Blue Dahlia, by Nora Roberts

Nora Roberts’s Blue Dahlia reads like a mix’n’match of about fifty of her previous books. As such, it’s a perfect introduction to her work--like most of Roberts’s books, Blue Dahlia is an entertaining, briskly-paced story about an intelligent, organized woman--her work, her children, her relationship with her parents, her friends, the ghost that she lives with (whose intentions may or may not be peaceful) and, yes, the hot landscape artist that she falls in love with.

The heroine of Blue Dahlia is 33-year-old Stella Rothchild. Roberts clearly doesn’t believe in wasting her readers’ time; by the end of chapter two, we’ve met a strong candidate for the ghost position, Stella has been widowed, packed up her kids and moved back to her home state of Tennessee, and accepted a job offer as the manager of a plant and garden center. Like most of Roberts’s trilogies, the friendship that grows between Stella, business owner Rosalind Harper, and Rosalind’s pregnant young cousin Hayley is the most enjoyable relationship in the book, and I had no problem swallowing the instant rapport between the female characters. Blue Dahlia gives the ghost subplot and romance about equal weight. There’s a sweet first date (to Graceland!) for Stella and Logan (the hot landscape artist), as well as some nice scenes between Logan and Stella’s sons. (And thanks to Nora Roberts’s crack research team, I now know that “Elvis” means “elf-wise friend”. Never let it be said that romance novels don’t teach you anything.) The ghost character (and no, it’s not Elvis, unless Elvis came back as a woman in a hoopskirt) is an unusual combination of scariness, protectiveness, and pathos. Readers should be grateful for the supernatural subplot--without one, Roberts all-too-frequently sticks in some overheated “emotional issues” to spice up the male/female relationship, which would not have improved the Stella/Logan romance.

Considering the quality of her recent output, Blue Dahlia isn’t anything out of the ordinary for Nora Roberts. Hell, it isn’t even her most unusual release in the past few months. (That would be Northern Lights, an uneven but enjoyable hardback about the police chief in a tiny Alaskan town. Unlike most romance novels, it’s told almost entirely from the male perspective… which is a blessing, because the female lead is kind of a pain in the ass.) But if you’ve read and enjoyed Nora Roberts's books in the past, this is a solid addition to her body of work, and if you’re a newbie (Tell me--what kind of rock was it?) it’s a fun way to introduce yourself to an author with brains, skill, and a backlist of books that will make your wallet weep.
Posted by: Julia, Last edit by: Julianka


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