Pandora's Box

Dance Upon the Air

Nora Roberts
2001, Contemporary Romance
Jove, $7.99, 384 pages, Amazon ASIN 0515131229
Part of a series

Grade: N/A
Sensuality: N/A

There is a staff review of this book as well

Blythe:   Well, Linda, it's really not a secret that I am a Nora Roberts fan. I've read her series books, single title hard covers, and trilogies, but her trilogies tend to be my favorites. This month she begins a new trilogy about a group of three women who live on Three Sisters Island, off the coast of Massachusetts. Though they aren't tied together by blood and can't even strictly be called friends, they share an important bond - they are all witches. One is experienced, one is just beginning to discover her power, and one would like to deny her power even exists.

Linda:   I have read a few Nora Roberts books, mostly MacGregor's and I have enjoyed them. But, I found this book had a lot of dead spots and was tough to get through. I found it too easy to anticipate the action and it was overall bo-ring.

Blythe:     Hmmm...I don't think I was ever bored with this one. The love story between Nell and Zack was of the gentle variety, but then Nell had just escaped from an abusive relationship. I liked both Nell and Zack, but for me at least half the entertainment was getting to know the other characters. My main problem with the book is that I found the heroine's former relationship a little too derivative of the movie Sleeping with the Enemy, but then her former relationship wasn't really the whole focus of the story; it seemed to be more about her discovering her place on the island, meeting Ripley, Mia, and Zack, and forming a new life for herself.

Linda:      LOL, it's funny you should mention Sleeping With the Enemy. I was just chatting with my daughter and told her that you had finally found a book I didn't like and she asked what it was about - when I mentioned the three witches and the abused wife staging her own death she said "sounds like The Witches of Eastwick meet Sleeping with the Enemy."

Blythe:     Well, there are distinct similarities that are hard to ignore. Nell's husband is a controlling, abusive jerk who insists on perfection. The description of her former home - cold, impersonal, and perfect - brought to mind Julia Roberts' original "Sleeping" residence. And like Julia, Nell fakes her death to escape. And they both cut off their long hair! But I should add that this ex doesn't line up the canned goods or play that creepy symphony. In the ways that count this is a unique story, although Roberts has written witches before in her Donovan's Legacy quartet of series romances. At times I found Mia's chants a little hokey, but I found them kind of fun too, and I liked the way they all approached their powers differently.

Linda:      Well, he didn't line up the canned goods - but he did line up his suits, exactly an inch apart. But, I wouldn't have cared that it was derivative if it hadn't been just plain boring. The book starts well and I liked the heroine, and Mia, her mentor. I loved Zack, just a wonderful hero; but this book bogged down with all of the magic mumbo jumbo and "training" for me. There were just large portions of time when nothing was happening. I think this was your complaint about Tracy Fobes' Daughter of Destiny, which we read last year, that the couple got lost in the magic stuff. Also, I found the character of Ripley - call her Cleopatra, she's the Queen of Denial - very problematical. She borders on being too masculine, yet she sleeps around and I never really understood her denial of her obvious abilities. I cannot imagine wanting to read a book with her as the lead character or Mia either for that matter.

Blythe:     LOL, Linda - Ripley was my favorite character of the three. She was the Queen of denial, but I found it realistic. She knew darn well she had powers, but she was trying to ignore them - and any implications they had - through sheer force of will. She is more or less dragged into co-operating when her powers are needed. But I find myself really looking forward to watching her character develop over the next few books. As for the magic training scenes, there were really only a couple of them; I didn't find them overbearing or dull. And between Nell is falling in love with Zack, working at a café in Mia's bookstore, and getting her own catering business off the ground. With all that going on, the book never dragged at all for me.

