The Gift (2007)

The Gift by Nora Roberts
By Nora (F.) Roberts

Home for Christmas
After years spent abroad, reporter Jason Law returned home determined to win back the girl he left behind. It would take all his skills--and then some--to win Faith back. But this time, nothing would stand in his way—it was time faith was rewarded.

All I Want for Christmas
Identical twin boys Zeke and Zach wanted only one gift from Santa this year: a new mom! But convincing their love-wary dad that their music teacher, Miss Davis, was his destiny and part of Santa's plan wasn't as easy as they'd hoped.

Gabriel's Angel
All Gabriel Bradley wanted was solitude. But when Laura ended up at his remote cabin during a blizzard, desperate, alone and on the run, the modern-day Scrooge couldn't turn her away. For she brought him the gift of passion, life, hope--if he had the courage to reach for it.

I admit it. I'd never read Nora's books before picking up this one. I thought it would be a perfect Christmastime anthology to read, and I'd get to see if this titan of romance is worth all her monumental regard. And seriously, she can't keep it up over ALL THOSE BOOKS...can she?

Oh yeah, baby. She can. And she got me completely.

Home for Christmas was originally printed back in 1986, a classic holiday-themed secret baby story. But could I avoid turning into a pathetic teary mess by the conclusion? Nope. Me = sucker.

All I Want for Christmas was my least favorite of the three, a bit too twee and cutesy. The objections Mac had for NOT being together--she's a city girl, she's bound to be fickle and leave soon--seemed too contrived and long-winded, but the characters were very human, very real. They argued like people do, confronting each other with questions as they happen, rather than doing the Big Mis(understanding). Yay for realistic arguments!

Gabriel's Angel was a single-title contemporary, gorgeously rendered with two fragile and flawed lovers. He's man enough to be the father to her child! *sobs* And I had a "put it down" moment when Laura and Gabe finally confront her vicious ex-MIL. He was like a caged animal ready to tear apart the woman who threatened his family. I had to put the book down for a moment, too happy and charged up to read on. Took a break, grabbed a coffee, and finished with a big dumb grin on my face.

What makes Nora so good? As I mentioned, I love the realistic arguments. She never lets her characters stew. They fight, they kiss, they tackle some other problems. Very cool. But I characterize her writing as the ability to supercharge tried-and-true plots (the secret baby, the mommy trap, the "I'll love you AND your unborn child") with perfectly timed zingers. Zingers are those jolts of pure emotion that make you gasp.

My choice example is from All I Want for Christmas, when in the midst of a near-argument, Nell asks Mac out:

"A date? Are you asking me out on a date?"

Impatience flickered back. "Yes, a date. It doesn't mean I'm asking to bear you more children. On second thought, let's just quit while we're ahead."

"I want to get my hands on you." Mac heard himself say the words, knew it was too late to take them back.
SNAP! It's like a rubber band, yanking me away from convention and right to something more powerful. Great stuff.

The only problem with La Nora is her backlist is SO DAMN HUGE. I'm totally intimidated and don't feel strong enough for a glom. And I'm REALLY afraid of the In Death series, coz I'm afraid I'd just get sucked into Eve and Roark's world. I'd want them to live HEA and have babies and go grocery shopping (see: my frustration with an ongoing series). But I'm happy to know that whatever I pick up in the future is going to a great read.

So: what are your favorite Nora titles (so my glom can be streamlined), and what do you think makes her writing so strong?

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