Review: Nightshade/Night Smoke — Nora Roberts

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To Go: 61

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
38. Nightshade — Nora Roberts
39.  Night Smoke — Nora Roberts

“Damn it” counter: A less-than-satisfactory five. I expected better!
“You’ll have to get used to it” counter: An embarrassing zero. I really am disappointed.

Again, I’m reviewing the two stories separately, in one post, but counting both towards my total instead of cramming them into one. If I’m going to force myself to read this crap, I should get a little something extra out of it.

In Nightshade, the first volume, Boyd Fletcher’s former partner, Althea Grayson, is forced to team up with hot-headed jack-of-all-trades Colt Nightshade on a mission to take down a prostitution ring/”movie”-making company when it endangers the life of someone close to Colt’s heart. Though Grayson and Nightshade don’t see eye-to-eye, they’re soon forced to admit that a strong attraction burns between them.

Firstly, I’d like to point out with some amusement how awful the last name “Nightshade” is; it sounds like something from a bad soap opera (which is becoming a theme with these books), and every time I read it I couldn’t help giggling to myself. I have to wonder if Colt was given that surname just to fit the series’ naming theme.

As predicted, Colt Nightshade (obligatory tittering here) was a less-than-heroic lead male; if this is any indication, he was announced as being very close friends with Boyd “I’m teetering on the brink of insanity” Fletcher. Warning bells immediately sounded in my head. And for good reason.

Upon finding out that the lovely and intelligent Althea Grayson would be his partner on the mission, Colt’s reaction is hostile with a heaping side of sexist. Finally, he concedes that “If a man had to have a partner, she might as well be easy on the eyes,” adding also that “As far as Lieutenant Grayson was concerned, Colt figured she’d be decorative, marginally helpful, and little else…The badge, the bod, and the sarcasm would probably be useful when it came to interviewing any possible connections” (Roberts 30).

Gee, how generous of him to give her so much credit. Because, of course, a female cop will be completely useless as a partner, aside from being “decorative” because she’s pretty and has a rockin’ bod.

Just like Boyd, Colt tends towards physical violence, especially with his romantic interests (oh, take me now). During a stake-out in the earlier chapters of the book, Colt becomes frustrated for having to sit so long with no action; an argument with Althea ensues, and when she sarcastically informs him that she “can hardly speak for the ball of terror in [her] throat,” Colt lunges across the seat and grabs her by the shoulders, insisting that “I ought to be able to put the fear of God into you, Thea” (53).

Though Grayson remains unruffled (much to my pleasure, as I do love a strong female protagonist just as much as the next person), the threat is there. And what, I have to ask, is so attractive about a man who has little patience, and his instincts are to react to challenges with violence? Why are these characteristics championed so actively in Roberts’s works, as if it’s something to be proud of?

Perhaps even worse than Colt’s tendencies towards violence  is Althea’s response to it; she claims “She hadn’t felt simple anger when he lunged toward her and grabbed. She hadn’t felt simple anything…What she’d felt was arousal, gut-deep, red-hot, soul-searing arousal, mixed with a healthy dose of primal fear and teeth-baring fury” (53).

So, after being physically jostled for something as minute as sarcasm, her mind was basically saying “you scare me, but take me now”? Totally rational response.

Though I was, naturally, quite frustrated with Colt and Althea’s relationship which, to me, felt like it bordered on abusive sometimes, it wasn’t anything I hadn’t seen before (if the last two reviews were any indication). What really bothered me was the continual use of the phrase “a man…” Just for an example, on page 63 Colt tells Althea, “It’s the whole package — that face, the hair, the body, the mind. A man doesn’t know whether to bay at the moon or whimper at your feet.”

Besides being mind-numbingly cliche, the use of “a man doesn’t know…” is perhaps the most irritating phrase I’ve ever encountered. It took me a while to figure out why, but I’m tentatively chalking it up to its connotations, which first hit me in Divine Evil. It was used in a small-town “hick” kind of way that implied the man was the head of the house, like “a man is entitled to his space;” “a man’s entitled to a little recreation.”

Doesn’t that just hit you the wrong way? Sort of along the lines of “I don’t question my man, he does what he pleases and it’s not my place to be concerned,” mixed with the implication of lumping all men into one category that doesn’t quite fit them all. So to read it again, so many times over, in Nightshade went from mildly annoying to inciting my full wrath. Not to mention that Roberts never counterbalanced the sentiment with “a woman needed/was entitled to…” But that’s just an aside.

And naturally, to counterbalance Colt’s irrational fury, he was given the ever-so-romantic habit of telling Althea they were getting married, whether she agreed or not, and trying his best to plan out details for a wedding that wasn’t happening. I’m sure you’ve read enough of my thoughts on this particular practice, so I’ll simply say that it more than annoyed me, and leave it at that.

The entire volume more than annoyed me; it was, infuriatingly, almost exactly like Night Shift, including practically the same characters, just with different names. How original, and utterly romantic.

In Night Smoke, Inspector Ryan “Ry” Piasecki is tasked with investigating multiple fires to the properties owned by Natalie Fletcher’s (yes, Boyd’s sister) business in the making, Ladie’s Choice, an upscale lingerie line to be added onto Fletcher Industries. Though through the investigation Ryan and Natalie infuriate each other with their entirely different approach to getting things done, they must deal with the fact that neither can get the other out of their head.

(Are you sensing a pattern here?)

