Hot Rocks

Hot Rocks_NoraRoberts_8143515

ONE FOR EVERY MINUTE

5 STARS

By the age of ten, Elaine O’Hara was already an accomplished pickpocket and a well-trained beard for her con-man father, Big Jack O’Hara. Realizing that Elaine was on the same path to prison as her husband, her mother divorces Big Jack and flees. It takes years, but Elaine’s mother finally gets their lives straight.

Elaine, now legally known as Laine Tavish, has spent the last eighteen years trying to build for herself a stable and normal life, both personally and professionally. The owner of an antique shop called “Remember When,” Laine likes what she does, likes where she lives and doesn’t want her friends in her new small hometown of Angel’s Gap to know who she used to be.

As you can imagine, this whole new-start idea falls apart. And it begins unraveling when her father’s best friend of thirty years visits her at the shop and is immediately killed when he steps out the door, dying in Laine’s arms. Enter Max Gannon, an adept PI from New York. It seems that Big Jack and his friend helped steal $28M in diamonds, and the company that insured those gems, to recover them, has retained Max.

Investigating his quarry’s death, Max goes to Laine’s shop to see what might have drawn the thief there. Upon meeting Laine, he is absolutely floored, not only by her looks but also by her spirit and her intelligence. Laine is just as smitten. And when Max’s background investigation on Laine Tavish turns up the facts of her parentage, the story really takes off. At first Laine has no idea who or what Max Gannon really is and she doesn’t know that he knows who she really is. But Alex Crew, the mastermind behind the theft, knows both facts. And it will take everything Laine learned at her father’s knee about short cons and suckers to survive Alex Crew and get her life, and the love of her life, back.

At first glance, this set-up for “Hot Rocks” is superficially formulaic, based on the idea of “I’ve-Got-A-Secret-And-My-Life-Will-Be-Over-If-It’s-Found-Out.” But under that well-worn and oft-used premise lies a tense thriller and an engaging romance. And it comes without the incessant whining and the hair shirt that many authors believe must accompany such a plot line.

It also comes written in third person and primarily from the viewpoint of Laine, although quite a few scenes are told from Max’s standpoint. To ratchet up the tension, we are also given glimpses into the thoughts and actions of Big Jack O’Hara, Laine’s fugitive thief of a father. And then Roberts slips in a few snippets from the standpoint of Alex Crew, the psychopathic homicidal thief who sets all the events of the novella in motion. And believe me, these bare snippets into Alex Crew’s thoughts are all we need to fuel our fears and ratchet that level of tension right through the roof.

In “Hot Rocks,” Roberts crafts a tale that is hard to put down. The dialogue is snappy and witty one minute, serious the next and always psychologically on point. The main characters are fleshed out and well grounded, mature and realistic in both speech and action. And the action rarely flags.

While some readers might complain about the lust-at-first-sight turning into a stable relationship far too quickly, I feel that Roberts meshes the emotions with the protagonists’ characters in such a way that it is actually believable. In fact, at over 220 pages, this “novella” is of sufficient length to make virtually all the fine points and devices believable. And while there is no cliffhanger at the end and an HEA is clearly in the picture, a few loose ends remain – and Nora Roberts meant it to be that way. Let’s just say that Roberts’ alter ego, J. D. Robb, is very interested in those loose ends.

Cover Art from Goodreads

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