From the prolific romance writer Nora Roberts Blue Smoke was one of those books that I found myself reading way into the night because I just couldn't bring myself to put it down. Not being a big fan of romance novels myself I was surprised to discover Nora's books when not having anything to read one day, I borrowed one and loved it. Blue Smoke is not merely a romance although I'm sure that any keen reader of the genre would appreciate it but also a thriller. This book is a great example of how Roberts is able to combine the two styles through her writing ability and characterisations that draw you into the story and keep you hooked.
The book begins by providing the reader with a back-story to the main character Reena. Reena Hale's history begins when a young neighbour attacks her as a child and the confrontation between their fathers leads to the arson of her families restaurant Sirico's. That night was to shape the rest of Reena's life and the woman she would become. Stood in the dark watching as the restaurant that was so integral to her family's life burnt to the ground Reena was fascinated by the flames. The contradiction between the beauty and power of the fire and the destruction and sadness that it brings was intriguing to the 11 year old girl. Encouraged and inspired by a lifelong bond with the fire investigator she met that day, an adult Reena would become a police fire investigator herself.
Bo Goodnight, who is introduced as Reena's next-door neighbour provides the romance element of the book. I hated the name given to this character as I felt it was a shame to give such a well-written book such a cheesy, cringe worthy named central character. A small element of the book maybe, but it was a reminder for me of all the things I usually hate about romance novels. However this was a personal annoyance and as criticism goes it is only a small one. Bo pursues Reena having had a couple of near misses where he has almost met her in the past and experiences a feeling of love at first sight. This feeling develops for Bo when the girl whose image has stuck in his memory, their paths having crossed only fleetingly, moves in next door.
As Reena's life is looking settled with potential love interest Bo events start to turn sinister as a string of anonymous calls and suspicious fires begin and she must employ every skill and strength she has learnt professionally and personally to protect herself and the people she cares about. As the plot develops it becomes clear that Reena is the key to the events happening around her. Roberts' ability to make you feel invested in her characters makes the fire fighting scenes all the more suspenseful and carries you along with the story. Although not the most sophisticated of plots I found the telling of it entertaining.
I would without a doubt recommend this book and would suggest that if romance novels are not your cup of tea it is still worth giving it a try. This book cannot be judged as purely a romance or as a crime thriller as it is a combination of these things. Being based on neither one genre nor the other may deter some crime or romance readers but it is this combination that I found appealing. Although a little predictable in plot as I find with most thrillers the romantic element serves to make it a lighter read.
The basic plot:
When Reena was a child her family's restaurant was burnt down in an act of revenge against her family. This inspires her to become a firefighter and a cop. As an adult working for the arson unit she investigates a number of suspicious fires that are somehow connected to her. She has to find out who the person starting the fire is.
What I thought...
Plot: The plot wasn't particularly original. It was the kind of plot that's been done a thousand times on television and in books which of course doesn't make it a bad plot.
There were so many things in the story line that could have been really exciting but for some reason this book wasn't a page turner. I felt as I was reading it that it should be. I felt like I should be anxious to know what was happening next because of the events taking place in the book but the way it was written just didn't make the reader feel involved.
I felt that Nora Roberts described one particular scene, a violent sexual assault, in uneccesary detail and it made for extremely uncomfortable reading. Unfortunately that scene was the only scene in the book that provoked any emotion in me.
Romance: Nora Roberts is a romance writer. When you pick up one of her books you expect romance. I'm not saying that she should stick to just one genre but in this book it felt as though she was writing a half hearted romance story perhaps just for the fact that people expect romance from her. I don't think that I would have enjoyed the book anymore had she omitted the romance in the story but I do think that it would have made no difference at all to the book if she had taken it out which is very disappointing when you buy something that's marketed as a romance novel.
I was very disappointed with this book. I usually really enjoy Nora Roberts' books but this one just wasn't up to her usual standard. The suspense wasn't written particularly well, the romance was half hearted and the plot was pretty predictable. She usually writes romance and suspense so well!
When you write a romance book you can get away with the plot being a little sketchy and the ending predictable because the main focus is the romance. This book was not a romance novel, even if that's how it was marketed, and the plot was not up to the standards of a novel in the crime genre.
