Nora Roberts is one of the reasons why I love romance novels. She’s definitely the reason why I love Contemporaries, and that’s why her books are always greatly anticipated. However, the past few years have been mediocre at best. The last time I thoroughly enjoyed one of her books was in 2009 when Black Hill was released. So when I started The Witness I was hopeful but apprehensive. I’m happy to say that I fell in love from the moment I read the opening line.
The book opens when our heroine, Elizabeth, is a teenager. Sheltered by a dominant mother who decides everything in her life, from what to eat and wear, to what to study, she’s finally realizing that she wants to be normal. So when her mother leaves her for the weekend, she cuts her hair and goes to the mall to buy new clothes. There, she meets a girl she used go to school with, and because they both have something to gain, decide to team up and go clubbing. Elizabeth is a genius -- she has an eidetic memory, goes to Harvard and pretty much can do anything, so she creates the best fake ID’s ever. Once at the club they meet the owners, who happen to be members of the Russian mafia. They go to their home and once there Elizabeth witnesses the murder of one of them and of her friend. She manages to get help and once the police realize that she’s the main witness, she goes into the protection program. I don’t want to spoil the plot but let’s just say that things don’t work out and she ends up hiding by herself.
Flash forward twelve years and now Elizabeth goes by the name of Abigail, and is living as a recluse in a small town in the middle of the Ozarks with her huge dog as only companion. Everything goes well until Brooks Gleason, the local Chief of Police, becomes interested in her. He can’t decide why he’s attracted to a woman who’s standoffish, rude and seriously lacking of social skills, but he is, and so he pursues her. Little by little he gets under her skin and begins to know the woman she truly is. He can sense that something bad happened to her and that she’s hiding, but it’s too late for him because he’s already in love, so he will support her no matter what. Problem is, that the past is about to catch up to her and it may be more than they can handle.
The book is divided in two parts. The first one is about what happens to Elizabeth and it’s very different in tone to the second part. Elizabeth’s story is heartbreaking and compelling, you know things will end badly but you can’t stop reading. It sets perfectly what will come next and also her character. Knowing what she went through makes it easier to accept the woman she becomes.
Abigail’s part takes the majority of the book and it’s more about the romance than the mystery and suspense. Ms. Roberts takes her time developing the main characters, the love story and finally the conflict and resolution. The book is long but the story never drags, and each part is essential and enjoyable.
Elizabeth/Abigail is a great heroine and one of the best Ms. Roberts has written in a while, if not ever. She is the main character and the book’s focus. She has isolated herself in order to disappear and it has cost her deeply, mainly because she no longer knows how to function in society -not that she was that good at it to begin with-. She has accepted that she will be alone forever and when she meets Brooks she doesn’t know what to do. On the one hand, getting close to her is dangerous and she doesn’t allow herself to trust him, but on the other hand, he represents all she ever wanted and never knew she could have: love, family, emotional connection, normalcy and happiness.
Brooks was perfect. You know that when it comes to Nora Roberts, if the heroine is intense, her hero will be easygoing and laidback (yes, Ms. Roberts is formulaic as all get out). And that’s exactly how he is. Sweet and caring. One thing I like about her heroes is that once they fall in love they go for it, no second thoughts and not fear of commitment, something that’s also the case here. This means that the romance is quite smooth (to the point of easy and conflict-less) and it’s all due to Brooks.
The mystery is very well-done albeit slightly unbelievable, especially when it comes to the role the heroine plays in it. Then again the bad guys where evil but not cartoonish and the resolution was surprising in its simplicity. Just when you think you have it all figured out, things take an unexpected turn and that’s the mark of a great Romantic Suspense.
This is Ms. Roberts’ 200th novel and it shows. Her voice is so unique it’s almost a trademark. The story flows in a way that only an experienced writer can do, and even though she has written 200 heroes and heroines, the ones in this book are just as remarkable and unforgettable as the rest of them. If you’re a fan I’m sure you already read it, and if you’re not, go read this, and the other 199 books now, you have lots of catching up to do and I envy you, I wish I could discover these books for the first time again.
Review by Brie
Daughter of a controlling mother, Elizabeth finally let loose one night, drinking at a nightclub and allowing a strange man’s seductive Russian accent lure her to a house on Lake Shore Drive. The events that followed changed her life forever.
Twelve years later, the woman known as Abigail Lowery lives on the outskirts of a small town in the Ozarks. A freelance programmer, she designs sophisticated security systems—and supplements her own security with a fierce dog and an assortment of firearms. She keeps to herself, saying little, revealing nothing. But Abigail’s reserve only intrigues police chief Brooks Gleason. Her logical mind, her secretive nature, and her unromantic viewpoints leave him fascinated but frustrated. He suspects that Abigail needs protection from something—and that her elaborate defenses hide a story that must be revealed.
Putnam Adult. April 17, 2012