Linda:      It wasn't that there was a lot of magic training scenes, just a lot of discussion about it and perhaps here it was my inability to make the leap into the fantasy world of magic. Although I enjoyed watching Nell succeed it also seemed too easy and pat to me - everything she did just turned to gold, no failures - although the day she had the panic attack was heartbreaking and probably very realistic. I loved Zack but again he seemed too good to be true and I was relieved when he got angry over Nell's dishonesty with him. I thought that Nell should have been honest with him, if she did not trust him enough to tell him the truth, how could she trust him enough to sleep with him after her past?

Blythe:     I also thought she should have been honest with him. She did know that not everyone was like her husband. Still, she went into the sexual relationship with the intent of keeping things casual, I think. She didn't intend to get very serious or fall in love. Zack should have been angry - and he was - but I think he also understood. And yes, things did work out nicely for her, but largely because Mia was her benefactor. I didn't see this as any different than the standard romance couple who doesn't have to struggle for money. Very few characters in romance seem to have long-term financial stability as a major concern. As for the magic, I think you do have to be able to suspend disbelief for that, and it may offend some readers. To me, though, it was less offensive than Fobes' book, which came right out and said Jesus's power came from the same source as Merlin's. Interestingly enough, I also thought the way the abuse was handled here was much more realistic than Putney's The Burning Point.

Linda:      LOL, as I was reading the book I thought to myself that you would like this one better since the abuser was your stereotypical "maniac-jerk" and not the hero. <g>

Blythe:     Well, sadly, I think most abusers actually are more stereotypical, and they are unlikely to change. I thought Roberts did a good job of showing how abuse can happen to people from a "normal" upbringing, and that it affects women from all walks of life, from the slums to the super-rich.

Also the way Nell's character recovers seems realistic. Even after she escapes, she is afraid of making the smallest mistake for fear of failing others and being somehow punished. This was both touching and believable to me.

Linda:      Yes, I thought that was good too. The heroine's insistence that she was "different" was probably very realistic, as was her shame and self-blame for what happened. I think for me the major problem was that such a long stretch of the book went by with no glimpse of the abuser - the action picked up when we started seeing what he was up to and it would have given more of a feel of menace throughout the book. Most of the menace was "self-generated" by Nell and I think glimpses of Evan's actions in California scattered throughout the book would have helped generate more action too. The end just seemed too pat to me and I guess the real problem was I just never bought all the mumbo jumbo stuff - the talismans, spells etc. just didn't do it for me. I am not sure why, as I am usually quite able to suspend disbelief. I think the main problem may have been the character of Mia. I just never made a connection with her and while I liked Nell and Zack a lot I won't be reading the rest of the trilogy.

Blythe:     I think the reason Roberts may have kept the evil Evan in the background was that she wasn't really trying for a suspense feel like her hard cover releases tend to have. But I can see your point about it - it may have made more sense if we had seen them earlier.

To sum up, for me this book was a success. Not every Nora Roberts trilogy book is a favorite with me, but I've yet to read one that I flat out didn't like. This one falls squarely in the B range for me, and I'll be looking forward to the next two books, especially Ripley's.

Linda:      I wouldn't say this was a "bad" book, but for me it was a boring book that just never caught my interest. I did love the hero Zack, Nell was valiant and courageous, but frankly, her recovery, romance and business success just all seemed too easy with too little challenge. In a way, it diminished her triumph over Evan.

Blythe:     Well, it's another split for us this month. What's up for next month?

Linda:      I am looking forward to next month's book. It is Millie Criswell's sequel to The Trouble With Mary - What To Do About Annie. This one should cause a lot of buzz as the hero is a Catholic Priest in TTWM and the Jewish heroine appears to be promiscuous. Certainly an intriguing duo and I loved the ethnic family in TTWM.

Blythe:     I've read and enjoyed two of Criswell's westerns, but I've never tried her contemporaries. This one certainly has an interesting premise, and I'm looking forward to it. Bye until next month.

--Blythe Barnhill and Linda Hurst, with assistance from Sandi Morris, for

-- Pandora's Box

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