After thinking about it for a bit, I realized that it has been quite a while since I have read a new standalone book by Nora Roberts. It was a nice change. I have no problem reading about a group of friends or relatives in a trilogy, but it was nice to know that everyone I met in the book existed solely to enrich this book.
One thing I love about this author is the way she sets up the back story. If you’re familiar with her work then you probably already know that she likes to cut her books into sections (or Acts) to show the progression of the characters’ journey, but if not…well, now you know. The first section (the first 100 pages or so) of The Witness showed the heroine’s past. I got so much more involved in the events than if I had just been told about what happened to her back then. I loved seeing all the details for myself and found that getting to know the heroine in the past made it easier for me to get over some of the issues I had with her character later. I know that sometimes too much focus on the past can detract from the present, but I have always loved this habit of NR’s and have never found that to be the case.
I found the whole storyline to be unique and different. The heroine witnessed a crime when she was a teenager and was forced to change her identity because of it. Can you imagine having to change everything about yourself? Her family (no big loss honestly), her future plans, they were all wiped out like they were nothing. I really liked getting to see how she coped with the past and lived her life as an adult. It also added an interesting layer to the romance. Your whole life is a lie. How close do you get to someone when you factor that in? Do you tell your love interest the truth and risk exposing yourself? I liked that what kept them apart felt real. It wasn’t just some simple, manufactured reason, blown up to epic proportion to provide drama.
I think that the heroine, Abigail (originally Elizabeth), was a great character, but she occasionally veered toward the cold end of things. I think she was supposed to be similar to Miranda from Homeport (Anyone read it? Great book!), given that they both processed things scientifically and logically and they were both rather socially awkward, but Miranda had a vulnerability to her that Abigail lacked. That lack of softness occasionally made it hard to connect with her. We knew she was scared due to the way she lived and her refusal to let people into her life, but I never really felt it from her.
That’s one of the reasons that having that section of back story really helped for me. I did feel the emotion and fear in the beginning, so I had that to draw on. I just think that in addition to the emotionless way she was raised, being on the run for so long removed her from the world so effectively that it was hard for even the reader to get close to her. I’m not sure if she was cast this way by design, but it kept me from fully sinking into her character and the relationship. That said, it didn’t keep me from enjoying the rest of the book.
Brooks, the hero, is not delved into as deeply as Abigail was, but he was much easier to love. He’s amusing and charming and he does a wonderful job of loosening Abigail up. I thought it was cute that we first met him when he was sitting in the town’s café, positioned specifically to be able to see Abigail on the off chance that she would come to town to shop that day. He was interested in her, both as a cop and as a man, and he finally decided to take a chance and go chat her up, despite her ‘Leave me alone’ vibe. He was shot down, and he was shot down hard, but I’ve got to give him props for determination. He just kept bugging her, trying to charm her, until he eventually grew on her. Like mold.
The small town was charming, but kept away from the hokey, cheesy characterization that always drives me nuts. Brooks had a lot more ties to the community than Abigail did, so we were given a better picture of the inhabitants when we were in his point of view. His family was fun to read about, especially his mom, and it was nice to see a lot of his job instead of just focusing on the suspense plot surrounding the heroine.
One thing that I found odd about the story, but that I liked more and more upon further reflection, was the suspense plot. Truthfully, it wasn’t very suspenseful. The heroine had her life turned upside down by a murder, yes, but there was no menacing presence breathing down her neck like you usually see in an RS. She changed her identity and was very prepared for possible discovery, but that was all a background feature. When the end resolution came, we were told about it more than it was shown. At first that bothered me because I wanted a seat at the front lines, you know? But the more I thought about it the more I realized that the book wasn’t set up to play out like the usual Suspense story. She played her part and she moved on. She didn’t need be a witness for it to be over for her. If you’re looking for an RS that’s heavy on the suspense, this isn’t that book. Just an FYI for you.
So far the only strike against me is curiosity?”
“There are others. Proximity, for one, which would make it awkward and problematic when I no longer want to have sex with you.”
“What makes you think you’re going to want to stop having sex with me?”
She got out two glasses, two small plates, two forks. “The law of averages.”
“Oh, that. I defy averages.”
“A lot of people believe they do. They don’t.”