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CLASSIC REVIEW: Honest Illusions by Nora Roberts

Shiloh Walker is an award-winning writer…yes, really! She’s also a mom, a wife, a reader and she pretends to be an amateur photographer. Now she’s going to try her hand at reviewing…temporarily. You can find Shiloh on her website or on Twitter.

Honest Illusions Nora Roberts

When I saw the call go up for reviews of ‘classic’ romances, I stopped to think…was there a book I’d read twenty years or so ago that I’d maybe enjoy reviewing?  Because, well, to review it fairly, I’d have to read it again.  I’d have to want to read it again.

And yep, there was a book.

This book. Honest Illusions by Nora Roberts.

Folks, I have to be honest and admit this here and now, without Luke and Roxy, I don’t know if I would be doing what I’m doing right now.  I write what I love to read, and this is the book that hooked me. I’d read a romance or few before this one, but I’d never been pulled into a story quite like this before.

It was almost magical, really.

Which is appropriate, considering this book is all about magicians.

Oh, and cat thieves.

The book opens up with a prologue—it’s short.  Roxanne—Roxy—performing an illusion in front of an audience.  That right there was enough to hook me.  I’d been fascinated by magicians ever since David Copperfield made the Statue of Liberty disappear—by the way, I once got called on stage with him.  It was awesome.  Anyway, back to the book.

Roxy finishes her illusion, leaves the stage to the roar and applause coming from the audience and goes to her dressing room.

There is a drop dead sexy man there and the tension between them all but makes your teeth ache.  It’s been five years since Luke Callahan up and disappeared, without a word, from Roxanne’s life and now he thinks he come crawling back?  Oh, no. That’s what Roxy thinks.

Oh, hell, yes…that is what Luke thinks…

There is kissing of a potent and passionate nature.  You know, the kind you think is going to lead lots of other potent, passionate things?

Nope.  The prologue ends and we find ourselves reading about Luke…back when he was twelve years old, a runaway who is bound and determined to escape the hell that had been his home.

This is when he meets Max Nouvelle, the man who is going to change his life.

He also meets the bratty Roxanne Nouvelle, Max’s daughter.

They are performers in a travelling carnival, performing magic acts and watching them, for the first time in Luke’s rough life, he finds himself just lost.  He’s able to lose himself inside the show.  While he’s watching, he forgets why he went inside the tent where the show was going on in the first place—he’d gone to pick a few pockets, steal some money from a few purses.

He managed to take a little money before he got caught up in the show. But he didn’t realize Max had had an eye on him the whole time.

I could go on forever but some people might want to actually read the book…so, we’ll sum it up. Luke finds himself basically adopted by Max.  He has a home, he’s loved, he’s happy…even if he does find Roxanne annoying.

Fast forward it a few years, oh, say ten.  The annoying brat still annoys him but naturally, it’s for different reasons.  He’s a grown man…she’s trying to convince her father to let her join the ‘other’ family business.  You know, the one where they sneak into the homes of rich people, steal jewels or paintings—always insured stuff.  They have their own code—an honor among thieves, if you will.  They wouldn’t steal from friends and they don’t steal from people who can’t afford it and the stuff they take is insured.

Of course, Max tells Roxy she isn’t ready…Luke agrees with him and not just because he doesn’t want to spend up close and personal time with her.

This pattern continues for a few more years—eventually Roxanne does get what she wants.  In on the family business of larceny…and Luke.  She has to go all out to seduce him, because the man has this idea in his head that it’s wrong, but she wants what she wants.

Things should be A-OK.

And that’s when the wrench gets thrown in.

You’ll have to read it to find out.

What do I love about this book?

It’s a first love sort of tale, reunited lovers…it’s got vengeance and glamour and magic.

When I sat down to read it a few days ago, I realized it’s probably been ten years since I have read it, maybe longer.  It’s hard to believe it’s been that long because this is the book that had me all but racing my bike back to the library to find more more more when I was done.

It wasn’t my first romance book—that was The Wanton by Rosemary Rogers and I was twelve.  Not too long after that, though, I discovered fantasy…Mercedes Lackey lured me in.  Then there was Stephen King and all that weirdness that awaited there.  So yeah, I’d read romance…I was just more into other stuff for most of middle and high school.

But then I met Luke and Roxy.  After that, I started gobbling up as many Nora Roberts books as I could.  She led to so many more.  More than twenty years later and I don’t know how many books, this is the one that stands out the clearest.

You’ve got the great storyline, the suspense thread, all the magic and the larceny. There’s Roxy with her confidence and her I’m not taking your crap attitude.  She was strength and grace and determination and stubbornness.

There was Luke.  Wow. Okay, this is like…shades of Roarke.  I can almost see the echoes of how Roarke could come into being when I read this.  There’s the thievery, the intelligence, the hungry child desperate for something more.  And both of them are so pretty.

Luke has a messed-up past and it drives him to do some reckless things, and then, some desperate things, things that send ripples throughout the book.  It was his love for Roxy, Max, and those who’d come into his life that drove him.

Max, Lily, Mouse…I loved them.  The supporting characters are amazing and part of me hurt so bad as life played out, because yeah, even in fiction it does.

The villain, well, let’s not go there, but he’s one of those cunning, sly bastards that hurts just to hurt.

The one weakness I see in the book is how a cunning, calculating SOB cracks so easy at the end.  Now this guy does not come off as sane, but he’s been so slick, and so determined to have revenge on his imagined slights, and it takes little to push him over.

That’s the only weakness I see in this book, but even that’s not enough to make say anything less than…I love it.  I won’t so long to reread it next time.

Even after twenty plus years, it’s still one of my favorites, and yeah, I’m pretty sure I have to thank Luke and Roxy for my love of romance.  Well, maybe I should thank Nora Roberts, instead.

