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REVIEW: The Search by Nora Roberts

The Search by Nora RobertsDear Ms. Roberts:

I have to confess that my enjoyment of The Search is based in large part of my personal circumstances and therefore my review could be wildly inaccurate for others. The Search is about a search and rescue dog.   I mean, it is more than that but it is primarily about dogs, the training of dogs, the magic of dogs.   A dog lover will probably love this book.   Others?   I don’t know.

For the past couple of years, Ned and my daughter have wanted a dog.   We’ve watched what seems like a hundred episodes of Dogs 101, It’s Me or the Dog, and Cesar Milan’s Dog Whisperer. The dog mania hit a fevered pitch last year when Ned began researching breeders (i know, we should have adopted but Ned wanted a specific dog). Non fiction books on dogs began to appear around the house. Then we told my daughter and once you tell a child that you are getting a dog, YOU ARE GETTING A DOG.

So I was fully steeped in dog lore when The Search arrived on my doorstep. To some degree it’s like a fictional characterization of one of those dog trainers on TV.   This could have been a special on the Animal Planet.

Fiona Bristow is the head of Canine Search and Rescue. Her unit is comprised of handlers and their dogs who assist in search and rescue operations such as the location of lost children. When not helping local police, Fiona helps train other dogs. Her skills bring Simon Doyle, a fairly famous wood artist, to her doorstep. His mother gave him the puppy and since the puppy’s arrival, Simon has not known a minute’s piece.     Simon is a surly, intractable man who slightly resents his attraction toward Fiona. The more time he spends with Fiona, the more he likes her, learns her and the more he feels aggrieved.

Fiona welcomes Simon and her attraction toward him. She had once loved quite deeply and then lost her fiancé when he was killed by a serial killer trying to enact revenge upon Fiona for escaping his clutches.   Fiona was to be his thirteenth victim.    Fiona has the best revenge by living and enjoying her life, but it is lonely at times and Fiona has a big heart.   She’s ready for Simon.

The book is quite lengthy and I never really understood why it took so long to unpack what seemed like a fairly simple plot: serial killer threatening Fiona, Fiona and Simon unwillingly falling in love, the end.   I also thought that given the length of the book (nearly 500 pages) that the ending was really quite abrupt.   However, I was not bored but that is primarily because all of the dog stuff, from the basic training  techniques  Fiona taught Simon to the more elaborate search and rescue exercises, was very interesting to me. I couldn’t help but wonder whether others might find it pedantic.

The characters of Fiona and Simon will be familiar to Roberts’ fans. There is no new ground broken here. Even though their backgrounds might be dissimilar to previous characters, their mannerisms are the same. I found Fiona’s speech patterns, in particular, to be very recognizable. She talks in longer paragraphs but with the same staccato rhythm. Simon didn’t speak much so he’s harder to peg but his internal monologues are classic. Even so, the dialogue is snappy and very authentic. Both get in some very good lines. Simon says to Fiona at one point “I’m pissed off about the five years you shaved off my life. I had plans for them.”

It’s hard to read a Roberts’ novel and not like the main protagonists.   Fiona and Simon are eminently likeable which makes the journey of them falling in love, which happens a little bit at a time, also enjoyable.    The suspense isn’t going to keep a reader up at night. It’s the characters and what is happening in their lives that keeps you turning the pages.   C+

Best regards,


Book Link | Kindle | Amazon | nook | BN | Borders
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This is a hardcover published by Penguin, one of the Agency Five.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Kati
    Jul 09, 2010 @ 12:10:24

    Hmm. Well, I tend to be a Nora fan, and am only on chapter 5 of The Search, but so far it’s working for me.

    I’m also a dog owner, so perhaps that’s part of the allure. I do appreciate the new location for the book, as I think Nora has a gift with evoking a setting. And frankly, many of Nora’s H/h’s work for me. I’m just glad to hear Simon isn’t her classic *truly* cranky hero, which is the one hero-type that Nora writes that I’m not a fan of.

    I’m looking forward to finishing the book, as like you, I’m captivated by the dog stuff.

  2. Lisa
    Jul 09, 2010 @ 12:17:12

    I received the book on Wednesday and finished it off late that night. I’m not a dog or pet person, but I did enjoy the training and S/R stuff. I like finding out about new stuff from the books I read.

    Typical Nora H/h, which I always love, and the dialogue is fantastic. I think I annoyed my roommate laughing out loud so often and repeating lines to her, but she’s reading it now so I’m sure she’ll repay the favor.

