May 12 2011 5:06pm

Blast Off: Delving into the Nora Roberts Canon

Midnight Bayou by Nora RobertsHave you read every book by Nora Roberts? (A quick Google query of “how many books has Nora Roberts written?” returns with more than 200...and obviously counting!). If you have read them all, my hat is off to you, because that is seriously impressive.

I, for one, have just barely scraped the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Nora Roberts books. And while I've enjoyed nearly all the Roberts books that I’ve read, there are some that draw me back for repeated enjoyment.

Midnight Bayou

Who doesn’t love a good ghost story? Quite honestly, the first time I read this book, parts of it scared the heck out of me. Not that the book is particularly scary, but sometimes my imagination doesn’t need much to be led down frightening paths: Murdered wives, cursed and/or haunted houses, ghosts with an agenda? Yeah, that can freak me out. I could just imagine being in that house, alone, with rooms I was too afraid to enter. Doors opening and closing, water running, and the “cold chill” factor only increase the likelihood that I wouldn’t have made it past the first night. For me, the ghost story was the star of this show, even though I did enjoy the romance between Declan and Lena. There were times when she got on my very last nerve with her stubbornness.  I never really felt like she had a reason for behaving the way she did. But the rest of the book was so compelling, however, it overcame my usual heroine problem. As a person who has only been a visitor to New Orleans, I can’t say if Roberts truly captured the feel of someone living in the place. It felt like what I saw there as a visitor, though. One of my favorites.

Face the Fire by Nora RobertsThe Three Sisters Trilogy

Again with the supernatural? Yes. Yes, I love the supernatural. I started out on fantasy fiction, so the supernatural is my natural instinct. Give me a prophecy, some evil and I’m good. Throw in a quest, and I may be yours for life! Face the Fire is my favorite of the trilogy, but all three books bring the romance. The premise reminded me of Jennifer Roberson’s shapechanger series, in that each link of the prophecy chain involved romantic matches being made. IThe fate of the world literally rests on love connections in this series. What could be more awesome than that?

Chesapeake Bay series

I actually started this series at the end, with Chesapeake Blue, and once I finished it, I knew I had to go back and read the first three titles. It was also my first foray (I think) into family series in romance. Oh, sure, they’d existed long before I discovered them, but this was the first time they came on my radar. It was the first time I’d realized that even if you like one of the books in a series, it isn’t complete until you’ve read them all. My favorite book of this series is Rising Tides, which makes me cry every time I read it. (That’s a good thing!)

Next on the Nora list for me to read are the Wedding Quartet books. What are your favorite Nora Roberts books?


Robin Bradford is a lawyer, a librarian and, most importantly, a Nora Roberts novice. You can check her out on Twitter @tuphlos, On Unpaged, or on the new blog Collection Reflection

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Louise Partain
1. Louise321
I'm ashamed to say that I have never read Ms. Roberts before. Is Midnight Bayou the place to start?
Kelly Rivers
2. Kelly Rivers
I have read all of Nora's books. :) I own most of 'em. :) My favorite, for years now, has been Honest Illusions. There's just something about the chemistry and the literal magic. I wrote a graduate paper on the Dream trilogy, though, so those too have a warm place in my heart.
Karen Cherubino
4. kcherubtx
Like Kelly, I have read all of Nora's books and own most of them. It is so difficult to pick a favorite because they all are fantastic, but I'm going to go with The Bride Quartet. There was just something about this series that got to me and I cried at the end - just because I knew there wasn't going to be anymore! Oh, and I have read and own all of her JD Robb books, too.
Kelly Rivers
5. LWW
I have read a ton of Ms Roberts books, and I must say there are two places I would pick to start. For her more modern work, the Bride Quartet was wonderful. For 'classic' work, you should really check out the MacGregor series, starting with The MacGregor Brides. If I'm not mistaken one of the brides, Julia, was so popular at the time you could mail order her as a doll :D
Kelly Rivers
6. Syl
I've read nearly all her books. Used to own many, many dozen, but donated them in complete series to a literacy campaign book sale -- the lady burst into tears when she opened the boxes and saw the Nora Roberts books. "THOSE will sell!" I like her Time duo -- sold together as Time and Again, or separately as Time Was and Times Change. Local Hero's my all-time favorite of hers.
Myretta Robens
7. Myretta
I like her Irish Trilogies: the Born In and Gallaghers of Ardmore series as well as The Chesapeake Bay Saga, and the In the Garden trilogy. But for me it all started with J.D. Robb (and will probably end there).
Kelly Rivers
8. ReaderCarolyn
As far as I know, I've read them all. I'm a big fan of supernatural elements, too, Robin. Since he sees me with another one in my hand so often, my husband is convinced she has a sweat shop somewhere with authors typing out stories. Maybe because she is so prolific, I've noticed a certain cadence/phrasing that her characters get into that's so typically Nora Roberts. Sometimes it really pulls me out of the work, which is a shame because she really is a wonderful storyteller. I haven't gone back to re-read her older books to see if I've noticed it, but I've definately seen it in the ones from the last few years. I think she's someone I could always re-read, though.
Charli Mac
9. CharliMac
I read 2 of the 4 Chesapeake Bay series. I enjoyed them but didn't feel compelled to read them all. I read Sea Swept then Rising Tides. They were in the dollar bin at a yard sale. The 2nd and 4th weren't there.

