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When five-thousand-year-old human bones are found at a construction site in the small town of Woodsboro, the news draws archaeologist Callie Dunbrook out of her sabbatical and into a whirlwind of adventure, danger, and romance.

While overseeing the dig, she must try to make sense of a cloud of death and misfortune that hangs over the project-fueling rumors that the site is cursed. And she must cope with the presence of her irritating—but irresistible—ex-husband, Jake. ...

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When five-thousand-year-old human bones are found at a construction site in the small town of Woodsboro, the news draws archaeologist Callie Dunbrook out of her sabbatical and into a whirlwind of adventure, danger, and romance.

While overseeing the dig, she must try to make sense of a cloud of death and misfortune that hangs over the project-fueling rumors that the site is cursed. And she must cope with the presence of her irritating—but irresistible—ex-husband, Jake. Furthermore, when a stranger claims to know a secret about her privileged Boston childhood, she is forced to question her own past as well.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
Bestselling author Nora Roberts explores compelling connections between past and present in Birthright. When a construction worker discovers evidence of an ancient settlement in a small Blue Ridge Mountain community, archaeologist Callie Dunbrook is eager to start digging…even though it means working with her handsome ex-husband, Jake. When a local businesswoman claims that Callie is the child who was stolen from her in infancy, both the allure of the ancient past and violent disputes over development plans for the site are cast in stark relief. But Callie's determination to uncover the long-buried truth soon proves dangerous to her work, to her friends, to the strangers who are bound to her by blood, and to the beloved couple she always believed to be her parents. Nora Roberts has a matchless ability to blend romance and suspense, and this gift is on full display in Birthright. Sue Stone
Publishers Weekly
Set in and around rural Woodsboro, Md., a small town drawn with affection and familiarity, Roberts's latest is the literary equivalent of a big delicious meal whipped up by a talented home cook. She offers a dash of exoticism and innovation-a Neanderthal settlement is discovered on the site of an unwanted housing development, prompting gorgeous young archeologist Callie Dunbrook to race to Woodsboro to take charge of what promises to be the dig of her career. After dollops of detail about archeological work, Roberts dishes up huge servings of comfort food, and it is all the more satisfying for being so straightforward. When the owner of the Antietam Creek development turns up murdered on the site, Callie is thrown into closer contact than she'd like with her ex-husband, who also happens to be the anthropologist sharing responsibility for the dig. Jacob Greystone is a hunk-"long bones, long muscles, all covered in bronzed skin...." Meanwhile, Suzanne Cullen, the hugely successful proprietor of a Mrs. Field's-like baked-goods business, tracks down the archeologist after seeing her on the evening news. Callie, the woman claims, is the baby daughter who was snatched from her stroller when she was just a few months old. Callie hires a beautiful young lawyer, Lana Campbell, who happens to be involved with Doug Cullen, Callie's long-lost brother. Another murder, arson and attempted murder heat up the chase until all the young lovers are drawn in. As in other delectable entertainments by Roberts, it is not the wild denouement but the pursuit itself-studded with scrumptious romantic encounters-that is the real dessert. Expect the usual huge sales. Author tour. (Apr.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Archaeologist Callie Dunbrook believes she is responsible for bringing the past to life. So when she is confronted with her own possible past, she approaches the mystery the same way she would her work: she digs. The suspicion that she may not be Callie Dunbrook rocks her world. When people start dying, she must discover if the truth is always worth unearthing. Unfortunately, narrator Bernadette Quigley is not up to the task of bringing this novel's subtleties to life. She has one male voice-deep, gruff, and ancient, hardly ex-husband and hero material. She is also so focused on her diction that each word is given equal weight, making a mockery of the actual tone of the story. A solid work that deserves airplay even with a subpar narration; Roberts is too popular not to purchase.-Jodi L. Israel, MLS, Jamaica Plain, MA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Archaeologist finds a lost tribe: hers. Callie Dunbrook goes up against developer Ron Dolan, whose housing project has come to a halt because a bulldozer uncovered human remains. Though the site is near Antietam, Maryland, the bones predate the Civil War by thousands of years and are most likely from the burial ground of an unknown Neolithic tribe. The authorities force Dolan to lay off his crew, whose workboots and carelessness have already contaminated the site, before more damage is done. An excavation is planned, a process that will take months. So Callie makes the local news—and her face is seen by Suzanne Cullen, who’s sure that Callie’s triple dimples are identical to those of her long-lost baby girl. The sleeping infant was snatched from her stroller at a shopping mall only a few days after Callie was born, and, paying an unexpected visit, Suzanne insists that Callie is her child. Knowing that Suzanne is the CEO of a national firm reassures Callie that the woman is not a crank—though wrong. But a peek into a desk at her parents’ house uncovers adoption papers dated two months after her mother’s devastating miscarriage and a few days after little Jessica Cullen disappeared. Callie confronts her parents, who fess up at last, though insisting that the adoption was perfectly legal. Marcus Carlyle, a distinguished Boston lawyer, had arranged everything. He couldn’t possibly be a baby-seller and certainly not a kidnapper. Or could he? Callie looks for clues, with the help of her sexy ex, Jake Graystone. The trail leads back to nosy Nurse Poffenberger, who tells all; and then to Richard Carlyle, Marcus’s equally distinguished son, who isn’t talking. The plot thickens, withsuspects appearing—and supporting characters disappearing—as fast as mechanical ducks in a shooting gallery. Improbable plot is kept humming smoothly by Roberts (Midnight Bayou, 2001, etc.), whose fans oughta love it.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780515137118
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 3/30/2004
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 512
  • Sales rank: 169,030
  • Product dimensions: 4.32 (w) x 6.68 (h) x 1.15 (d)

