Feb 15 2011 12:00pm

When Historical Romance Readers Go Rogue (or Robb), Pt. 1

Regency Caricature by Rowlandson

Dear Cheryl,

When you sent me Naked in Death and told me to read it, I was stunned.  We had both been reading solely historical romance for years and eschewed anything that was remotely like a contemporary. What were you thinking sending me J.D. Robb, who I knew full well was just Nora Roberts under another name?  You assured me that it wasn't contemporary.  Well, yes, I suppose not.  It was set in 2050.  Not exactly contemporary, but hardly historical.  I thought you had taken leave of your senses.  But you rarely steer me wrong when it comes to books, so I thought I'd give it a try and then tell you that I wasn't interested. 

I gritted my teeth and read it.  Actually, I gritted my teeth and started to read it.  After about a chapter and a half, I stopped gritting and started devouring.  J. D. Robb had created some of the most immediately compelling characters I had ever read.  It was impossible for me not to be drawn in by Eve Dallas in all her strength and all her flaws.  Although she was not entirely likeable, she was entirely irresistable and her story was entirely addictive.  I flashed through that book and then read it again more slowly.  What the heck was I doing?  I don't like novels with graphic descriptions of crime, I didn't like romantic suspense set in the present (yes, yes, I know it's 2050; it still feels pretty contemporary).  And yet, I was hooked on Eve Dallas.


Naked In Death by J.D. Robb

Dear Myretta,

You know, I think I had taken leave of my senses.  I had taken part in an online review archival project where I saw (and read) more than 15 A-graded reviews for the In Death series.  I had a long rationalization session with myself (I often find myself agreeing with the Jeff Goldblum character from The Big Chill that rationalizations are more important than sex—“Ever gone a week without a rationalization?”) and got the first three books in the series from my local UBS store.  I devoured them in hours.  But, I didn't tell you about it.  You'd ask what I was reading and I'd mumble something about an historical I had been planning to read before I got the Robbs and change the subject, for the truth was too humiliating to reveal.  Eventually I fessed up and sent you the first three books in the series (I was, by this time, on book seven or eight) and urged you to try the first one.  But, I sent you three books, for I knew that if you liked the first, you'd have to read the next ones RIGHT NOW!

Eve Dallas is fascinating.  I don't know that I'd like her for a friend—she'd be a lot of work—but as a character, I was hooked.  But now, Roarke . . . Roarke riveted me.  Here's a gazillionaire who has everything in life he could ever want, but is totally blind-sided by this completely inappropriate woman.  There's something about a powerful man who is suddenly in doubt about what he wants in life and if he can get it.  And he kept in his pocket the button that had fallen off Eve's ugly suit during their first meeting.  How mush-inducing is that?



You were absolutely right to send me the first three books.  I had no sooner finished my second read-through of Naked in Death than I grabbed Glory in Death and inhaled that, followed immediately by Immortal in Death.  By the time I finished the third book, I knew that I would want to own these for rereading purposes and set out to buy them all. 

And Roarke!  Whew!  So close to being the perfect man while not being perfect at all.  And so quickly smitten with the prickly Eve.  I loved his head-long fall into love.  And I loved his total bemusement at wanting someone he shouldn't want.  But, once he came to terms with it: Bam!  That was it. He wanted Eve and he was going to get her.

But Eve was not going to make that easy (not for many, many books).  Her struggle was so much a part of her character.  Although we only get hints of her background in the early books, it's obvious that she is a severely damaged woman who feels she is incapable of human relationships, let alone love.  I think this inner battle is a large part of her appeal.  Over the course of the series, we are watching personal growth.  She's both aggravating and poignant.  I want to shake her and tell her to snap out of it and grab that wonderful man who wants to love her.  And I want to comfort her (if only she'd let me).  You're right: She would not be an easy friend.  But she'd be a stalwart one.


