Genre: romantic suspense
Sex scenes: mild
Romance RBC 2014: A book by Nora Roberts
Newly divorced Kelsey Byden has lived a spoiled, pampered life, allowed to indulge her passion for learning and never having to settle with one job for long. All her life, she’s been told that her mother died when she was a baby, and she’s had the loving care of her father, an English Professor at Georgetown University and her stepmother, Candace. Then, Kelsey gets the shock of her life: her mother is alive and well, the owner of Three Willows, a thoroughbred farm in Virginia. The reason for the deception? Naomi was sentenced to prison for murdering her alleged lover.
Naomi might have served her sentence and re-built her reputation on the racing circuit for a long time, but this is the first time she’s made contact with Kelsey since she was a baby. Kelsey is both parts furious at the lie yet insanely curious about this woman who killed in a crime of passion. Wanting to get to know her mother, Kelsey moves to Three Willows against the wishes of her family. It is here that she meets Gabe Slater, owner of the neighbouring farm and the first man she’s desired since her separation from her husband two years ago.
At Three Willows, Kelsey finally finds her calling. The horses are just as much a valued part of her life as the people around her, and nothing gives her more joy or satisfaction as helping in the preparations for Three Willows to win the Crown Jewel in the racing world: the Derby. But there are people who are unhappy about this reunion between mother and daughter, the budding relationship between Kelsey and Gabe, as well as the prospect of Three Willows winning the Derby. As history begins to repeat itself in more ways than one, not even the horses can escape the danger that is looming …
This is the last of what I call NR’s ‘oxymoron’ books that I had yet to read. What a fantastic read it was. Perhaps a little long in places, with a few too many villains and secondary characters to keep track, but no one can argue that NR doesn’t know how to set a good scene. I’ve loved the equine settings and stories we’ve had from Tiffany Reisz, and so this was perfect timing to satisfy my cravings for horse-based reading material.
Gabe was like other typical alpha-male NR heroes in some ways, yet so different in others. As expected, he’s never felt true love or affection for a woman he wants to spend the rest of his life with, until Kelsey. He’s both staggered and humbled by the realisation, and their equally hot-headed dispositions were perfect during their declaration-of-love scene. Yet like a few of NR’s heroes, he had a tough childhood where his father was prone to beating up his mother and gambling away whatever she had gone out to earn. Gabe could be expected to receive the same treatment if he stood up to him. Gabe is a gambler and has a knack for horses, having literally won his farm, Longshot, in a poker game. Yet compared to those other aforementioned heroes from NR, I found Gabe to be tougher, grittier and almost less-refined, his feelings for Kelsey more raw than I would usually expect from NR, and just a little rougher around the edges overall, despite his slick and polished exterior. I liked it – it felt more real and definitely made me more pre-disposed to love him. Kelsey is more than the perfect woman to match him.
Kelsey is a woman who is eager to learn a little about everything but has yet to find her calling in life. She’s spontaneous and to the disappointment of her very prim and proper grandmother, she’s prone to unchecked outbursts of emotion and impulsive behaviour. It isn’t until she meets and gets to know her mother that she realises where she gets this side of her personality from. This is a huge learning experience for her and so she’s naturally very resistant when her dad’s side of the family oppose her decisions. Nevertheless, she’s more than capable of standing her ground and I had huge respect for her self-determination and stubbornness.
Of the books that I call Nora Roberts’ ‘oxymoron’ novels (Honest Illusions, Hot Ice, Genuine Lies, Private Scandals, Public Secrets, Carnal Innocence, True Betrayals, Sweet Revenge and Hidden Riches), I’ve pretty much enjoyed them all. About half make it to my favourite NR novels of all time, which is a pretty mean feat. True Betrayals doesn’t quite make that favourites list, but it’s definitely at the top of the second-best. An all-round great book and a fantastic way to finish out this ‘series.’
Image courtesy of Book Depository.
Image courtesy of Book Depository.