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CLASSIC REVIEW:  Honest Illusions by Nora Roberts

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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REVIEW:  Again the Magic by Lisa Kleypas

REVIEW: Again the Magic by Lisa Kleypas

Again-the-Magic

Dear Ms. Kleypas:

I’ve told this story before, but I’ll mention it again here because it might be the reason why I adore Again the Magic so much. About ten years ago, over Thanksgiving Day dinner, my Dad calmly announced that he’d be having triple bypass surgery the next week. My sister and I made immediate plans to drive down to North Carolina to be with my mother during the surgery. The day of surgery, after wishing my dad well and telling him we loved him, we were sent to an incredibly uncomfortable little waiting room, where we’d wait the four hours for his surgery to be complete and for him to moved to the ICU where we could visit him. We were in the waiting room about five minutes and my mom decided she needed to walk the hospital halls. My sister went with her, as I stayed in the waiting room just in case we received an update. As I sat waiting,  I pulled Again the Magic out of my bag and began to read. Aline and McKenna’s love story took me away from the terrible nervousness and offered me a comfort that was profound enough that I re-read the book once a year, just because it is now so beloved.

Lady Aline Marsden understands her duty. She’s been raised by a tyrannical father and a negligent mother for the exclusive purpose of making an advantageous match. She spends her days growing up learning to run a household. But during her free time, she spends as much time as possible with John McKenna, a stablehand who was saved from an abusive father during his childhood and brought to Stony Cross Park to act as a houseboy. As he’s gotten older, he’s risen slightly to the rank of stable hand.

When the book opens, we find McKenna sneaking into Aline’s room. He and Aline have been constant companions since childhood, but now that companionship is building into something more. McKenna loves Aline wholeheartedly, but he also knows that she is far beyond his reach. Aline doesn’t care a wit for convention and only wants McKenna to kiss her. When McKenna arrives in Aline’s room, he finds that she is deeply put out with him for kissing a local village girl. For McKenna, a mild flirtation; for Aline, a betrayal to her young heart. As they fight, Aline pushes McKenna to kiss her, he refuses and she finally lays one on him. He’s blown away by the beauty of that kiss, but knows that he can not allow things to go any farther. He threatens to leave Stony Cross Park if Aline doesn’t forget immediately all about her future plans, which include forsaking her heritage and being only with him.

Of course, the lovers kiss again, and this time, they’re seen by Aline’s younger sister, Livia, who tells their father. Aline is called to her father’s study, where her father tells her McKenna will be gone from the estate the next day, and that if he returns, her father will use his considerable influence to ruin McKenna’s life. Aline knows the only way to make McKenna stay away is to make him believe that she has had a change of heart. When she sees McKenna she is cruel, although her heart is breaking, and sends him from her with no hope that she would welcome his return.

Shortly after McKenna leaves, Aline is in the kitchens and is caught in a fire that leaves her legs badly burned. Twelve years later, Aline’s father is dead, and her brother Marcus is now Lord Westcliff. Aline and Livia both still live at Stony Cross Park, with Aline acting as hostess for Marcus, who has yet to find a bride. Marcus decides to host a house party for the purpose of courting Mr. Gideon Shaw, one of the Shaws of New York, a nouveau riche American family to invest in a new business venture. When Aline goes to greet the American traveling party, she realizes immediately that one of the men in the party is McKenna.

McKenna, now a self-made man with millions, has come to Stony Cross Park for one reason, and one reason only: vengeance against Aline for breaking his heart so cruelly. He comes home to find Aline much changed. Oh, she’s still beautiful, but she’s reserved. He’s decided that his course of action will be to seduce her then leave her as heartbroken as he was. But as he begins his chase, he finds himself still seduced by this beautiful woman who already broke his heart once. Aline has no idea why McKenna is at Stony Cross Park. She’s cautious of him and remembers enough about him to realize that he’s probably not just there to do business. She’s had no other love of any sort since McKenna and she’s never stopped loving him. But she has secrets too, she knows that McKenna could never love half a woman, which is how she feels since her injuries.

The book features a trope that I have great affection for: forbidden lovers. Even more, there is a tremendous sweetness to this book. McKenna is definitely an alpha hero, and yes, he starts off wanting vengeance, but he backs away from that plan quickly as all of the feelings he had for Aline come rushing back. Aline herself is a really delightful heroine. She’s smart and accomplished and an excellent hostess. She’s also been sheltered by her well meaning family and is deeply afraid of McKenna finding out about her injuries. They have a wonderful chemistry that you establish right from the beginning of the book. The love scenes are really well written (a true gift you have) and build upon each other intensifying the growing relationship between McKenna and Aline. The book features the BRG (Big Romantic Gesture), and it’s one that makes my reader’s heart swoon. McKenna’s declaration of love is one that I adore reading over and over. The story also features a really lovely secondary love story for Livia, Aline’s sister, who also has a tragic past. All in all, it is a really satisfying historical novel, one that I think doesn’t get mentioned nearly as often as Dreaming of You, or the Wallflower series. I hope that this review will remind readers of how much they enjoyed your older books and prompt them to pull them off their bookshelves, or tempt readers who have only read your contemporary work to give your historicals a try. Either way, Again the Magic is a true favorite of mine. Final grade: A-.

Kind regards,

Kati

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