The Obsession by Nora Roberts
Naomi Bowes lost her innocence the night she followed her father into the woods. In freeing the girl trapped in the root cellar, Naomi revealed the horrible extent of her father’s crimes and made him infamous.
Now a successful photographer living under the name Naomi Carson, she has found a place that calls to her, thousands of miles away from everything she’s ever known. Naomi wants to embrace the solitude, but the residents of Sunrise Cove keep forcing her to open up―especially the determined Xander Keaton.
Naomi can feel her defenses failing, and knows that the connection her new life offers is something she’s always secretly craved. But as she’s learned time and again, her past is never more than a nightmare away.
First things first: TRIGGER WARNING!!!
I wish I’d had a bit more of one going into this. Yes, you can tell from the blurb that something horrible happens, since Naomi is rescuing some woman from a cellar, but this is a central theme throughout the book.
Rape and torture happen, not just once or twice, but multiple times, and we experience these things from not just the heroine’s speculation and memories, but from the perpetrator’s thoughts. There have been a couple of times while reading this book that it’s been a bit too much for me. I skimmed long sections detailing what the ‘bad-guy’ was doing, thinking, feeling and skimmed many sections where it was speculated on. This probably affected my reading and, consequently, how I feel about this book overall.
Nora Roberts’ books and I have a long and varied history. The first thing of hers I ever read was Carolina Moon (still a favorite), and there have been many other favorites along the way. There’ve been just as many meh and do-not-like‘s as well, though.
This fell somewhere in between. Part of my problem is that the romances just don’t feel as believable to me anymore. If I go back and re-read my favorite NR books, I LOVE the romance, I love the dance, and the getting to the HEA. It never feels rushed or too quick. It’s always perfect. So, it’s weird that now it does feel rushed and too quick and slightly unbelievable. Maybe that’s my growth as a reader, wanting different things from my books. I don’t know.
Xander was a mechanic/business owner, half-owner of a bar, book lover, nerd, and lead guitarist in a band (that’s actually good). It felt like a little too much. And beyond naming him these things, and showing him within these environments it felt a little like window-dressing. I just didn’t buy them all. He was a general care-taking, (nice) alpha with some domineering tendencies, but mostly loves that this woman is independent and smart.
Naomi had been through some shit. Seriously. And I loved that it affected her, that she wasn’t just over it – or even able to get over it quickly. I loved that the book took us through her development and growth throughout her life, instead of just plopping us down with her to-be-HEA and showing how love heals all (don’t get me wrong, I believe love heals a lot, but it’s overused in romance novels, I think).
What lost this book the most love from me was the villain. 1) I figured out who he was very early in the book. 2) The time we spent in his head was incredibly disturbing. And considering he’s the (majority of the) cause of the trigger warning up above, it was too much for me.
If that had been all, I probably would have still scored this a bit higher. But then there was all the times – in the first half – that I was pulled out of the story with irritation over some sexist, slut-shaming, or woman-bashing comment. It wouldn’t have been so bad if there’d been some calling out on this sort of behavior and thoughts, but there wasn’t. It was said, it was laughed about or brushed off, or just a normal part of conversation, and then it was over. I know these comments (“bros before hos,” “she’s a slut,”) happen in real-life, a lot, but I’d have liked to see a bit better from my heroes, maybe just someone saying ‘hey, that’s not cool. Happily, after the half-way mark these sorts of things eased up.
Considering the above, color me surprised that this book passes the Bechdel Test. Not only does the heroine have a real passion and career, but so do other female characters in the book. AND they talk about things OTHER THAN men. Not just once, but several times. It was refreshing to actually see Naomi talk about her love of photography, and go about actually doing her job, selling her pictures, making business deals, etc. Jenny refinishes furniture – and is excellent at it. They haggle and deal, barter and trade. All of it without male influence. I love it.
Overall, I think if someone didn’t have the issues with the type of crime perpetuated in this book it would probably be much more enjoyable. I’ve read, and loved, quite a few Nora Roberts’ books in the past, and I’m sure I will in the future. I might have to start sticking with her series though, as they tend not to be as dark.