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Nightshadow is the second book in Nora Roberts' Night Tales collection. I first became familiar with this series a couple of years ago when I read the fourth book and then recently bought the first three books in the series. Having now read the first book, the last book and now this book I don't think it's necessary to read the books in order. All of the characters from the books feature in the other novels but it's not necessary to have read earlier books in order to understand what's going on in this book. I don't think that reading the first book before reading this book added anything to my enjoyment of the book so if you do find yourself interested in one book in the series but not the others there's no need to read them all. This is a romantic suspense series so it's not like reading book two will give away spoilers from book one because a happy ending is guaranteed.
Gage lives a double life. During the day he's a rich businessman and former police officer. At night he's the infamous Nemesis. When Gage survived an attack that killed his partner he found that he had a super power, he could turn invisible. Using this power he became Nemesis and started to fight criminals in his own way. Deborah is a city prosecutor, a successful, ambitious lawyer who believes in what she does. Gage and Deborah soon find themselves involved in the same case but as Deborah falls in love with both Nemesis and Gage how can he tell her that they're really the same man?
I found the concept of this book very interesting. I haven't read a romance novel before with a super hero theme. I love films based on comic's and got really into the idea of one of the main characters being a super hero and having a super hero power. A lot of what was in the book isn't original of course, Nemesis reminded me in particular of Batman. He's disgustingly rich, he has an Alfred type person (okay, his Alfred is actually a former pickpocket and nothing like Alfred but he has the same basic role), he has a secret underground lair and he's an orphan. Although it isn't original I think it's original in this genre. Like I said I haven't read another super hero romance novel and I love the idea. I watch superhero films and always want a happy ending or when the sequels are released I'm always disappointed when there's a new love interest for the super hero. With this you get the super hero and the happy ending! However, although I liked the super hero thing I didn't think it worked particularly well in this series of books. The other two books that I've read are just straight forward romantic suspense, nothing paranormal or extraordinary about the characters or the situations. This book feels really out of place as part of the series and I think that Roberts would have been better off saving the idea for a different series (perhaps a whole series of super hero romance novels!) or maybe a standalone book. In this series it just feels wrong.
As a romance novel this book was okay. It was certainly not Nora Roberts at her best but it was enjoyable enough. The thing I find with Nora Roberts is that she produces a lot of average books that are worth reading for some light entertainment and only occasionally produces anything outstanding. The last book in this series I remember as being one of those outstanding books (or at least a four star book) so I keep expecting the other books in the series to be just as good and they end up disappointing me. I enjoyed the interaction between the two characters in this book but I didn't love the interaction. I felt that at times it wasn't dramatic enough. This is a romance novel, I don't want understated or tranquil, I want huge dramatic scenes and passion, I want to feel emotions when I read about the characters. In this book I didn't. I enjoyed their interaction, I wanted them to get their happy ending and I thought they were well matched but I wasn't really feeling anything. I'm not ashamed to say (at least not to a group of strangers on the internet who have no idea of my real identity) that sometimes romance novels bring a tear to my eye or a lump to my throat where I'm feeling so much emotion. Nora Roberts, even with all her flaws, can often do that in her books. Unfortunately not in this one. There were times when she started to and I would begin to get drawn in...and then the scene would end without fulfilling it's full dramatic potential. The tension would build and build and build and then there would be an anti-climax. There was so much potential here for conflict and resolving the problems, the kind of romance that Roberts writes really well but she didn't seem to develop it that far. I felt that everything was resolved far too easily.
The characters in this book were reasonably well written. They both developed well enough, not the most well developed characters she's written but certainly a realistic enough portrayal of two characters. Their personalities were fairly distinct and likeable but nothing overly memorable. Again I think they're just average. Enough depth to make them readable, enough background to build the story around and enough personality traits to differentiate them from other characters in the series.
The crime side of the novel was pretty average too. Roberts kept it all very simple which I thought was a strength. As a romantic suspense novel the suspense is never going to be up to the standard of an actual crime novel because the focus is the romance or at most equally distributed between romance and crime. I think that by keeping it simple Roberts avoided falling into the trap that many romantic suspense writers fall into, having a crime plot that doesn't make sense due to all the pieces not adding up. By making it so simple it was impossible for it not to add up. I guess the downside to this is that it's fairly predictable. I could have told you almost exactly what was going to happen quite early on in the book.
Summary and Recommendation
The word that sums up this book is average. Average plot, average romance, average characters. The only thing that really stands out is the idea of a super hero in a romance story which for me almost pushes this book up to four stars but not quite. I would give this book 3.5 stars. 3 for delivering an average romance novel that was enjoyable enough to read but nothing special and then an extra half a star for the wonderful idea of combining super heroes and romance.Almost Recommended.