Birthright, by Nora Roberts

>> Thursday, April 29, 2004

After too many disappointing romantic suspense single titles by Nora Roberts, an author whose other releases I still like very much, I'd simply stopped buying them. But then I traded for Midnight Bayou and loved it so much that I thought it might be a good idea to give Birthright a try, too.

On a hot July afternoon, a worker at an Antietam Creek construction site drives the blade of his backhoe into a layer of soil — and strikes a 5,000-year-old human skull. The discovery draws plenty of attention and a lot of controversy. It also changes the life of one woman in ways she never expected...

As an archaeologist, Callie Dunbrook knows a lot about the past. But her own past is about to be called into question. Recruited for her expertise on the Antietam Creek dig, she encounters danger — as a cloud of death and misfortune hangs over the project, and rumors fly that the site is cursed. She finds a passion that feels equally dangerous, as she joins forces in her work with her irritating, but irresistible, ex-husband, Jake. And when a strange woman approaches her, claiming to know a secret about Callie's privileged Boston childhood, some startling and unsettling questions are raised about her very identity.

Searching for answers, trying to rebuild, Callie finds that there are deceptions and sorrows that refuse to stay buried. And as she struggles to put the pieces back together, she discovers that the healing process comes with consequences — and that there are people who will do anything to make sure the truth is never revealed.
Well, it was an excellent idea, because I really enjoyed Birthright. A very solid B+.

Roberts tackles quite a bit of plot. Callie, an archeologist starts work at a newly discovered site and almost immediately is approached by a woman who claims Callie is her baby, kidnapped almost 30 years ago. Callie is soon convinced that this is the truth, and starts investigating what happened all those years ago. Meanwhile, she has a new relationship to build with her birth family, her ex-husband is working with her at the dig and at finding out the truth about her kidnapping and oh yeah, he wants her back, and to top it all, people start getting killed at the dig. And let's not forget the secondary love story between Callie's birth brother and her lawyer.

More than enough plot for 3 books, right? And yet Roberts simply doesn't drop any threads and doesn't shortchange any of these elements, most especially the romance, which is often the first casualty when a lot is going on. I admit I wasn't overly convinced by the resolution of the murders, basically because the villain's motivations sounded a little farfetched, but the rest was really, really good.

What captured my attention the most were the relationships. Every single character was well-drawn and real, and their interactions rang true. Callie and Jake were my favourites. Roberts convinced me that they had finally grown out of what had made their first relationship fail and that things would go well now. Callie was a type of heroine I know most readers don't like, bitchy and sarcastic and quick-tempered and sometimes even a little bit mean, but I cheered for her. As for Jake, sorry, "Jake the Rake", he was a lovely, charming guy, still madly in love with his wife and desperate to get her back. I loved to see these two banter, and tease and provoke each other ;-)

The secondary romance, between Callie's brother Doug and Lana was also wonderful. I loved how in this case it was Lana who was the pursuer, how Doug would be left completely befuddled every time she asked him out or pursued him in another way.

And a special mention should be made of the slow development of the relationship between Callie and her newfound birth parents, especially her mother. This was really affecting, and very nicely done.

The mystery itself was interesting, even if, as I mentioned above, the resolution was a bit off. Still, I liked the investigation itself.

All in all, a very solid, enjoyable book. Based on how good it was, I just bought a copy of Three Fates, which I'd previously ignored.

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