Author: Nora Roberts
Nora Roberts is a prolific writer. As such, she is known for a certain predictability, if not being formulaic in her writing style. Her ardent fans like this about her style. I have enjoyed a few of her books over the years, but haven’t necessarily sought them out. The Obsession was not at all what I expected from Roberts. Like so many of her other books, The Obsession was not just a story of an empowered woman looking to build a new life after some kind of insert-male-oppression-here and stumbles upon a trust-worthy love. While it had those elements, The Obsession felt different in a fresh way for Roberts.
Told in sections, the writing is surprisingly intimate. While it does have some predictability, I figured out “who done it” about two-thirds of the way through, I enjoyed the metered pacing. The addition of a murder mystery subplot dispelled the contrived feeling that can come from contemporary romance where they have to kiss by page “this” and be a couple by page “that.” Rather, the story unfolded in a cautious, true-to-life amble that lets intimacy build, even sneaking up on main characters Naomi Bowes and Xander Keaton. I loved that Roberts even paused to give us that moment when they each knew they were in love with the other.
The first section is a true departure for Roberts and sucked me in immediately. It begins with an eleven year old Naomi, dreaming of the bicycle she hopes will be her birthday present. On this hot, sticky summer night she wakens early, willing a breeze to break up the heat. With her face to the window and unable to go back to sleep, she spies her father going into the woods with a flashlight. She follows, hoping for a glimpse at the bike that maybe he has stashed somewhere to keep it a secret. What she finds is not a dream bicycle, it is the reality that her father is one of the most notorious serial killer/rapists of all time. Naomi’s experiences, as they’re unfolded to us, step by step through the woods, felt real. The daze she’s in while she reacts to what she finds felt real. By the end of section one, I had to finish the book.
The obvious next question for Naomi is what now? She begins to question everything she thought she knew. How does a twelve year old girl move forward, forge a life for herself, while being forever associated with a psychopath? Is she somehow broken because she shares DNA with a killer? Naomi copes by changing her name and always being on the road. As a freelance photographer, she can work anywhere and does just that. Unable to trust, she’s always ready to pick up and go rather than face the looks and questions born of morbid curiosity that come when people get close to the truth.
In a later section, Naomi finally finds a place, on the opposite side of the country from her West Virginia roots, which feels like it could be home. She takes on the rejuvenation of an old bed and breakfast, on the bluff overlooking a river canyon in imaginary Sunrise Cove, Washington State. Although the house is isolated, the homey small town begins to weave its way into her life, into her heart, and into the reader’s as she hires tradesmen. I wanted to go antiquing with Naomi, eat breakfast on her porch, and listen to Xander’s band on a Friday night. Xander, of course, is her love interest. While their relationship starts out with a mutual lust, neither acts upon it. Xander pushes, but never too hard, until Naomi is ready to take a risk. What follows is an ebb and flow of small town life while trust and a legitimate relationship builds between them. That is until a woman goes missing. Suddenly, the reality of who Naomi is comes home to roost when a copycat murderer begins to close in on Sunrise Cove, threatening to destroy the sanctuary she’s finally found.
I wish the mystery of the suspense subplot was better integrated earlier in the story. I think there could have been some subtle foreshadowing instead of piling it up at the end. Whatever The Obession lacks in being predictable, it makes up for with a satisfying ending.
“She stood in the deep, dark woods, breath shallow and cold prickling over her skin despite the hot, heavy air. She took a step back, then two, as the urge to run fell over her.”
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.
Release Date: April 12, 2016
Genre: Contemporary Thriller/Romance
Format(s): hardcover (464 pages), e-book, audiobook
Book Source: Publisher