Nora Roberts: Known for Romance, Pretty Darn Good at Fantasy, Too

Me too, Nora. Me too.
Me too, Nora. Me too.

So I’ve been reading a lot of Nora Roberts lately. Yeah, I’m totally late to that party.

I don’t even know how I got started. But I gravitate more to her more recent, mythological-based books than her typical romances. I’m totally her ideal audience for these books because most of her myths are based in Celtic legend, magic and religion and I lap that stuff right up.

The interesting thing to me is that I’ve seen several negative reviews (yes, even La Nora gets them, which perversely makes me feel better) that talk about how all of her mythological trilogies are the same. Some wonder if she has written too many books, is using a ghostwriter, or just doesn’t care anymore. Maybe those are true, but I don’t agree.

I have to admit that when I started my third series (The Key Trilogy), I saw strong similarities to her most recent series (the Guardians Trilogy), even before I read the negative reviews. But that is just in setup. Yes, most of them start with some dark magical or mythological force – a witch, demon, goddess, what have you – doing something evil that later requires a group of three or six mere mortals to band together to undo what said Big Bad did. But isn’t that a pretty common fantasy trope? Three and its multiples are sacred to the Celts, so the use of that number again and again isn’t that surprising; in fact, it’s highly appropriate. And yes, couples get together as the books progress, but that’s what makes them romance novels.

Anyway, I wanted to outline a few of her trilogies and show how I think they are different, which is hard given I don’t want to have spoilers. It won’t do anything to change the minds of those who have written her off, but it will make me feel better. J And it may inspire a few people to pick up some of her books they haven’t read yet.

Dark WitchThe Cousins O’Dwyer Trilogy – This was my introduction to Nora Roberts. I LOVE the mythology, which is based on a Celtic curse that carries down through the generations. The descriptions are breathtakingly beautiful and put you right in the middle of Ireland. The dialogue has just enough accent to it to make you believe (even in print) that the characters really are Irish. (Personally, I find that kind of writing takes skill.) I found it a fun, exciting read. I’m on the second book now. While I don’t like it as much as the first (not as much action), I love the characters (this one is focused on a different couple than the first) and I want to see how it all ends.

Stars of FortuneThe Guardians Trilogy – This is her newest series, with only Stars of Fortune on the market. This one is about three stars that fell to Earth and must not be allowed into the hands of an ancient, evil goddess. Six people are drawn together (literally and figuratively, as one draws her visions of the group before they meet) to hunt down the stars. The twist here is that each has something special about them, a power if you will, that makes them unique; together all of them form a unit capable of defending evil. I really, really loved this book – it’s tied with Key of Light of for favorite one so far. The second book, Bay of Sighs comes out this summer, and I’ve seen the third book listed as year-end in some places.

Key of LightThe Key Trilogy – More fairy tale than mythological, this series tells the stories of three ancient goddesses who were cursed by an evil spirit (that’s a lot like the one in the Cousins O’Dwyer Trilogy now that I think about it) to sleep Snow-White-like in a glass coffin, only it’s not their bodies, but their souls that are trapped. The twist on this book is how the three women who are fated to rescue them get involved. Unlike in some of the other series, they have no idea they are meant to do something special. They just show up for a dinner party at a creepy mansion one night and they are told they are the three. The fairy tale elements of this series are to me what sets it apart from (and above) some of the others. And I think I also feel the love between the characters more strongly in this series than in some of the others. I’m waiting for the audio of the second book in this series to come in at the library.

Morrigan's CrossThe Circle Trilogy – I haven’t read this one yet because my library doesn’t have them on audio and I don’t have time for a another print/ebook book at the moment. But from the back page copy, it appears to have something to do with the goddess Lilith and the goddess Morrigan. I can’t wait to see those two square off! Goddess cat-fight!

There are other trilogies in her HUGE oeuvre of work, but these are the ones I’m most familiar with. So yeah, they are similar, but if you love mythology, there are enough differences to keep you entertained. If I could go into more details, it would be clearer.

I haven’t read a lot of authors who have as many separate trilogies as Nora Roberts, but I can tell you there are a few whose books within a lengthy series (more than 10) where I’ve felt the books are very similar. I guess we all run the risk of repeating ourselves after a while, especially if something works for us or there’s a subject we’re passionate about. But I don’t feel like Nora’s books are formulaic (i.e. change the names, occupations, hair color and location and, voila, you have a new series), especially once you get past the setup. Maybe the negative reviews came from people who didn’t stick with the first book long enough. I dunno. I like them, and for me, that’s all that matters.

PS – I have decided that my goal is to become the Nora Roberts of historical fiction. I’m in no way aiming for 200+ books (that’s just insane), but I would like to be prolific (however that ends up defining itself), well-respected and successful. And I can do worse than taking a best-selling, 12-time-RITA-winning novelist as a role model. I’m hoping to attend the Mid-Atlantic Fiction Writers Institute (formerly the Nora Roberts Writing Institute) in 2017.

Have you read any of Nora Roberts’ books, especially the trilogies? What did you think? Are there any other fiction books based in Celtic myth that you’d recommend?

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7 thoughts on “Nora Roberts: Known for Romance, Pretty Darn Good at Fantasy, Too

  1. livrancourt

    I haven’t read much Nora (which should disqualify me from writing romance) but I’m thinking I should start with the top of your list and work my way down!
    😉

  2. Tessa

    I, too, had never read any Nora Roberts before I spied Dark Witch and the story sounded quite compelling so I bought it. Actually, I have all three of the Cousins O’Dwyer, but have yet to read past the first few chapters in the first book though I do aim to finish all three. I haven’t read much Celtic myth stories though I have high hopes for this one. I have also read Stars of Fortune. It felt disjointed to me and like it was trying too hard. I didn’t really connect with any of the characters. I kept thinking it is bound to get better. I’m not really sure what I would’ve wanted to see differently. I’ll try the second book in that trilogy when it comes out, but I’ll order it from the library instead of buying it. I haven’t read any of her other books so can’t comment on them.

    1. The second one in the Cousin’s trilogy is a little repetitive and slow, but still not too bad. It suffers from second book syndrome. But I bet the third will be better. I didn’t notice any disjointedness in Stars of Fortune, but that could just be that I was so in love with the story and the characters – although the one girl drove me crazy, I can’t think of her name, the weird one. You know who I mean.

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