The Obsession was my first Nora Roberts read and while it’s not going to be my last, I have complicated feelings with this one. But first – synopsis time!
“Naomi Bowes lost her innocence the night she followed her father into the woods. In freeing the girl trapped in the root cellar, Naomi revealed the horrible extent of her father’s crimes and made him infamous. No matter how close she gets to happiness, she can’t outrun the sins of Thomas David Bowes.
Now a successful photographer living under the name Naomi Carson, she has found a place that calls to her, a rambling old house in need of repair, thousands of miles away from everything she’s ever known. Naomi wants to embrace the solitude, but the kindly residents of Sunrise Cove keep forcing her to open up—especially the determined Xander Keaton.
Naomi can feel her defenses failing, and knows that the connection her new life offers is something she’s always secretly craved. But the sins of her father can become an obsession, and, as she’s learned time and again, her past is never more than a nightmare away. “
The first thing that struck me about this book is how beautifully Roberts writes. The imagery was vivid and the characters had unique voices and I cared about the heroine and her family. I appreciated the way Roberts depicted the viciousness of the crimes committed without it turning into something gratuitous for the sake of gratuity. I never felt like it was being used for shock factor. Granted, I say this as someone who listens to a lot of true crime podcasts so please do consider the trigger warnings listed below before picking this one up. Now onto the complicated parts.
The pacing was rough. It starts off with a bang and there’s a pretty steady flow for awhile. I echo many other reviews in citing the start of the trouble being when we catch up to grown up Naomi who is remodeling a house she bought. We go through many little mini trips to antique stores and paint swatch contemplations and furniture shopping and I kept waiting for any of those moments to have an impact on the story… without the payoff. I believe some of it is to give us a sense of the way she begins to bond with the characters and perhaps to lull us into a false sense of safety that the heroine herself experiences, but there was just so much of it that it grew tedious. There were times I felt as though I were overhearing shop talk and wished I could wander off to someplace more interesting.
I predicted the killer but I didn’t mind that too terribly much. I felt the justification or reasoning behind the killer was a little weak but not impossible by any means. I appreciated that the dog (spoiler) does not die but could have done without the melodramatic and completely unrealistic scene involving him towards the end. I felt that the brother’s career was a bit of a stretch, considering his age, but I’m not an expert on criminal forensics or the FBI or anything like that. My biggest issue with the book, and the reason I nearly DNF’d, is a consistent one for me and romance novels.
I hated the hero.
He was arrogant and Cool(tm) and abrasive. His supposed “tough love” struck me more like cruel invalidation. I didn’t like his persistence in pursuing her despite acknowledging that she was intentionally placing barriers. His insistence that he was justified because he could tell she wanted him holds no water with me because she said no and that should be the end of it until/unless she indicates otherwise. I’ve never believed “I can tell you want me” is a meaningful justification or excuse for pursuing someone. Their first interaction set the scene and their first kiss continued the theme of Hot Cool Dude Gets What He Wants Because You Want Him And He Knows It. I don’t mind an assertive guy. I don’t even mind one who might be a little emotionally clueless. But I just did not like him no matter how hard I tried and did not want them together.
Like I said, I intend to read more Nora Roberts in the future because her catalogue is immense and part of my dislike may just be that romantic thriller is a new subgenre for me. I’d like to give both another shot.
Trigger warnings: Rape, depictions of torture, wounded animal, suicide