The Hollow

Nora Roberts
2008, Paranormal Romance
Jove, $7.99, 336 pages, Amazon ASIN 0515144592
Part of a series

Grade: B-
Sensuality: Warm

During the same week that I read Nora Roberts' The Hollow, I happened to be listening to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows while at work and listening to J.D. Robb's (Roberts's alter ego) Survivor in Death while working in my home office. I had unknowingly created a literary theme for the week: stopping evil in all its forms, human, demonic and something in-between the two. Since this is just the second book in the Sign of Seven trilogy, evil is not yet vanquished, but Caleb, Fox, Gage, Quinn, Layla, and Cybil (henceforth known as "the gang") are working to rectify that situation.

Twenty-one years ago, a demonic spirit was let loose when Caleb, Fox and Gage become blood brothers and a week of terror in their small town followed. Since then, every seven years the town of Hawkins Hollow goes mad for a week - murder, suicide, and rape become nightly occurrences. The next The Seven, as the locals call it, is only three months away, giving the gang not much time to figure out how to stop it. First, they must find the missing journals of Ann Hawkins; her lover was the one who trapped the demon over 300 years ago. What they learn in the journals gives the gang a secondary mission to accomplish.

The demon likes to play mental games with the gang. Showing off his gathering strength, the demon sends nightmarish visions to all six at the same time. The writing in this scene has very strong imagery; I could see the action happening as if I was watching a movie (a note to anyone with arachnophobia, you may find yourself eyeing your computer keyboard warily.)

In Blood Brothers, the first book in the trilogy, instinct led Layla Darnell to town after suffering a nightmare in which it felt as if she were raped. She is a reluctant paranormal investigator; when Layla learned that she, Quinn, and Cybil are descended from the demon, she decided to stay in town until the demon was stopped. She now works for Fox as his office manager. Highly organized and efficient, Layla has settled into her new job, although she still misses her job in a fancy New York boutique.

Fox is a small town lawyer who likes the flow of small town life. His most trying case is the involving a husband who got caught with his hands in the wrong place. Fox has a lazy charm and manner; he is willing to fight when pressed, but is also able to forgive (except for Napper, his nemesis). Fox is devoted to his family, though an unusual request from his sister tests that bond. He is also a fixer, trying to get the divorcing couple back together and working to make Layla’s dream of her own boutique a reality.

I felt I knew Fox better than the reserved Layla throughout the book. We learn very little about her background, the only exception being the explanation behind her a savvy fashion sense. There is no mention of significant events in her childhood. or what happened on her 10th birthday (which plays a part in the demon storyline). I hope Roberts will reveal more about Lalya in the third and final book of the series.

Also troublesome is that the romance between Fox and Layla is too smooth, with only one bump along the way. Although she knows he's a thoughtful guy, Layla overreacts to a thoughtful gesture Fox makes (he buys her a coffee maker so she can have her morning brew - he prefers Coke for his own caffeine fix). I suppose the romantic entanglements had to be resolved fairly quickly in order to include the spooky portion of the story, though I prefer it the other way around.

I read The Hollow first, but have since read Blood Brothers, which I actually enjoyed more. This novel can be read on its own, as Roberts is a master of including just enough information about previous novels in each successive, but it is actually better if you read the series in order. I look forward to The Pagan Stone in order to see evil defeated yet again, and also because I hope to learn more about Layla.

-- Carolyn Esau

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