  3. Carolyn
    Jul 09, 2010 @ 12:19:18

    My copy arrived last night, but I haven’t had a chance to open it yet. From what you describe, I think I’ll like it.

    Certain authors can take you away into new worlds, where you learn new things and actually like it. Dick Francis is one of those authors, I love his books and I’ve steeped myself in everything from gemology to glass blowing to photography.

    So I won’t mind if Nora does the same. I prefer her stand alone books to the serials and I know how I’m spending my weekend. :-)

  4. Bev Stephans
    Jul 09, 2010 @ 12:21:55

    I just got this book and haven’t started reading it yet. I’ve had good dogs and bad dogs, so the dog training should be interesting to me. Hopefully, the characters will also be interesting.

  5. Kalen Hughes
    Jul 09, 2010 @ 12:33:56

    The dog mania hit a fevered pitch last year when Ned began researching breeders (i know, we should have adopted but Ned wanted a specific dog).

    Oooo, congrats on the dog! What are you getting?

    Breed rescue can be a great way to go if you want a specific breed and feel like you want to support adoption, but I truly don't feel guilty about getting a dog from a breeder, nor should you IMO (esp since you actually researched breeders, and didn't just buy a dog from a puppy mill). If you love the breed and what to support its continued existence, then you understand that the puppies created to improve and continue the breed have to go somewhere or the breed will die out.

  6. May
    Jul 09, 2010 @ 13:33:41

    Thanks for the great review! As a dog lover I’m sure I’ll enjoy this, however I have enough TBR and this doesn’t sound like an A-lister in my book so I’ll wait for paperback. :)

  7. Lori
    Jul 09, 2010 @ 14:21:43

    It sounds good. I’ll borrow Carolyn’s copy when she’s done.

  8. Janet P.
    Jul 09, 2010 @ 14:25:11

    A couple of hours after reading this book I realized 2 things.

    1. I couldn’t even remember the names of the hero/heroine.

    2. I could remember all of the dogs.

    I did enjoy the book. It wasn’t the best of Nora Roberts, but there’s an awful lot of writers that would love to be as good as a slightly off Nora Roberts. She does always manage to entertain me.

  9. becca
    Jul 09, 2010 @ 14:42:27

    The Search reminded me more of Tribute than it did Blue Smoke (which I consider the best of her mysteries). Nora’s research is always good, but the lines between research and plot were more obvious than in some books. And the villain isn’t grabbing me the say some of them do (my benchmark for that is Visions in Death). But, as JanetP said, slightly off Nora Roberts is better than dead-on for a lot of other writers.

  10. John
    Jul 09, 2010 @ 14:43:22

    Note: Do not buy this for mother’s birthday.

    She’s getting into Nora, and while I haven’t read her myself, I trust she is a good novelist. Good to know that this isn’t a plot line to go on. I might give it a go, though. In paperback….

    Great review, all the same. :) The dog training stuff would be quite interesting.

  11. jmc
    Jul 09, 2010 @ 14:55:09

    I’m not a dog person, but I enjoyed the S/R portions of the book. TBH, I thought it was better than the last several NR romantic suspense novels. (For context, the last NR single titles that were keepers for me date back to 2004, Midnight Bayou and Northern Lights.)

  12. Dana
    Jul 09, 2010 @ 15:08:24

    I actually really liked this book.

    I loved the dogs, and I’m not even a dog person. I liked that the dogs were an integral part of the plot and not just there to be cute. I also liked all the training stuff. If the training info had been given in info dumps it would have been annoying, but I thought it was integrated well and gave some insights into Fiona and Simon’s characters.

    And I adored Simon and his grumpiness. I liked watching how Simon and Fiona meshed their lives together, and dealt with each others personality quirks.

    I guess a strong female heroine and friendships, and excellent dialogue are kind of a standard in Nora’s books, but I totally don’t mind. Cause those are good things to be known for, and why I read her books. But maybe they’re less familiar to me cause I usually only read her In Death books and single titles, I tend to skip her trilogies.

    I agree the ending was a bit abrupt, and the suspense portion of the book wasn’t all the suspenseful. I wasn’t really reading to figure out how they resolved the serial kiler thing, but to see how Simon and Fiona would get their HEA. But I still give it a solid B+ for the romance.

  13. kerry
    Jul 09, 2010 @ 15:13:51

    Yikes, the ebook is expensive. I think for a C+, I’ll wait for the library or paperback. I might’ve gone for it at $9.99, but not $13….