Meet the Author

Nora Roberts is the number-one New York Times-bestselling author of more than 190 novels, including The Search, Black Hills, Tribute, High Noon, and many more. She is also the author of the bestselling futuristic suspense series written under the pen name J.D. Robb. Roberts has more than 400 million copies of her books in print.


Not only has Nora Roberts written more bestsellers than anyone else in the world (according to Publishers Weekly), she’s also created a hybrid genre of her own: the futuristic detective romance. And that’s on top of mastering every subgenre in the romance pie: the family saga, the historical, the suspense novel. But this most prolific and versatile of authors might never have tapped into her native talent if it hadn't been for one fateful snowstorm.

As her fans well know, in 1979 a blizzard trapped Roberts at home for a week with two bored little kids and a dwindling supply of chocolate. To maintain her sanity, Roberts started scribbling a story -- a romance novel like the Harlequin paperbacks she'd recently begun reading. The resulting manuscript was rejected by Harlequin, but that didn't matter to Roberts. She was hooked on writing. Several rejected manuscripts later, her first book was accepted for publication by Silhouette.

For several years, Roberts wrote category romances for Silhouette -- short books written to the publisher's specifications for length, subject matter and style, and marketed as part of a series of similar books. Roberts has said she never found the form restrictive. "If you write in category, you write knowing there's a framework, there are reader expectations," she explained. "If this doesn't suit you, you shouldn't write it. I don't believe for one moment you can write well what you wouldn't read for pleasure."

Roberts never violated the reader's expectations, but she did show a gift for bringing something fresh to the romance formula. Her first book, Irish Thoroughbred (1981), had as its heroine a strong-willed horse groom, in contrast to the fluttering young nurses and secretaries who populated most romances at the time. But Roberts's books didn't make significant waves until 1985, when she published Playing the Odds, which introduced the MacGregor clan. It was the first bestseller of many.

Roberts soon made a name for herself as a writer of spellbinding multigenerational sagas, creating families like the Scottish MacGregors, the Irish Donovans and the Ukrainian Stanislaskis. She also began working on romantic suspense novels, in which the love story unfolds beneath a looming threat of violence or disaster. She grew so prolific that she outstripped her publishers' ability to print and market Nora Roberts books, so she created an alter ego, J.D. Robb. Under the pseudonym, she began writing romantic detective novels set in the future. By then, millions of readers had discovered what Publishers Weekly called her "immeasurable diversity and talent."

Although the style and substance of her books has grown, Roberts remains loyal to the genre that launched her career. As she says, "The romance novel at its core celebrates that rush of emotions you have when you are falling in love, and it's a lovely thing to relive those feelings through a book."

Good To Know

Roberts still lives in the same Maryland house she occupied when she first started writing -- though her carpenter husband has built on some additions. She and her husband also own Turn the Page Bookstore Café in Boonsboro, Maryland. When Roberts isn't busy writing, she likes to drop by the store, which specializes in Civil War titles as well as autographed copies of her own books.

