Friday, January 22, 2010

Black Hills

Black Hills by Nora Roberts

A summer at his grandparents' South Dakota ranch is not eleven-year-old Cooper Sullivan's idea of a good time. But things are a bit more bearable now that he's discovered the neighbor girl, Lil Chance, and her homemade batting cage. Each year, with Coop's annual summer visit, their friendship deepens from innocent games to stolen kisses, but there is one shared experience that will forever haunt them: the terrifying discovery of a hiker's body.

As the seasons change and the years roll by, Lil remains steadfast to her aspiration of becoming a wildlife biologist and protecting her family land, while Coop struggles with his father's demand that he attend law school and join the family firm. Twelve years after they last walked together hand in hand, fate has brought them back to the Black Hills when the people and things they hold dear need them most..
--Black Hills by Nora Roberts, Published 2009 by Putnam Books. Audio book produced by Brilliance Audio.

My Synopsis:

In 1989, Cooper Sullivan is sent to spend the summer with his grandparents in South Dakota while his parents go on a “second honeymoon,” a term Coop knows really means “last ditch effort to save the marriage before we file for divorce.” He’s determined not to like it, but then he meets Lil Chance, the daughter of neighboring ranchers. Over dinner, Coop discovers he and Lil share a love for baseball and the foundation for a future romance is laid.

Fast forward 9-10 years and Coop and Lil are all grow up, and ready to start building that romance that has time to form over their many summers together. Their romance is cut short when they discover the murdered body of a young woman.

Coop returns to New York, drops out of college, and enrolls in the police academy. Lil enters college and begins her studies. Though Coop comes back to the Black Hills from time to time, they never seem to connect as Lil alternately avoids him or is away on study trips.

Fast forward again and Lil Chance is now Doctor Lillian Chance, owner and operator of Chance Wildlife Rescue and Cooper has left New York to run his grandparent’s horse farm. Their break up years earlier had not been amicable and Lil is determined to show Coop that she’s moved on with her life and can do just fine without him, thank you very much. But Coop is also determined to show Lil that they have a future together. If only dead bodies didn’t keep popping up to ruin the mood.

My Review:

Often romance novels are referred to as “formula,” meaning there’s a formula or recipe to follow when writing one. Boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, boy loses girl, boy wins girl back. Stir vigorously, pour into a greased and floured pan and bake at 350 for 45 minutes. The steps to the formula can take other views (girl meets boy, girl falls in love, angry parents tear them apart, boy and girl resolve family feud and get back together—you get the picture), but at its core, it’s the same basic story.

When this book was released last year, I was not interested in buying it. Normally, I’m eager to snatch up Nora Roberts’ latest releases and read them as soon as possible. This one, for some reason, I decided to pass on even though I own a copy of nearly every novel she’s written (including the old Silhouettes!). When I read the novel description on the flyleaf, I just knew I wasn’t going to get a whole lot of enjoyment out of it. Turns out, I was right.

I normally stay away from abridged audio novels because I like to listen to the entire story, not someone-else’s chopped up version. This story was much easier to tolerate, I think, because it was abridged. I didn’t have to sit through long scene descriptions or filler paragraphs that lend little to the story.

If you’ve never read Nora Roberts or have only read a couple of her stand-alone novels (those that are not part of a trilogy or series), then you may well enjoy this story. If you’ve read a lot of her books and are unsure of reading this one, skip it. It is a quintessential Nora novel, with nothing new or revolutionary to make it an interesting read.

I give this story TWO STARS.

Now, lest you think I hate Nora Roberts, I don’t. I love her series novels and when the third book in the Bridal Quartet, Savor the Moment, comes out, I’ll be snatching up a copy of that book faster than you can blink and it will move to the very head of my book-reading queue. And I love a lot of her stand-alones as well. Three Fates and Remember When are in the top twenty-five list of my all-time favorite novels. Black Hills just didn’t do for me what these others did.

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