Friday, July 17, 2009

Forgotten Books: Naked in Death by J. D. Robb

(This is a slightly reworked version of a review I did way back when I had few, if any, readers on my crime blog. The original review appeared in March 2008.)

(This is a contribution to Patti Abbott's Friday Forgotten Books.)

Call me bi-curious. No, not in that way. I’m talking in the way of romance books.

I’m a red-blooded American male. I write mysteries, I read mysteries, SF, thrillers, history, food tomes, almost everything but romance books. Up until now, I’ve always thought of romance books as trite throwaways that contain a couple of good sex scenes. Read those and forget about the rest of the book.

But something happened about a month ago: I actually noticed, really, for the first time, how many romance books there actually are in a bookstore. Hundreds. Thousands? And, for the first time, my countenance faltered. I realized that I might actually be up to read a romance. But which one? I asked a fellow writer who she liked and, among the names was Nora Roberts. I know Nora Roberts just like people who don’t read horror stories knows Stephen King. I went the local library, picked up a few Nora Roberts books, but none of them really caught my attention.

Then I remembered J.D. Robb. I knew that Roberts wrote stories as Robb so I checked them out. And I found my beachhead in the field of romance books. Lead character is a police detective. I’m writing a book about a female lead detective. Stories take place in 2059. Hmm, that sounds like SF. I like SF. The books are characterized as romantic suspense. I like suspense. My first novel was a suspense novel. And I’m a romantic. What’s not to like? I verified which book was the first in the series, Naked in Death, checked out the audiobook from the library, and inserted the CD.

The first disc was not even halfway through before I was hooked. And not just mild interest but hook, line, and sinker. I was all in. The book has a nice pace, not slow at all. Since the book was written in 1995, it is interesting to note some of the futuristic discrepancies but just as cool to note the stuff Roberts got right. Eve Dallas, the lead character, carries around a device that will surely be what the iPhone is going to be: the all-in-one gadget that basically does everything. I also appreciated the more mundane aspects of 2059 NYC: cars that don’t fly. Sure, I want my flying car. Who doesn’t? But we’re probably not going to get there in 50 years.

Back to the story: Eve Dallas must investigate the murders of a licensed companion, a prostitute, who just happens to be the granddaughter of a prominent US Senator. It was pretty interesting to read this book, with legalized prostitution, during the week NY governor Eliot Spitzer resigned for being with one. Roberts really let us readers get into Eve’s head and thoughts. I found myself being mad when she was and happy when she was. I’ll admit the POV shifts that frequent this book is not the style in which I write. It was annoying at first but then I got used to it.

The story was great. But what about the romance? This was a romance book after all. Rourke, the all-everything Irish guy who starts as a suspect and becomes Eve’s lover, is the kind of guy, I’ll admit, seems to inhabit romance books. Now, I’m saying this purely from a stereotypical standpoint. But, hey, the first romance book I read has one of “those” guys in it. How’s a regular guy supposed to compete with that? Anyway, the romantic aspects of the novel seemed even, believable. Even the sex scene—there’s one main one, with intimate details—was good and hot. I give a hat tip to Ms. Roberts in the many ways to describe sexual intercourse without using actual physical words.

One of my biggest questions to see Roberts answers is how the series characters Eve and Rourke go on being together, their daily interactions, their passion. Naked in Death was the ‘getting together’ book. Those are easier. Just look at all the movies out there (and probably half the romance books). What I want to know is how the characters grow together.

For the more forgotten gems, head on over to Patti Abbott's blog.


  1. I'll admit that I've read one 'Romance' novel in my life--- What the Heart Knows by William W Johnstone, yep the one man writing factory of: Westerns, Horror, and Action novels wrote a Romance, go figure. I've been kicking around in my brain trying to write one, only I need to finish the other projects that I've been working on first.

  2. Iren - I have an idea for a romance novel for awhile now. I need to read a few and get a feel for how they're written before I make the attempt. So, what are you working on?