Review: Night Shift/Night Shadow — Nora Roberts

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To Go: 63

Book List
31. Mercy — Jodi Picoult
32. Never Let Me Go — Kazuo Ishiguro
33. The Book of Spells — Kate Brian
34. William and Kate: A Royal Love Story — Christopher Andersen
35. Worth The Risk — Nora Roberts
36. Night Shift — Nora Roberts
37. Night Shadow — Nora Roberts

I was totally going to count this omnibus (the first of three under the same title — Night Tales) as one book, but it was almost 500 pages (making the two stories roughly 250 a piece), took me over two days to read, and was filled with utter filth. I deserve to add two books to my total, not just one. However, I’ll do one mega-review for both stories.

Disclaimer: it’s about to get ranty up in here. Roughly 1700 words.

In Night Shift, the first of the two stories, late night radio persona Cilla O’Roarke is threatened by a mystery caller. Though, given her profession, she’s used to wackos, her caller doesn’t let up, and her boss seeks help in the form of Boyd Fletcher and his partner Althea. Though tasked to protect Cilla, Boyd quickly becomes conflicted when his interest in the case turns personal.

I think I can safely say that I’ve never come across a more infuriating piece of literature. Roberts sets up the dynamic between Cilla and Boyd to be that of forbidden sexual tension, but if there’s any tension there it’s because he’s an aggressive force of nature who refuses to back down, even though Cilla indicates time and time again that she is not interested. In perhaps one of the most disturbing parts of the story (unfortunately for Roberts it was very early on, and left a bitter taste in my mouth), after Cilla receives one of her mystery calls, Boyd attempts to bully her into leaving the station early by getting her into a corner and staring her down. When she, naturally, asks him to “stop crowding [her],” his response is, “I haven’t begun to crowd you, O’Roarke.” After she indicates that she’s not to be threatened, the narration indicates that, inexplicably, “[Boyd] wanted to strangle her for that” (Roberts 54).

Boyd leans towards violence time and time again throughout the story, and though he almost never acts on it, the threat is there. And isn’t it just great for Cilla that the man who’s supposed to be protecting her is almost more aggressive than the person she’s being protected from. If it’s any indication, on page 150 Boyd laments that “He was in love with her, damn it. And if she was too stupid to see that, then he’d just have to beat her over the head with it.”

Whether that was just a poor choice of words on Roberts’s part, or a real threat, Boyd Fletcher is hardly a gem. When the narration focuses on him, his thoughts read like that of an abuser. He alternates between using physical force on Cilla to get his way (or envisioning doing such), ordering her around (he’s always telling her not to pace, when she should take a breath, that she’s not allowed to have any more coffee), and informing her that he knows what she’s thinking and feeling better than she does. I’ll leave the latter for now, and come back to it later.

As well as reading like an abuser, Boyd happens to perpetrate almost every single existing stereotype of the “macho” man, and tries his best to cram Cilla into some 1950s housewife mould; the best example I can offer of this is when he discourages her from thinking on page 173 when, enraged, he explodes, “I’m damn tired of you thinking.” In the context of the story, this lovely little bubble of Fletcher-wisdom comes when Cilla tells him that marriage isn’t realistic because they’ve only known each other for a matter of weeks.

WEEKS.

Better yet, when Cilla declines his proposal (good girl!) because she isn’t going to marry anyone, Boyd says, “Sure you are…You just have to get used to the fact that it’s going to be me” (173).

Who is this jerk to tell her what she’s going to do? And why does she have to “get used” to it? She doesn’t have to get used to anything! This was about the time that, enraged, I began to beat my head against the wall.

Boyd then decides to take this hokey marriage business a step further and, near the end of the novel, inform his parents, sister, and other friends that he will be marrying Cilla. Forget the fact that she never said yes. In fact, she said no quite vehemently. Several times. Explicitly. There was no room for miscommunication. And then the poor girl has to deal with various friends and family members of Boyd Fletcher coming to talk to her about how wonderful Boyd thinks they are together, and how they can’t wait for the wedding.

Seriously. What in God’s name is supposed to be romantic about having all of your choices taken away from you because your man apparently knows best. He knows how you think and feel better than you do; he knows that you shouldn’t have any more coffee because it’s bad for you — and guess what, he’s banning your right to have it; he knows it’s better that you avoid thinking, because that’s an unnecessary nuisance; he knows the best way to get you to do what he says is to manhandle you and push you around until you give up.

The entire volume was like witnessing a slightly watered down version of domestic abuse. It was disgusting, it was sickening, and it made abuse excusable.

(For the record, I cheered when Cilla’s attacker stabbed Boyd in the chest. I was really, really hoping he’d die.)

Night Shadow follows Cilla’s younger sister, Deborah, years after her sister marries psycho-Boyd. “Darling Deb,” as the Urbana newspapers call her, is the star A.D.A with an excellent track record for putting the bad guys away. Set in her goody two-shoes ways, Deb isn’t a fan of the city’s very own masked vigilante — Nemesis — until he saves her life. Suddenly he’s popping up everywhere she is, and her newfound affection for him only complicates her burgeoning romance with hot-shot businessman Gage Guthrie.

I didn’t hate it that much. But considering that I read Night Shift first, anything that came afterwards was going to look comparatively better. I enjoyed the majority of the first half of the novel, and then Gage went just as psycho as Boyd, so I was forced to hate him.