I read a few stand alones that I was not at all impressed with. It was the same exact story, all three of them. Just change setting, the character's names and physical descriptions (their personalities are practically carbon copies). Hidden Riches, Black Hills, Montana Sky, and Sanctuary.

Here is the plot:

Beautiful, independent, stubborn, yet vulnerable woman, has no luck at love and has a bady guy chasing her with intent to kill.

Gorgeous Hunk who happens to meet or get reunited with said beauty. Sparks fly, both resist and fail.

Said bad guy keeps stalking the beauty, thus keeping the hot guy in close proximity.

Something big happens to keep couple apart. Thus leaving an opportunity for bad guy to pounce.

Bad guy pounces.

Hot guy saves the day.

Hot sex scene.

The end.

Now, in some novels we get secondary love plots but the above is always the main story.

With the Sea Swept books its about the family and the bad guy is a girl. She's not trying to kill anyone, just get rich.

I read the first two of the In Death series and did not feel compelled to pick up another. I actually threw the second across the room.

To each his own.
Kelly Rivers
10. ms bookjunkie
I haven't quite read all of La Nora's books—I'm still missing some of her categories—but I'm doing my best to fill in the blanks. (I also haven't read her newest—I wait for the mmpb.)

My all-time favorite of hers is CARNAL INNOCENCE. How do I know? It's the one I reach for most often when it's time to reread.
Alie V
11. ophelial
I own at least half of Nora's backlist, she's one of my favourites. My top picks for newbies would be:

Face the Fire
Any of her Ireland trilogies
Dream trilogy
Montana Sky
Red Lily
The Villa
Three Fates
The Reef

I could go on and on. Great storyteller.
Carmen Pinzon
12. bungluna
I think I've read every book by this author except some of her '90s stand-alones. My favorite stand-alone NR is "Northern Lights". My favorite contemporary romance series is the Brides Quartet. I also loved the MacGregor series and own all the original ones. The O'Hurleys were certainly interesting. There're just so many good reads in her back list!

While I don't always like her heroines, I love Ms. Robert's way with a hero and male characters in genera. As for the Death series, I love it and own all of it in hb.

She's that rare creature, a consistently readable author.
Louise Partain
13. Louise321
@CharliMac -- that is what I was afraid of and why I have held off reading her for so long. I used to read Barbara Cartland when I was very young --same concept different story formula and before that Agatha Christie -- again same concept different story formula and before that Carolyn Keene -- same concept and so lame a story formula that anyone could write a Nancy Drew and did.
Nowdays, I long for complexities to swirl around my brain and cause me to suspend disbelief rather than dissect the plot, the goals, and what each character will do in any given situation with ease. With age, it gets harder to find such authors and such books so I treasure them when I find them.
Beret Brenckman
14. BeretBrenckman
I love Nora. She's my favoite comfort author. I've always argued that
her characters were people I'd like to have as friends! I own every NR
except Gabriel's Angel. (Hint..husband...hint) Her 1990's stand alones
were great and I'd definitely recommend them. Public Secrets, Honest
Illusions, Divine Evil and my fav. Carnal Innocence!
Kelly Rivers
15. ChristinaRae
Yes, she's formulaic, but holy hell she writes good men! And the way she makes you see her settings, Ireland, especially, just kills me :) I agree, she's totally a comfort read for me.