It really was all the same as every other Night Tales volume I’ve read in the past three days. Overtly-masculine male lead with a violent complex, strong woman who tries to resist him (but doesn’t do a very thorough job, because she never really gets him to leave her alone) and inevitably becomes weak with love. He’s dominant, she’s submissive; he pushes her around, and while she has backbone for a short amount of time, it’s much more alluring if she back down and do what she’s told.

The only thing that was different about Ryan Piasecki was that he didn’t take out his undue rage on Natalie alone; he had some left to spare for a harried doctor near the end of the novel, when he “used his good arm and grabbed the doctor by the coat” (476) to clearly illustrate how impatient he was to see his girl. And afterwards, when the poor doctor actually has the decency to help him out (despite his insanity), Ryan disregards niceties and doesn’t bother to thank her. You can always judge someone’s character by the way they treat the help (in this case, doctors).

To be honest, by the time I’d read Night Smoke I was utterly exhausted by the entire concept. It’s frustrating, yes, to find that the guy who’s supposed to be the hero is more aggressive and threatening than the antagonist, but I have nothing more to say about it that I haven’t already said about another volume in this series, because they’re all the same. The only differences are the names of the characters, and that’s, quite frankly, embarrassing.

Seriously, don’t read it. Save yourselves.

Next book: the last of the Night Tales series; I can’t wait to be through with these. They’re breaking my spirits, and my belief in romance as a genre.

– Kelsey

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6 thoughts on “Review: Nightshade/Night Smoke — Nora Roberts

  1. I hate to say it, but as a Romance-author-wannabe, I’ve never really cared for Nora Roberts’ books. I guess her style never really jived for me…and I do see a trend even now with these reviews as with the books I read (The MacGregor Grooms). Same kind of scenario: rough, gruff and tough all-male “hero”, alongside a sassy, don’t-give-me-that-crap type of girl, who all but reverses her entire personality the minute she feels something for the guy, and the guy becomes a huge marshmallow.

    And yet…there are a LOT of Romance books out there with this same sort of concept. I can think of three that I’ve read in the six months to a year that did the same thing. But I liked those books. Maybe it was the fact that the characters stayed consistently all-male and don’t-give-me-that-crap, but at the same time wanted to bang each others brains out.

    I guess this reaction of mine is seriously grasping and hoping with all I have that Romance isn’t always this predictable, or corny. I’d like to think there’s some comfort in some of the predictability in it for certain readers, as well as the heart-fluttering sigh of “ahhh he’s so great, I wish I had him for my very own” even if it’s a bit corny at times. I don’t know. But I will persevere! I will hope that I don’t fall within that same stereotype while at the same time produce heart-fluttering, minutely-predictable plots and consistent characters 🙂

    Let me know if you want a few referrals. I can at least assure you that they are not Nora Roberts. 😉

    • Oh, really? My first experiences with the romance genre were a couple of her books (funny enough, one of them was The MacGregor Grooms) because my mom loved them and pawned them off on me. I liked them at first, but either the characters have gotten crazier or I’ve just started noticing because I don’t now.

      I think romance is usually fairly predictable, but that doesn’t have to be a totally bad thing, and it doesn’t have to be completely corny. And you won’t, LOL! You’ll do just fine :]

      I think when I finish the stack of books I’m currently working away on, I’ll put up another recommendation post and you can pass along some referrals. :]

  2. Why are you doing this to yourself? Is it some kind of bet? Read ten grotesque books and you get a prize?

    I couldn’t get past his name. HAHAHAHA!!!! Colt Nightshade? Maybe Nora R is pushing it as hard as she can, laughing somewhere, wondering how far she has to go before people start screaming.

    Romance novels are all built on a predictable pattern. That’s the point. If you buy one, you want to know that the man and woman (or man and man , woman/woman) are going to end up together. There’s nothing wrong with that as long as that’s what you want. Manly man meets sassy girl and there’s a conflict and they solve it and that’s the end.

    This series seems particularly awful, though. There’s nothing sexy about a brute. Fantasizing about someone who is so overwhelmed with you that he forces you, traps you, stalks you, is beyond my comprehension. Throw some hot coffee on his crotch and walk away.

    Loving these reviews! I just hope you get to read something good for a change.

    • Ahahahahaha, no, it’s not a challenge in that way; I was just given a fairly large stack of these from my mother (including the three Night Tales novels) and I’m not one to refuse to read a book, especially this year since I’m trying to get through a challenge. I just figured that they were five less books I’d have to buy for myself. Though now I hate myself for it.

      I KNOW, right? Every single time I read his name (especially when Althea would call him by his surname) I was laughing.

      I think it’s less the predictability of the plot that frustrates me than it is the horridness of the characters; I love seeing people get together, but not if they’re poorly suited because one’s insane and one’s willing to bend to his will.

      It really is, but I think that’s because the focus is on mysteries and danger in which there’s a “valid” excuse for the females to be pushed around; it almost calls for a brute male protag.

      My step dad actually said something interesting about the fantasizing end of this; what he said is that it’s a safe way for readers to imagine a relationship in which they’re dominated — it doesn’t necessarily mean they want it in real life. While I can understand that, I just can’t fathom someone finding this sort of bullying an attractive concept.

      LOL they really should have. There were so many times when I was just like, “Push him down the stairs! Push him down the stairs!”

      Thanks, SB :] I’ve only got two more NR books before I take a breather and go back to good books!

  3. Pingback: Review: Skyward — Mary Alice Monroe | The Independent Review

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

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