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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Search by Nora Roberts

The Search by Nora Roberts
Publisher: Penguin
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (488 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 5 Books
Reviewed by Poppy

To most people, Fiona Bristow seems to have an idyllic life-a quaint house on an island off Seattle's coast, a thriving dog-training school, and a challenging volunteer job performing canine search and rescues. Not to mention her three intensely loyal Labs. But Fiona got to this point by surviving a nightmare...

Several years ago, Fiona was the only survivor of the Red Scarf serial killer, who shot and killed Fiona's cop fiancé and his K-9 partner.

On Orcas Island, Fiona found the peace and solitude she needed to rebuild her life. But all that changes on the day Simon Doyle barrels up her drive, desperate for her help. He's the reluctant owner of an out-of-control puppy, foisted upon him by his mother. Jaws has eaten through Simon's house, and he's at his wit's end.

To Fiona, Jaws is nothing she can't handle. Simon, however, is another matter. A newcomer to Orcas, he's a rugged and in-tensely private artist, known for the exquisite furniture he creates from wood. Simon never wanted a puppy-and he most definitely doesn't want a woman. Besides, the lanky redhead is not his type. But tell that to his hormones.

As Fiona embarks on training Jaws, and Simon begins to appreciate both dog and trainer, the past tears back into Fiona's life. A copycat killer has emerged out of the shadows, a man whose bloodlust has been channeled by a master with one motive: to reclaim the woman who slipped out of his hands...

This was one of the best books I’ve read in months – I wanted to read it every moment, thought about it when I couldn’t be reading, and have started it again because I was so sad to see it end.

I admit, I’m a sucker for dogs, so that lured me in to start with. But it was the characters and solid plot that kept me turning pages. I don’t know how Ms. Roberts does it, but her characters typically feel so real to me – with plenty of flaws, lots of attitude and more heart than any folks should have. The hero of The Search, Simon, is so far from perfect it’s humorous. He’s irritable, grouchy, intolerant of fools. He seldom says anything just plain nice, and couches any flattery with plenty of insult. That makes him sound annoying, but he’s not. He’s just a normal guy who’s used to being on his own, so when you throw in a new puppy and a sexy dog trainer who isn’t his type, he’s crankier than usual.

Fiona, owner of three search and rescue dogs, is a strong woman – almost TOO strong. She’s the sole survivor of a serial killer, a man who also killed her fiancĂ© and his K9 companion. Since that time, she’s made every effort to take care of herself, which occasionally leads her to exclude those who love her from things that are important in her life. This causes trouble between her and Simon as things begin to grow between them, especially when copycat murders start showing up and Fiona is directly threatened.

Though this is a mystery/suspense novel, there are so many fun moments that it keeps it from being an adrenaline-pumping, can’t-breathe-for-the-worry kind of book. The suspense tends to linger in the background for the most part, with the romance taking the forefront along with Fiona’s search and rescues assignments. I loved watching Simon with his puppy, Jaws, as they found their way together with Fiona’s help. I thoroughly enjoyed observing Simon and Fiona discover they like each other, much to the surprise of both of them. Neither wants a relationship, and they aren’t each other’s type in any way. Yet... the attraction is there, as well as the enjoyment in mutual time spent together.

I can’t say enough good things about the dog aspect of this story either. Though non-dog lovers and owners will assuredly enjoy this book, those of us who do enjoy canine companionship will find this book even more enjoyable. I smiled, laughed, and even occasionally snorted at the troubles Jaws got into. He’s such a classic puppy, a loveable trouble-maker, I couldn’t help but be charmed (and also be glad my four-footed family members are all well past that stage).

The love story is delightful as well, full of as many problems as sweet moments and with such a perfect ending that my heart couldn’t help but sigh. Add in a memorable and delightful cast of secondary characters, and what you have is a favorite of Nora Roberts' books to date. This will be a novel that I read until it falls apart at which point I’ll buy another copy and start all over again. I’d be surprised if you didn’t feel the same.