Remember When, by Nora Roberts / J.D. Robb

>> Monday, June 14, 2004

When I first heard about Nora Roberts / J.D. Robb's Remember When, I didn't really "get" the concept. A regular "Nora" story that would continue in the future, when Eve Dallas would take up the case? Hmmm, but wouldn't the first story lack a clear resolution? I had some doubts.

Laine Tavish is an ordinary woman living an ordinary life in the small town of Angel's Gap, Maryland, as the proprietor of Remember When, an antique treasures and gift shop. At least, that's what everyone in Angel's Gap thinks. They have no idea that she used to be Elaine O'Hara, daughter of the notorious con man Big Jack O'Hara. Or that she grew up moving from place to place, one step ahead of the law . . .

Laine's past has just caught up with her, though-in a very dramatic way. Her long-lost uncle suddenly turned up in her shop, leaving only a cryptic warning before dying in the street, run down by a car. Soon afterward, her home is ransacked. Now it's up to Laine, and a sexy stranger named Max Gannon, to find out who's chasing her, and why.

The answer lies in a hidden fortune-a fortune that will change not only Laine's life but also the lives of future generations. And danger and death will surround that fortune for years to come. Until New York City detective Lieutenant Eve Dallas gets on the case.
Well, now that I've read it, I must say I thought it worked very well. A B+.

The first part, the Nora Roberts story, reminded me a bit of an old favourite, Hidden Riches. It was wonderful.

On the positive side were the characters, especially Laine. Sometimes it seems that Nora is the only writer "big" enough to get away with writing female characters with a liberal attitude towards sex. No, I'm not saying Laine was promiscuous (not that I'd have any problem with that, but that's just me), it's just that she knows what she wants, sexually, and has no problems in taking it. So she's sexually attracted to Max and likes him very much, too? Well then, she'll sleep with him, and if this starts a relationship, that's fine, too. No guilt, no hysteria, no tedious behaving like a ninny. So refreshing.

I also adored that she was actually intelligent! At one point, her house has been ransacked and Max doesn't want her to be there alone until the situation with the diamonds is resolved. Does she stupidly try to assert her independence by insisting in putting herself in a dangerous situation, just because she has the right to do so, so, by god, she's going to show she's independent? Hell, no! She asks Max to move in with her. And then, in the final confrontation with the villain, it's Laine who carries the day and beats him. This was one kick-ass heroine, and I adored her.

Max was a yummy hero, too. No tedious bagagge here, either. He likes Laine from the start, even when he believes there's a possibility that she might be in on the diamond theft, but he soon realizes it can't be her and falls head over heels in love with her. I'm not usually a big fan of "love at first sight" stories, but it worked here. I believed it. The only problem was that by having them acknowledging that they were in love so soon, their relationship lacked some tension. There was a little bit of conflict when Laine didn't yet know about what Max was doing in her town, but that was resolved early, too. Still, I found Max and Laine very enjoyable together.

On the negative side, well, I wasn't really fond of the suspense subplot. I guess I'm like Eve Dallas in not really seeing the glamour in diamonds. And I thought Jack was portrayed too positively. Yes, Nora was careful to portray how his cons were not a game, when Laine tells Max that when she helped her father at 10, she didn't realize that maybe the guy whose wallet she stole wouldn't be able to pay the rent that month. However, I think Nora was trying too hard to make Big Jack charming, to make us like him in spite of all this. It didn't work with me. Maybe this makes me rigid, but I despised the guy.

Also a negative, was the time spent from the POV of the villain. That was actually what I didn't like about Hidden Riches, way too much time spent in the psycho villain's head. Here it was a bit less, but still to much, as far as I'm concerned.

I'd give this first part of the book an A-, purely for the love story.

The second part, over 50 years in the future, in which Eve investigates a murder related to the 2003 diamond heist, wasn't as remarkable as the first part. Here, the mystery is interesting. It was what I usually love the most about the Death books, the character dynamics, that didn't dazzle.

Mostly, it lacked some development in Eve Roarke relationship. I just didn't feel that they moved forward at all here as a couple. This felt almost like one of the JD Robb short stories, in that sense: like filler.

There were nice bits, like seeing Peabody as a detective and how she's acclimating to the change, but on the whole, this part rated no more than a B, and I was actually wavering between that grade and a B-.

Still, the wonderful first part is more than enough reason to read this one.


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