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...I read The Search by Nora Roberts when it first released back in July and it has taken me a long time to write the review, it kind of fell through the cracks. So instead of writing a summary of the book and events, I'm just going to write down my thoughts.
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...
Simon is rude, direct and honest. I think those three words best describe Simon, except to that you add a dry sense of humor with a grouchy, grumpy exterior and you have the whole deal. I love the fact that Simon wins Fiona without having to use charm. He attempts to be domineering, but is willing to compromise when necessary and knows his faults.
Fiona is a strong, self-sufficient and loving female character. With her, it's all about the personality not the looks. Her insight comes from her deep understanding of animals or dogs in particular, a gift. When we meet Fiona she has already experienced personal growth through grief, loss and trauma, however new circumstances bring Fiona a new understanding, healing and finally freedom from those earlier experiences. She isn't intimidated by Simon's rudeness or grumpy exterior and wins him over with her self-confidence, direct manner, sense of humor and gift for understanding. I always enjoy this type of female protagonist in a contemporary romance, so this was a treat for me.
The dialogue is excellent, especially the give and take and interactions between Simon and Fiona. Simon tells Fiona she is not "his type" but keeps coming back for more, and Fee doesn't really care if she's not his type, she just laughs at him. Their scenes together are some of the best in the book and there are enough of them to justify the "romance" in the "romance suspense" label. These two make a great couple.
And what can I say? I love, love, love the developing relationship between Simon and his puppy Jaws from beginning to end... those are some of the best and funniest scenes. The dogs turn out to be the best secondary characters of the story -- don't they always steal the show? I particularly like the way Roberts uses the dog training to focus and develop the romance.
The suspense is well integrated into the story and I think that the development as well as the outcome makes sense. The whole suspense part of it is mostly about Fee healing and freeing herself from the past trauma and finding the strength to deal with the present. The situation with the search for the villain and figuring it all out definitely kept me interested. The climax to the suspense part is not action packed, but more or less expected. In this case, it worked quite well.
The research for this book is excellent, a Nora Roberts trademark. Fee's dog training and canine search and rescue scenes are quite detailed and extensive in parts. Although I enjoyed the scenes with Jaws and Fee's dogs, there's no question that my one quibble is the amount of dog training scenes included which, in my opinion, make the book a longer read than necessary.
There is excellent balance between the romance and suspense in The Search. I really enjoyed Roberts' last book, Black Hills, but enjoyed this one more and I think that's due mainly to that balance as well as to Fee and Simon's personalities. I loved the dogs as secondary characters and the way Roberts used dog training scenes to focus on and develop the romance, but think that those same details were too extensive at times making this an unnecessarily long read. The suspense made sense to me and I liked that the story didn't end with big drama but well enough taken into consideration the villain's nature and needs.
Category: Romance Suspense
Release Date: July 6, 2010
Grade: Solid B
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