Face the Fire, by Nora Roberts

>> Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Face the Fire is the third in Nora Roberts' Three Sister Island trilogy. I reread the previous book, Heaven and Earth, not long ago.

A stunningly beautiful, powerful witch who possesses the gift of Fire, Mia Devlin locked her heart away when Sam Logan rejected her youthful love and left Three Sisters Island. Eleven years later, Sam returns to the island to claim Mia and take over his family business, the Magick Inn. Passion still burns between them, but Mia refuses to trust the man who once tore her life apart, leaving her grieving and alone. It's imperative that they find a way to resolve their thorny, complicated relationship for time is running out and the deadline for breaking a centuries-old curse is near. Mia has the steadfast aid of her two sisters of the heart, powerful witches that rule Air and Earth, but without Sam's help, even Mia's powers may not be enough to keep her alive until the deadline. And unless Mia makes the right choice about her heart and Sam, evil may win in the final confrontation, destroying all their lives and Three Sisters Island as well.
Nora Roberts' trilogies are not simply 3 stand-alone books connected by characters who show up for a couple of pages. The trilogies are a unit, with characters who play important parts in all of them. They take turns in the spotlight, but they don't disappear in between. This rather roundabout intro is to say that by the time I came to Face the Fire, I knew a lot about Mia and I had a very good idea of what had happened between her and Sam 11 years before. I knew the basic facts and how Mia had felt about Sam's desertion, so even before starting Face the Fire, I confess I suspected I wouldn't enjoy it much. I'm not a big fan of reunion romances when the guy really hurt the heroine terribly in the past.

However, this book surprised me with how well all this was dealt with, and I very much enjoyed it. A B+.

What surprised me the most was how well I understood Sam's reasons for feeling he had to leave Mia all those years ago. There's no big misunderstanding here, no evil relatives manipulating our protagonists to pull them apart. There's just a young man's increasing suffocation in the face of a future that seemed preordained and leaving nothing to his free will, and I could imagine his increasing claustrophobia perfectly. I'm not saying he was blameless, because he wasn't. The way he actually effected the break left a lot to be desired and hurt Mia, who actually was blameless, IMO, unnecessarily. Still, sympathizing with his reasons was basic to my enjoyment of the book.

The story also worked wonderfully because Sam is made to work hard for what he wants, and made to go through a lot of anxiety, not knowing if he is even going to succeed. He starts out a little irritating, very sure of himself and confident that because he's finally able to deal with this preordained love of his and Mia's, Mia will be basically waiting for him, ready to take things up where they left them. She's not, and Sam soon begins to fear he might lose this woman he needs so much.

Mia took Sam's desertion very, very hard, and now she's understandably doubtful about whether she should allow herself to fall for him again. She's attracted to him and gives in to this attraction, but she simply isn't convinced that he won't leave again, so she refuses to let herself fall in love, certain that when he leaves, she wouldn't be able to resist it.

So that's the romantic conflict, Sam madly in love with Mia, trying to convince her to return his feelings and start a life with him, and Mia resisting, not to be difficult, but because she truly believes her very survival depends on it. I adored this!

All this played before the backdrop of the final struggle between good and evil that could claim the entire island. This was not the strongest point of the book (it was actually a bit lame, at times, like when our characters broke into rhyming chants), but it didn't bother me all that much.

The other element in this book that I loved was the relationships between the Sam and Mia and the extended family that are the protagonists of the earlier books. These are six people who obviously like each other very much, and Roberts wrote their interactions beautifully. I especially liked the teamwork in how they worked together to break the curse on the island. It reminded me a bit of some of my favourite Barbara Michaels paranormals, actually, and that's a high compliment, coming from me!

This was an excellent close to a trilogy that started out a little weak but improved on each further book.


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