Though, as mentioned above, I was completely enthralled with the first half of the novel, it did start with a healthy dose of victim blaming. After being saved from an inevitable rape-and-murder in the wrong side of town, the conversation between Deb and her masked crusader goes like so:

“What kind of a fool are you?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“This is the sewer of the city. You don’t belong here. No one with brains comes here unless they have no choice.”
Her temper inched upwards, but she controlled it. He had, after all, helped her. “I had business here.”
“No,” he corrected. “You have no business here, unless you choose to be raped and murdered in an alley.” (Roberts 253)

That has got to be the most explicit victim blaming (aside from the infamous “if you don’t want to get raped, don’t dress like sluts”) I’ve ever come across. How is Deb choosing to get raped, exactly? By choosing to be a strong woman, by walking the streets without fear, by attending to her job, as was necessary? Why is she to blame for someone else’s actions?

No. Just no.

As for Gage, just as I was starting to like him, he had to go and make me change my mind. When he and Deb discover that their loins burn for one another, Deb insists on taking it slow. Gage’s response is, in a fashion typical of almost all Roberts’s male protagonists, to utter such conversational gems as “You will belong to me” (328). He also informs Deb that he “may have to” pressure her into a relationship (341). His loins, they can’t take the wait!

But how disgusting! What right does he have to pressure her? And how are readers finding this romantic, much less acceptable?

Like psycho-Boyd, Gage also sees to it that his woman is as boxed in as possible — though this time, he uses his money and power to take away her career options. Under the pretence of caring for her safety, he sees to it that she has to fight to be put back on a case she’s been championing since its discovery. She found all the leads, she interrogated all the witnesses, but Gage talks to the right people and almost has her fighting for her right to perform a job that he has nothing to do with.

Oh, not to mention that when she goes to his house castle to yell at him, he “pushed a button under the desk and had the locks snap into place” (371). He locked her in a room! He trapped her inside to force her to hear his twisted side of things.

Naturally, with the door locked, barring Deb’s exit, Gage informs her of his undying love for her, because that totally justifies everything. Yeah, that makes all of his actions so much better. (Well, apparently for Deborah it does.)

And even though she was red with anger before, Deb blindly accepts Gage’s statement that “I won’t let you go the next time” (373). What is that supposed to mean? To me, it sounds like reason to call the cops!

Suffice it to say that I didn’t enjoy? I would not wish this book on my worst enemy.

On a lighter note, I plan to start tallies during my forays into the next three Nora Roberts novels on my shelf: one tally dedicated to the amount of times characters use a phrase with the following structure:

“Damn it, [person], [they/you] [unacceptable action here]!”

The second tally is for the amount of times characters use the phrase “you’ll just have to get used to it.” I might just enjoy the read so much more!

Next book: the second volume of Night Tales. God help me.

– Kelsey

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6 thoughts on “Review: Night Shift/Night Shadow — Nora Roberts

  1. YES!! THAT!!!

    All of it and thank you! A man who would be considered a scary psycho abusive stalker if you ran into him in real life is consistently portrayed as irresistible. All he has to do is threaten to force her to love him/bed him/obey him and the idiotic female falls madly in love. It’s a fantasy, of course, and millions of women enjoy it since they buy this stuff, and all I’ve ever been able to come up with is that the woman is the irresistible one and she’s driving Psycho Dude into this kind of behavior because he can’t help himself. That’s my charitable analysis. They never write Act Two where the woman gets sick of Mr Bossy and tells him she’ll drink coffee if she damn well feels like it and to get over himself. Maybe because he would either kill her or whine, and neither one of those choices is very appealing.

    • Exactly! Or, I mean, if she doesn’t immediately fall in love with him, she tries to get away from him and he just doesn’t let her. God, that’s appealing (sarcasm, obvs). I’d have to say your conclusion is correct, because in almost every book I’ve read by this author/that is in this genre, the female lead has considerably more attractive personality traits than her partner, psycho-Bob, which are the things that draw him to her.

      I’d LOVE to see Act Two, because all these poor fictional women deserve the opportunity to stand up for themselves! (Not to mention that it would be the first satisfying ending I’ve read in a while.)

      Thanks for reading and commenting, SB! =]

  2. In response to the Act Two that should absolutely be written, I read this book one time where this woman married this man because he was rich, powerful, and very much like the douchebag twins up there. She finally leaves him when she finds out his loins burn for someone else, and all she can tell her daughter is “I *missed* him!” The daughter tries to tell her it’s okay, she didn’t know what a jerk he was and missing him was okay for her to miss him. She goes “No. I was chasing him out throwing those damn Slim Fast cans (he was obsessed with drinking the stuff) at him and I didn’t hit him once!”

    This scene should be worked in.

    Also…I just don’t understand. I know I’ve told you all this already, but it’s silliness. It’s just silliness.

    • Hahahah that’s so clever! What book is this? And it should be worked in!

      Me neither, Mara. It really is just silliness (irritating, offensive silliness, but silliness nonetheless).

  3. The book was This Summer by Sarah Dessen. =) I was a huge Sarah Dessen fan in high school, so it may be cheesier than I remember, but it was a good read.

  4. Pingback: Review: Blithe Images — Nora Roberts | The Independent Review

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