My grade?  A-


Shiloh Walker


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  1. cleo
    May 18, 2014 @ 12:49:03

    Great review – these are so much fun. I think Nora Roberts was the gateway drug for a lot of romance readers. I don’t remember this one but her Cheseapeake Bay series was the first trilogy that I bought as they came out – I remember the excitement (and the rage and disappointment when I didn’t like the third one).

  2. Erin Burns
    May 18, 2014 @ 13:00:45

    This is probably one of my least favorite Nora Roberts books. While I agree it’s definitely shades of Roarke, I despise the I’ll leave you flat for your own good then bang everything that moves trope.

  3. library addict
    May 18, 2014 @ 13:16:13

    Fun review. I have reread this one, but not in the past 5 or 6 years. I consider it one of the average Nora’s. I didn’t dislike it like some, but it’s not on my personal fave list.

  4. Shiloh Walker
    May 18, 2014 @ 13:40:29

    @cleo: The Chesapeakes are on the tops. I adore the way she writes brothers. And yes, she was a gateway. Thank goodness.

    @ Erin, generally speaking, I can’t say I like the trope, but it won’t make me toss a book. I leave it to how the heroine handles it. If the heroine is wishy-washy and lets him get away with it? That irritates me and I generally don’t end up liking the book. Roxy wasn’t wishy-washy. She let him have it, then she let him knew he hurt her. That worked for me.

  5. Erin Burns
    May 18, 2014 @ 13:52:11

    @Shiloh it won’t make me quit reading a book, but unless there’s a ton more groveling than we got here, or the heroine has also been out and about in the world rather than basically staying in stasis waiting for the guy to come back, I feel a lingering disappointment in the resolution. I need the hero to feel badly about how much he hurt her and then atone, more than I need her to forgive him because of how miserable he was without her.

  6. Shiloh Walker
    May 18, 2014 @ 14:01:01

    Well, we can’t go into details without spoiling… but Roxy couldn’t really go out into the world. She had something holding her. I don’t know that she was waiting, per se. She knew he wasn’t coming back. She said that. But there were other reasons.

    Forgiveness, though, is a thing of mercy. You don’t do it because somebody grovels. You do it because you want to forgive. Yeah, as readers we want to see groveling, but I look at things through the heroine’s eyes. She felt moved to forgive him.

    I’m not trying to change how you read it or anything, but if she was ready to accept and move on, that’s enough for me. Now if HE had tried to change how she had seen things or tell her she wasn’t entitled to be hurt, that’s different. But he never did.

  7. Willa
    May 18, 2014 @ 14:06:29

    Of all her classics or oldies this one is one I don’ t reread, it made me feel for the characters, love them, then life intervenes and had me sobbing!!

    Hidden Riches was the gateway novel for me, great story, supporting characters and a wonderful hero and heroine!

  8. Ducky
    May 18, 2014 @ 14:54:03

    I remember really loving the supporting characters in this one…oh, Max…his fate made me cry.

    Two other vintage Nora Roberts novels that also hold a special place in my heart are CARNAL INNOCENCE (Very attractive Southern hero) and HIDDEN RICHES (grumpy hero and fun theater family and some awful killings). Also NORTHERN LIGHTS – though I think that one is a more recent of her books.

    I have to say I really enjoyed reading your review of an older book. I hope to see “vintage” reviews more on this site.

  9. Shiloh Walker
    May 18, 2014 @ 15:29:44

    @willa… *G* I think that’s why I loved it. Because it ripped my heart out. Especially Max.

    @Ducky I didn’t like Northern Lights all that much. I’ve been to Alaska and I expected to just… connect with it on that level. but I didn’t. I’m trying to remember if I read Hidden Riches. Must find out.

  10. Nessa
    May 18, 2014 @ 16:14:37

    This is my favourite NR single. I love it! I love Roxy, Luke, the dialogue, the friends-to-lovers story… there isn’t a single thing I’d change. I haven’t loved many recent Nora Roberts releases but this one is why I still track, and make a point to read, her new books.

  11. Bamaclm
    May 18, 2014 @ 16:18:51

    My favorite Nora’s are Public Secrets (LOVE that book!), Midnight Bayou and Carnal Innocence. A recent favorite is The Witness. But really, any of her stand alones I find readable and pretty darn good, even Northern Lights whose heroine I did not like. Honest Illusions was middle of the pack for me, I think.

  12. Ducky
    May 18, 2014 @ 17:18:11

    @Shiloh Walker:

    I liked the hero much more than the heroine in NORTHERN LIGHTS but I still love it. I read it during a big heat wave – all that snow and cold was such a balm for my heat exhausted self, ha!

  13. Willa
    May 18, 2014 @ 17:19:16

    @Shiloh Walker: I don’t want my heart ripped out by the fate of a major supporting character . . I want it to be moved, challenged, enticed by the love story which is why I read romance.

    Rip my heart out *that* way and I am a happy reader. If you haven’t read Hidden Riches you are in for a treat!

  14. Ducky
    May 18, 2014 @ 17:23:22


    Oh, yes, THE WITNESS is a good one! Very likable hero and the heroine is very easy to root for.

  15. ohellsyeah
    May 19, 2014 @ 06:23:41

    I don’t have much to add to the conversation other than that I’m glad someone loves this book as much as I do. It was definitely the first NR book that I adored and it doesn’t seem to get a lot of love. The thing that annoyed me was canuk. That is not how you spell that word.

  16. Kati
    May 19, 2014 @ 07:43:45

    Man, I LOVE old Nora’s. Honest Illusions is a fantastic one. I’m partial to True Betrayals (the horse racing one). Thanks for the reminder, Shiloh! I might have to dig through my Keeper shelf and find it.

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