Published by St. Martin's Press on May 23, 2023
Genres: Romantic suspense
Source: the publisher
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Also by this author: Dark Witch, Shadow Spell, The Collector, Blood Magick, Night Moves, Whiskey Beach, Jewels of the Sun, Tears of the Moon, Stars of Fortune, Tribute, The Search, Three Fates, High Noon, The Liar
The #1 New York Times-bestselling author's terrifying new thriller about one man's ice-cold malice, and one woman's fight to reclaim her life.
Former Army brat Morgan Albright has finally planted roots in a friendly neighborhood near Baltimore. Her friend and roommate Nina helps her make the mortgage payments, as does Morgan's job as a bartender. But after she and Nina host their first dinner party―attended by Luke, the flirtatious IT guy who'd been chatting her up at the bar―her carefully built world is shattered. The back door glass is broken, cash and jewelry are missing, her car is gone, and Nina lies dead on the floor.
Soon, a horrific truth emerges: It was Morgan who let the monster in. "Luke" is actually a cold-hearted con artist named Gavin who targets a particular type of woman, steals her assets and identity, and then commits his ultimate goal: murder.
What the FBI tells Morgan is beyond chilling. Nina wasn't his type. Morgan is. Nina was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. And Morgan's nightmare is just beginning. Soon she has no choice but to flee to her mother's home in Vermont. While she struggles to build something new, she meets another man, Miles Jameson. He isn't flashy or flirtatious, and his family business has deep roots in town. But Gavin is still out there hunting new victims, and he hasn't forgotten the one who got away.
I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.
A resiliant heroine, a steadfast hero… and a chilling villain
Rebuilding your life after identity theft isn’t easy. Especially when the thief stole not only your identity, but your best friend’s life… and he’s not done with you yet.
That’s the situation Morgan Albright finds herself facing in Identity, the newest romantic suspense novel from Nora Roberts. Gavin Rozwell is a charming conman and cold-blooded serial killer, who sees Morgan as his one failure—a failure he is determined to rectify.
Reeling from her friend Nina’s death, and from repeated attacks on her finances and credit, Morgan retreats to the family home shared by her grandmother and mother, to try to make a new start. But as she begins to rebuild her life, the FBI is closing in on Nina’s killer… and he is closing in on Morgan.
One of the things I love about Nora Roberts’s novels is the glimpse they give me into careers I’ve never held. Morgan is a bartender—a good one, skilled not only at making and serving drinks but also in knowing how to treat her customers, whether they need a listening ear or a bit of banter. (Warning: be prepared to come out of this book with a whole new appreciation for cocktails.) Morgan is excellent at setting goals, doing the research, and carrying out her plans. Like almost all Roberts’s heroines, Morgan is competent and resilient; she possesses an inner strength and determination, even when she feels most defeated. But she’s not invincible; there’s a vulnerability stemming from her childhood moves and her father’s indifference. That, along with her doubts and shaken faith in herself, serve to make her sympathetic and very likeable.
Miles Jameson, the hero, is attracted to Morgan’s strength and confidence, along with the vulnerability she tries to hide. He is kind and dependable, if a little brusque and occasionally dictatorial for my taste. He is also perceptive, has a deep love for his family and for the family homestead (now his home) and the family resort. When it comes to the latter, he balances respect for tradition and a willingess to stay current and keep growing. Miles is not Morgan’s direct-line supervisor, but he is a member of the family that owns the resort where she works; I appreciated how carefully Roberts constructed their growing attraction and eventual romantic relationship in light of their employee-employer roles. (Rest assured, it’s entirely mutual every step of the way.) I also appreciated the way that Miles respects Morgan’s strengths while supporting her in whatever ways she needs… even if, occasionally, he acts unilaterally, or she chafes at that support. Miles might not be my first choice for a partner, but he’s perfect for Morgan. And I love his big rescue dog, Howl.
Family love and support play an important role in this novel, on both sides. I loved Morgan’s mother and grandmother (her “ladies”), and appreciated how Morgan’s mother is also a skilled and creative business woman, much stronger, more competent, and happier than Morgan’s memory of her. While Morgan loves her mom, there’s initially a distance there; it was heartwarming to watch them become closer. Part of Morgan’s growth in the novel comes from accepting and trusting in the love and support of her mother and grandmother, and from her growing appreciation for the strong women they are.
I also enjoyed the three generations of Jamesons that run the resort. I come from a strong, loving, supportive family myself, one that is remarkably free from conflict and drama, so it was a real pleasure to see that kind of love and mutual respect in both Morgan’s and Miles’s family, instead of the dysfunctional families so common in both fiction and, sadly, in real life. I suspect Nora Roberts has personal experience with the kind of family depicted here; you can see it in some of her other books as well, particularly The Liar and the Inn Boonsboro books.
Although I love romantic suspense in general, and Nora Roberts’s books in particular, sometimes the suspense aspect strays into territory that I find uncomfortably disturbing. I tend to be very cautious when it comes to plots involving serial killers, for instance, especially when the narrative spends time inside the killer’s head. My difficulty doesn’t come from personal loss, thank goodness. But before we knew him, a family friend lost a close relative to a serial murderer, in a crime that went unsolved for years. (I am being deliberately vague to respect the family’s privacy.) Mostly, though, my caution is due to my struggle with anxiety, and to my brain’s propensity to pick up whatever I read about and process it in my dreams…or nightmares.
However, I read Identity without triggering my anxiety or nightmares, thanks to Nora Roberts’s skilled writing, and to the fact that the violence was generally short-lived and easy to skip past. Although some scenes are told in close third person from the killer’s POV, they focus at least as much on his methods of fleecing his victims financially as on his motivations, and I was able to skim or skip the more upsetting bits.
Nora Roberts is one of my auto-read authors, with the exception of a few books that I can tell from the blurb will be too much for me. I’m glad I gave Identity a try despite my initial concerns about the plot. I enjoyed (almost) every minute of it, and will happily add it to my list of rereadable NR novels!
NOTE: The novel deals at length with identity theft. As someone who has personal experience with identity theft, I thought it was odd that Roberts didn’t mention several of the steps one can take to protect oneself in the aftermath. Morgan hires a lawyer, which isn’t a bad idea, but there are several steps you can take immediately. Contact the three major credit reporting agencies to freeze your credit is crucial; it makes it much more difficult for someone to open new credit accounts in your name. There are also commercial services like LifeLock (by Norton) or MyIDCare that can monitor your personal data, warn you if it appears someone else is using your SSN or other personal identifiers or if your data turns up for sale on the Dark Web, and even help you restore your identity if it is stolen.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- COYER Upside-Down 2023: Chapter 1
- NetGalley & Edelweiss Reading Challenge 2023