Published by Silhouette on August 4th 2014 (first published 1985)
Genres: Romantic suspense
Also by this author: Dark Witch, Shadow Spell, The Collector, Blood Magick, Whiskey Beach, Jewels of the Sun, Tears of the Moon, , Tribute, The Search
Was she foolish or wise to follow her instincts?
The house had stood vacant for ten years, but Maggie Fitzgerald knew she could call it home. An award-winning songwriter, Maggie had sought peace and solitude from the Los Angeles celebrity hounds after her husband's accidental death. Instinct had brought her east, to the small Maryland town of Morganville.
Instinct also told her that Cliff Delaney, owner of a local landscaping company, was just the person to revitalize her property. But once that project began, the remains of a dead man were discoveredâ€"and everyone she knew, including Cliff, seemed to have a motive for the killing.
Could she trust her instincts again – or would the truth be her undoing?
I never expected to give a Nora Roberts book only 2 stars, but despite good writing and an interesting female lead, I wasn’t thrilled with this one. Three things really bothered me about it. Well, three and a half.
The main characters, Maggie and Cliff, are strongly physically attracted to each other from their first meeting – too strongly for me to believe in, actually. Yet they don’t like each other much; Cliff jumps to conclusions about Maggie, and Maggie doesn’t care for his attitude. I’m not a fan of insta-lust or insta-love – and it’s clearly the former in this case. Although I think we’re meant to read it as emotional attraction, it didn’t come across as anything but physical to me in the beginning. And I don’t particularly buy into the antagonism-as-precursor-to-love trope, unless it’s handled really well.
The second thing ties in to the first. Even when Maggie says no, Cliff keeps pushing, using the almost-irresistable physical attraction between them to get her to have sex with him, on the assumption that afterward, he’ll be over her. That’s just wrong on so many levels. It falls into the whole rape-culture myth that women really want it even when they say no. It’s not honorable on Cliff’s part; he’s not respecting her objections, and he’s using her – so it doesn’t give me a very good impression of him as a person. Roberts tries hard to sell me on him, and later on she almost succeeded, but that whole section of the book left me with a bad taste in the mouth.*
My third objection is that there’s never any real reason given for the way Cliff jumps to unflattering conclusions about Maggie based on her celebrity and what he’s read about her. I could understand it when he hadn’t met her, but he goes on doing it even when he has plenty of evidence to the contrary, based on his own interactions with her and his observations of her. If it’s a character flaw, it’s not one I would find attractive (and Maggie doesn’t), nor is it one I’d care to live with. He does get over it eventually, as far as his understanding of Maggie goes, but there’s no evidence that he has actually learned not to judge people in that way, or learned to be less cynical.
The half-objection is that I spotted the killer right away; it’s telegraphed in various ways shortly after the bones are discovered. (I can’t remember the sequence clearly, but I think there’s even a hint before that.) Maybe it’s just that I read so many mysteries that it’s getting harder to fool me, but it lessened the suspense. And once again, something went unexplained; at one point there’s a tension in Cliff when he speaks of or meets the person, and we never really find out why. I felt that overall, Cliff’s backstory and motivations weren’t really clear, and even when his “secret” was revealed, it didn’t explain some aspects of his character or behavior.
The redeeming feature of the whole book for me was Maggie. I really liked her determination to make a home away from all the glitter and hustle of L.A., and having grown up in Maryland, I understood the attraction of the Blue Ridge mountains. I liked her passion for music, and thought that Roberts really conveyed the singlemindedness of a musician/composer at work. And she is fundamentally a good and kind person, with empathy for others, a hard-won patience, and an admirable ability to keep a rein on her quick temper. She’s the reason I kept reading – well, that and a desire to see if I was right about the killer, and find out how it would all resolve.
Roberts is still one of my favorite authors for romantic suspense, but I’m glad this wasn’t my first exposure to her. I realize it’s one of her earlier books, but it has significant flaws. I won’t be reading Night Moves again.
*Night Moves was first published in 1985, and this aspect is not out of keeping with other books of the same period… but it still bothers me.
CHALLENGES: COYER, but not Scavenger Hunt. Popsugar #16: A book by an author you love that you haven’t read yet.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- COYER Scavenger Hunt - Summer 2015
- PopSugar 2015 Reading challenge