I got this in a book sale for £1.99. I usually read a book in a couple of days but it took me well over a week to read this, it wasn't really compelling. here is my review.
In Blue Smoke we meet Reena Hale (Caterina), when we fist meet her she is 11 years old and has just witnessed her family's restaurant , Sirico's, burning down after an arson attack. Reena is drawn to the fire but also drawn to finding out about how the fire was started and why people start fires, from that moment she decides she wants to become and arson investigator. She then spends all her teens studying, joins the police force and trains with the fire department. while her families lives have moved on Sirico's is rebuilt her sister's get married and have kids, Reena's love life is a disaster, having sexual encounters is fine but whenever she tries a relationship disaster strikes 2 boyfriends end up dead and one turns out to be a control freak. Then she starts receiving strange phone calls and the past comes back to haunt her big time.
Meanwhile Bowen (Bo) Goodnight (crazy name) spotted Reena at a college party and for him it was love at first sight but every time he sees her she's gone again.
Reena Hale grew up with an intimate knowledge of the destructive power of fire. When she was a child her family's restaurant was burnt to the ground, and the man responsible was sent to jail. The Hale family banded together to rebuild and Reena found her life's calling.. She trained as a fire fighter and then as a cop, always with the end goal insight: to become an arson investigator.
Now a valued member of the Arson unit, Reena loves her job and things are going well. She's even bought a house and her hunky new neighbour is certainly providing a sexy distraction. But she is called in on a series of suspicious fires that seem to be connected, not just to each other but to her. As danger ignites all around her, Reena must rely on experience and instinct to catch a dangerous madman who will not stop until everything she loves is up in smoke.
The book is split into 3 parts, which all relate to fire.
Point Of Origin (The specific location at which a fire was ignited.) - Is the first part of the book, this includes the Prologue and covers Reena's childhood from the age of 11 until she has just joined the police force and completed her fire training.
Chain Reaction (A series of events so closely linked to each other that one initiates the next) - 2nd part of book, this picks up the story from when Reena has finally become a fully fledged member of the Arson unit and solves her first case, in this part she and Bo finally meet and the strange phone calls and dangerous events begin to happen.
Flashover (the final stage in the process of fire growth) I can't say what happens here as I don't wish to add any spoilers but it's the most exciting part of the book and obviously this is where it ends, this part of the book also contains the Epilogue.
The most part of this book is narrated except when the arsonist is at work, every time we read what the arsonist is doing it's told from his point of view.
Nora Roberts's first book was published in 1981. Since then she has written over 150 novels. Under the pen name of J. D Robb , she is the author of the New York Times bestselling futuristic series which features Lieutenant Eve Dallas. There are more than 260 Million of her book in print and had more than 100 bestsellers.
The Chesapeake Bay Quartet
The Key Trilogy
In The Garden Trilogy
High noon (her latest release)
After reading the blurb I was really excited about reading this but unfortunately it didn't live up to expectations. The characters and relationships are all well written and the dialogue between them is great and truly believable but Reena is so feisty and smart it's just to hard to believe that it would take her so long to figure out that the deaths of her fellas weren't linked. Also there are just loads of unnecessary stuff in there, I like attention to detail but this novel felt as if it had been padded out just make the word count higher or the book longer. I also found it completely predictable. As far as action or excitement are concerned it's a bit of a slow burner (excuse the pun), it doesn't really start getting exciting until the end of the second part of the novel, it's then you'll want to keep reading but unfortunately the ending is disappointing and predictable.
Maybe it's because after writing so many books the quality of her work as been effected by the fact Roberts just keeps knocking novels out, although as I've never read anything by her before I can't really compare, maybe they're all like this.
I got it for £1.99 from a book sale but it's usually £6.99
Published in 2005
Catarina Hale grew up with an intimate knowledge of the destructive power of fire. When she was a child, her family's restaurant was burned to the ground, and the man responsible was sent to jail. The Hale family banded together to rebuild, and Reena found her life's calling. She trained as a firefighter and then as a cop, always with the end goal in sight: to become an arson investigator. Now, as part of the arson unit, she is called in on a series of suspicious fires that seem to be connected-not just to each other, but to her. And as danger ignites all around her, Reena must rely on experience and instinct to catch a dangerous madman who will not stop until everything she loves has gone up in smoke.