  14. kathie
    Jul 09, 2010 @ 15:52:30

    I’m a HUGE Nora fan – liked this book, loved the dogs, loved Fiona, but
    Simon went beyond curmudgen. I couldn’t figure out why she would be attracted to him. He did nothing but grump, all the way through the book. I’m hoping she dumps him and Nora writes a sequel.

  15. Joanne
    Jul 09, 2010 @ 15:54:41

    @John: Oh do buy this for your mother’s birthday. If she’s just getting into Nora Roberts books she won’t have the same reservations as long time readers- and it’s the perfect love story for a kid to give his mom. It’s got dogs. She’ll love it and you’ll get Best Son props.

    My copy will go to our local library, there’s only room here for Eve & Roarke to be on the keeper shelf!

  16. library addict
    Jul 09, 2010 @ 16:01:14

    I wish we had gotten to read more of the secondary romance with the veterinarian, but overall I really liked this book. I read it on Tuesday while our new puppy cheerfully tried to eat it :P It's my favorite of her single titles since High Noon (and I know I liked that one more than many readers). I liked Simon and his attitude. And while the suspense plot didn't have much mystery, I liked the fact it was on the backburner for so much of the book. To me this wasn't so much a suspense novel as one about living life after surviving.

  17. John
    Jul 09, 2010 @ 17:10:31

    @Joanne: She doesn’t like hardbacks at full price, either, so instead of worrying about that, I’ll buy her two more In Death ones. That’s what I did for Mother’s Day. ^_^ She picks them up at yard sales. I do the same for Danielle Steele books. xD

  18. MikiS
    Jul 09, 2010 @ 23:02:22

    @kerry: If your library system has eBooks, you might find it there (if you want to read it now, while waiting for the “paperback” to come out).

    I still haven’t gotten around to reading last year’s single title – I tend to prefer Ms. Roberts’ series (I’m loving the Wedding/Bride Quartet). Also loving the in Death series.

    I did like Blue Smoke that someone else mentioned, but I think my favorite still is Birthright.

    But…I love dogs! I might just have to read this one next, while I’m waiting for Parker & Mal’s story.

  19. firepages
    Jul 09, 2010 @ 23:50:15

    I’ve never read a Nora Roberts book. What do you recommend as a great first read?

  20. Jane
    Jul 09, 2010 @ 23:55:14

    @firepages: I really like Carnal Innocence. Also the first three books in JD Robb series.

  21. Debra
    Jul 10, 2010 @ 00:24:08

    I got this book on Tuesday and had company come in the next day. So far I am more then half way through the book and loving it. I love the dogs and have learned a few things to do with mine.

    Good luck on the new dog, I have to tell you I have two wonderful dogs that I got through Golden Gate Labador Rescue, they are two of the best dogs. So try a breed rescue allot of nice dogs looking for a forever home.

  22. Estara
    Jul 10, 2010 @ 05:59:29

    Now this review actually makes me want to read this book. I’ve given up on the NR suspense books when they got too gruesome and I could feel the pain of the protagonists to clearly while reading. I especially liked the family interaction and a love story in a recent one, where the heroine gets almost beaten to death and raped by a fellow police officer. I decided to keep away from these book of hers.

    Strangely enough I can handle Eve Dallas and Roarke, probably because rarely are they themselves in physical danger for any length of time (the really bad stuff has happened to them in the past), nor are their close associates – I read those for the family-like interactions and developments and a bit as a whodunit.

    I guess it’ll be safe to read this one, if the dog-info bits overshadow the killer.

  23. DS
    Jul 10, 2010 @ 08:17:50

    @Janet P.:

    A couple of hours after reading this book I realized 2 things.

    1. I couldn't even remember the names of the hero/heroine.

    2. I could remember all of the dogs.

    Not a NR fan, but I am a dog fan so I might give this one a go. As long as the dogs are well written.

    By the way, my two current dogs– and the best natured dogs I have ever had– are breed rescues.

  24. Randi
    Jul 10, 2010 @ 08:41:07

    @firepages: My first NR was Northern Lights and it’s still my favorite.

  25. El
    Jul 10, 2010 @ 11:13:00

    If you want to grade this story *as a romance*, well, it’s not (to me) the point of the book so I can see why it would get short shrift. Same with the suspense plot–both strike me as background. Someone pointed out it’s about being a survivor, and I think that’s higher. But I think it’s really about the dogs, the training, what search and rescue dogs are about. And I’d give the book–as what it is, not as how it fits into marketing category expectations–an A-.

    Reminds me of Creation in Death, which was only partly about the serial torturer/murderer plot but was more (to me, anyway) about Roarke seeing what really happens, all the way, in an investigation. The usually lead plot elements become background to a different story. I like the shift in both cases. Makes for an interesting story.

