve rooted for a NR couple quite so hard as I did Lil and Coop in a very long time. This is one of those rare-ish NR novels where the hero and heroine already have a history – while that made me pre-disposed to love it, their story just made for an incredible read. You’ve got your tight-knit family, secondary romance, an amazing secondary character in Baby, a male cougar that Lil rescued from the wild as a cub and a fierce determination from Lil not to give into her heart and fall in love with Coop all over again. What more could you want?

Lil has had a passion for cougars since she was a child. From her dad, she’s learnt to track and her research has taken her around the world to study and write about wild cats. The refuge she’s created is really really wonderful and like a recent interview I read about NR recently, what I love about her heroines is how entrepreneurial and resourceful they are. Lil has created something truly remarkable practically in her back garden and I wish Chance Wildlife Refuge were real so that I can visit!

Lil and Coop’s romance as teenagers makes you practically heady as you read it. It’s ridiculously adorable how sweet they are on each other and watching them realise this cannot fail to put a smile on your face. What I would complain about is that (as you might have guessed) there wasn’t nearly enough grovelling from Coop to right his abominable wrong in breaking Lil’s heart when they were just teenagers. While the time apart may have made them the people they are today, I don’t think there was nearly enough explanation, and what there was, didn’t go nearly far enough. So, my search for the hero-who-has-grovelled-enough, goes on.

I think that Black Hills has made it fairly near the top of my NR-favourites list. Yes, it dragged some in the middle but it was just such a fun read that I couldn't put it down. At a good inch-and-a-half thick, I even took it to work with me in my handbag for reading on the train, regardless of the weight or space it took up. Just a little shy of my best of 2014 list, but that's probably purely because I've read so many stunning books this year. Any other year, and it would likely have made it.

Image courtesy of Wordery.

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