I started the ...In Deaths years ago, but they didn't grab me so much. I should try them again.
Robin Bradford
16. RobinBradford
You are all full of awesome! Thanks so much for the comments/suggestions.

@CharliMac I've heard this pretty consistently from people. But, I wonder if that happens with most people who writes so many books? I don't know. I also couldn't get into the In Death books. I can't get through book 1 and haven't tried any others.

Man, the people who have read every one, you have my admiration! That is quite a feat. I hear a lot of people rec the Born In books, but I haven't read those. I've read a few other standalones from her and mostly liked them. Glad I picked the Bridal quartet for my next Nora journey. Most people seem to love those.
Kelly Rivers
17. SillyJaime @ Jaime 2.0
My favorites are the Three Sisters Island series and the Gallaghers of Ardmore series. Also the Irish Heart series.
Louise Partain
18. Louise321
Okay so I got Night Shield and Public Secrets. I'm hooked!
Kelly Rivers
19. MaryC
I've been reading Nora since she wrote for Harlequin and have most of her books. Choosing a favorite is difficult to do. In her latest two, The Search and Chasing Fire, one learns more about search and rescue operations and fire jumpers - very interesting.

I love the In Death series and the way the characters continue to grow.
Kiersten Hallie Krum
20. Kiersten
Honest Illusions (New Orleans thieves), True Betryals (Kentucky horse-racing & ex-con/innocent mother), Hidden Riches (yay, Philadelphia! & Antiques!) Public Secrets (I swear she based the rock stars in this one on The Stones) - these 90s stand alones are not to be missed. Also, Montana Sky (ranching in Montana+3 sisters w/different mothers) has to top any NR list. O'Hurleys & the Born Ins are so great with they're family dynamics and the Irish. But the Chesapeake Bay series is my absolute favorite family series. And the In Death series is so good (esp 1st 6 to 8 of them - amazing)

Does she carry through the same basic character blocks in her books? Definitely. And yeah, it begins to wear sometimes. I'd be lying if I said that I had the same fervor for her new releases as I do (still!) for the ones listed here. Every author has there hallmarks (Crusie characters always build families from their friends, not their relations, for example.) That's why we read/love them. That's why it's so exciting to find someone new!

Also, like with Crusie, I learn(ed) so much about writing, particularly character journeys and plotting, from NR (tho I'm convinced she's the only one who can get away with all that headhopping). I wouldn't trade any one of the hours, days, weeks, years!, I've spent in the company of her books.
Kelly Rivers
21. Pansies
I agree that NR's books get formuleric after a while. I usually read a few books, put them down and leave off her books for a while. I was into the In Death series for a while and then got quite sick of them. I would say the Bride quartet seems to be my favourite thus far although her double novel Remember When is a close second.
Louise Partain
22. Louise321
Went ahead and got the Circle trilogy. Anyone read it? First few chapters of first book are a whole lot different from the Night Shield, Night Moves and Public Secrets titles I just finished.

Nora Roberts wrote about vampyres?
Tonya Dull
23. Lupielupa
I would like to say that I'm so happy to find a place to talk about all the different books I love, not just one type or a single author. I know I haven't read all NR books, but I've read most of them. There are so many note-worthy titles, but I have recently read and reread Chasing Fire. LOVED IT! I don't like to break the books down to basic parts. I just read the book and try to enjoy the story. I try not to compare different books by the same author. NR has written too many books not to have some overlap. Love ...In Death.
24. lombardo
I read some of Nora Roberts books and enjoyed all of them. What i like the most were the trilogies especially the Three Fates, the Circle and the Hollows with their supernatural stories
Kelly Rivers
25. dnly09
Sweet Revenge...nostalgia. I am proud to say that I own ALL( including J.D. Robb's)...with the exception of one, can't recall because it was written under a pen name, which you'll find somewhere on her website pretty much stating; No, Never ever : ) LORD help me since ebook platforms were created! I am seriously thinking of converting ALL into ebook editions. I know...scary : (
Kelly Rivers
26. RC
I have read (and own) all of Nora Roberts books that she has written as Nora Roberts. I have not read any of the J.D. Robb books but they are on my to read list. I have been a long time fan. Her books were the first romance novels I read (we won't say how long ago). What I love about her books...she writes both stand-alone novels and trilogies or short series. Loved the Key Trilogy. One of my Favorites. @dnly09..I have been thinging of converting to ebooks too. It is a bit overwhelming though since she has written so many.
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