  26. Nifty
    Jul 10, 2010 @ 11:25:17

    I enjoyed The Search very much, and that’s not something I can always say about Nora’s “romantic suspense” titles. I tend to prefer her contemporary romances and her In Death books. It’s always the “suspense” part that diminishes my enjoyment of the book. In fact, with this one, I found myself getting annoyed with every scene having to do with the villain, because it was taking me away from Fee and Simon and the dogs.

    I AM a dog owner, and I loved all the dog stuff. Thought it was great.

    Simon is definitely brusque — reminded me of the hero from Angel’s Fall — but he seemed to be able to communicate with Fiona in her language. He’s not the kind of guy I would go for, but oh well. I will say however, that I never got a very good sense of him, especially what he looked like. Couldn’t tell you.

    Other random comments: Some funny dialogue bits that had me laughing. I completely agree that the ending seemed VERY abrupt and anticlimactic. It ended not with a bang but a whimper.

    I’d give this book a B+.

  27. Peggy P
    Jul 10, 2010 @ 21:30:56

    I listened to the audiobook version read by Tanya Eby… she did a great job. This was an interesting story due to the dogs and Simon was just crabby enough to be realistic. Even though I knew where this story was going – I liked it and didn’t mind the ending. A great relationship and believable dialogue kept me listening (and no vampires, thank God)! I give it a B+ in my own little rating world.

  28. Gina
    Jul 11, 2010 @ 06:09:40

    Nora is normally an auto-buy for me even though I had to give up my autograph subscription. I was surprised to see this as an ebook for $12.99 – and even though I really wanted to hit the buy now button on my NOOK – I’m waiting (unhappily) for a little price drop.

  29. MaryK
    Jul 11, 2010 @ 13:35:51

    I think I’ll get this one for my sister when it comes out in paperback. I’ve been trying to slip her some low-key romances because she likes to roll her eyes at my romance novels while devouring romantic comedy movies. She loves dogs, Dean Koontz, and HEAs. This sounds like a good choice for a crossover.

  30. Michelle
    Jul 12, 2010 @ 11:07:31

    I really enjoyed Simon. Loved the lines where they discussed getting Jaws fixed. Reminded me of the Frasier episode where all three Frasiers crossed their legs when Eddie had to get fixed. The ending didn’t bother me. I would give it a B+.

  31. Jane
    Jul 13, 2010 @ 22:15:34

    @Gina Probably won’t drop until the mass market comes out.

  32. Jane
    Jul 13, 2010 @ 22:15:52

    @Peggy P LOL! I liked it, I just thought that the story was more about the dogs than the people.

  33. Jane
    Jul 13, 2010 @ 22:16:14

    @Nifty I’ve seen a lot of people here and around the ‘net giving it a B+.

  34. Jane
    Jul 13, 2010 @ 22:16:59

    @Debra I think that we are going to try a breed rescue for our second dog. We actually already have the dog (we got her after I read The Search).

  35. Jane
    Jul 13, 2010 @ 22:20:08

    @library addict I would have loved! more of the secondary romance. That would have been awesome.

  36. Jane
    Jul 13, 2010 @ 22:31:04

    @Kalen Hughes We got a doberman

  37. Estara
    Sep 21, 2010 @ 07:15:11

    Just checking back to say that I did buy the book after reading this review and I totally loved it ^^. The serial killer bit is nowhere near as close as in the Eve Dallas books, and that’s juuuust fine.

  38. Cristi
    Feb 23, 2011 @ 09:04:05

    I just finished The Search and loved it, my first Nora Roberts book ever, but I am hooked.
    I must admit I am a huge dog lover, I have two Labs of my own, so that was a big draw. However, I loved the characters, the plot, everything. I am excited I found a new author to reads, just started another book of her this morning.

  39. drorit
    Apr 28, 2012 @ 13:59:45

    i am in the middle of the book/ am enjoying it very much
    i must add i’m a dog lover
    both heroes are have lovable personalities
    it’s obvious there was going to be a love affair but it’s beautiful to see the way in which it all comes together

  40. drorit
    Apr 28, 2012 @ 14:00:58

    @Estara: @Jane: what kind of a dog is it?

  41. drorit
    Apr 28, 2012 @ 14:01:55

    @Jane: that’s what makes it more interesting

  42. theodorus
    Nov 19, 2012 @ 22:11:16

    indeed this is phenominal piece of art, im still on the first chapter but already taken away and want to know what is gonna happen next…thank you nora for a wonderful feast

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