Glory In Death by J.D. Robb


The relationship between Eve and Roarke is the centerpiece of the series for me.  In most romances, the book ends with marriage, as if that is the end-all and be-all of a relationship, as if everything is going to be smooth sailing from here on out.  That is not the case with the In Death series. We get a front-row seat to an evolving marriage.  There are still surprises in store—who knew that had-more-brushes-with-the-law-than-he-cares-to-admit Roarke would get all hot and bothered by seeing Eve in her police dress uniform?  Or that tough-as-nails Eve is a sloppy, sappy drunk?  This reads like a real marriage, with real problems but also real love that we know will see them through.

But while these characters, this relationship is key, Robb has surrounded Eve and Roarke with a cast of secondary characters that charm or aggravate, delight or shock.  They all have their own character arc throughout the series and I love the glimpses into their lives.  There's the wild-child, party-girl best friend, Mavis; Eve's partner, Detective Peabody (sidenote: I've hooked my family on the series as well—I'm quite the proselytizer—and my brother has quite the crush on Peabody); and my favorite, Eve's former partner and father-figure, Captain Feeney.  Feeney is a classic New York–Irish cop.  He has a hang-dog face, constantly carries around a bag of sugared nuts to munch on, and is so proud of Eve, but god forbid that they should ever share their feelings with each other.

Who is your favorite secondary character?

To be continued . . .

Myretta Robens, Pemberley.com

Cheryl Sneed reviews for Rakehell.com

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Charli Mac
1. CharliMac
Umm, I may get shot for this. No, I will probably be hunted down, drawn, and quartered.

I couldn't get through two books of this series. I read In Death all the way through. I tried to read the second and skipped most of it.

In the first book I knew who the killer was pretty early on. The cookie cutter attraction and totally cliche way they come together had me rolling my eyes.

Roarke is sexy, I give you that but he reads like many in the genre, Eve too. There were phrases Robb used that me me vomit a little in my mouth, the cheese factor was that high.

Glory In Death, the crime did not interest me in the least. Then you have Roarke all mixed up in it again, like I didn't see that coming. Oh, and he saves her in the end. Wow. Shocker. Or maybe she saved him, can't remember.

I am so so so sorry but this series just didn't do it for me.

WHAT I DO LIKE is friends challenging us to read outside our comfort zone. My verra good friend writes tales of Highland Scotland. I never read the like and now anytime I speak of it I start typing typing in brogue! 'Tis a grand ting!
Laura K. Curtis
2. LauraKCurtis
I liked the early In Death books, but then I like police procedurals in general. And that's all they are, contemporary police procedurals with a few futuristic trappings and some sexy stuffs. Unfortunately, I think the series has gone on too long. I can't bring myself to read them anymore.
3. annfes
First, I hate suspense in romance. Two, I don't like futurism. Three, I don't even like historic romance. My theory is just, plain, old contemporary romance is unreal and fantastical enough.
4. EvangelineHolland
I tried book one a few years ago after hearing so many raves about this very long series, but Robb's voice just didn't connect with me (I can't get into Roberts either).
Lynn McDonald
5. meal6225
I love these books. I particularly enjoy the freedom to antagonize each other Eve and Sommerset indulge in. When is the next one due?
Myretta Robens
6. Myretta
@meal6225, I agree. Dallas and Sommerset are great. The next book(Treachery in Death) should be released next week. Go for it!
romance reader
7. bookstorecat
Just finished reading Naked in Death this morning. When I saw other people into Regency (my first love) getting into it, I thought I'd try it. I may or may not pick up the second book in the series.

CharliMac said: "In the first book I knew who the killer was pretty early on. The cookie cutter attraction and totally cliche way they come together ..."

Sorry, but I, too, found Naked to be a little predictable--and my mind kept wandering off and world-building. Imagining what this Future looked like was more engaging to me that the whole mysterious -gazillionaire-meets-tough-cop thing--or the actual crime solving.
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