Roberts sued fellow writer Janet Dailey in 1997, accusing her of plagiarizing numerous passages of her work over a period of years. Dailey paid a settlement and publicly apologized, blaming stress and a psychological disorder for her misconduct.

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    1. Also Known As:
      J. D. Robb; Sarah Hardesty; Jill March; Eleanor Marie Robertson (birth name)
    2. Hometown:
      Keedysville, Maryland
    1. Date of Birth:
    2. Place of Birth:
      Silver Spring, Maryland

Read an Excerpt


The bright red nose of Rudolph, his very favorite reindeer,

blinked on and off until Douglas’s eyes were dazzled.

He tried to entertain himself by counting the red dots that

swam in front of his eyes, the way the Count counted on

Sesame Street.

One, two, three! Three red dots! Ha ha ha ha ha!

But it made him feel a little bit sick.

The mall was full of noise, the blasts of Christmas music

that added to his impatience, the shouts of other children,

the crying of babies.

He knew all about crying babies now that he had a little

sister. When babies cried you were supposed to pick them

up and walk around with them singing songs, or sit with

them in the rocking chair and pat them on the back till they


Babies could burp right out loud and nobody made

them say scuze me. Because, dummy, babies couldn’t talk!

But Jessica wasn’t crying now. She was sleeping in the

stroller and looked like a doll baby in her red dress with the

white frilly junk on it.

That’s what Grandma called Jessica. Her little doll

baby. But sometimes Jessie cried and cried and her face

got all red and scrunched up. Nothing would stop her from

crying, not the singing or the walking or the rocking chair.

Douglas didn’t think she looked much like a doll baby

then. She looked mean and mad. When that happened,

Mama got too tired to play with him. She was never too

tired to play with him before Jessica got in her belly.

Sometimes he didn’t like having a little sister who cried

and pooped in her pants and made Mama too tired to play.

But most of the time it was okay. He liked to look at her

and watch the way she kicked her legs. And when she

grabbed his finger, really tight, it made him laugh.

Grandma said he had to protect Jessica because that’s

what big brothers do. He’d worried so much about it that

he’d snuck in to sleep on the floor beside her crib just in

case the monsters who lived in the closet came to eat her in

the nighttime.

2 _ Nora Roberts

But he’d woken in his own bed in the morning, so

maybe he’d only dreamed he’d gone in to protect her.

They shuffled up in line, and Douglas glanced, a bit uneasily,

at the smiling elves who danced around Santa’s

workshop. They looked a little bit mean and mad—like

Jessica when she was crying really loud.

If Jessica didn’t wake up, she wasn’t going to get to sit

on Santa’s lap. It was stupid for Jessie to be all dressed up

to sit on Santa’s lap, because she couldn’t say scuze me

when she burped, and she couldn’t tell Santa what she

wanted for Christmas.

But he could. He was three and a half years old. He was

a big boy now. Everyone said so.

Mama crouched down and spoke to him softly. When

she asked if he had to pee, he shook his head. She had that

tired look on her face and he was afraid if they went to the

bathroom they’d never get back in line and see Santa.

She gave his hand a squeeze, smiled at him and promised

it wouldn’t be much longer.

He wanted a Hot Wheels, and a G.I. Joe, and a Fisher-

Price garage, and some Matchbox cars and a big yellow

bulldozer like the one his friend Mitch got for his birthday.

Jessica was too young to play with real toys. She just

got girl stuff like funny dresses and stuffed animals. Girls

were pretty dopey, but baby girls were even more dopey.

But he was going to tell Santa about Jessica, so he

wouldn’t forget to bring stuff for her when he came down

the chimney at their house.

Mama was talking to someone, but he didn’t listen. The

grown-up talk didn’t interest him. Especially when the line

moved, people shifted, and he saw Santa.

He was big. It seemed to Douglas, on the first ripple of

fear, that Santa wasn’t so big in the cartoons or in the pictures

in the storybooks.

He was sitting on his throne in front of his workshop.

There were lots of elves and reindeer and snowmen.

Everything was moving—heads and arms. Big, big smiles.

Santa’s beard was very long. You could hardly see his


face. And when he let out a big, booming ho ho ho, the

sound of it squeezed Douglas’s bladder like mean fingers.

Lights flashed, a baby wailed, elves grinned.

He was a big boy now, a big boy now. He wasn’t afraid

of Santa Claus.

Mama tugged his hand, told him to go ahead. Go sit on

Santa’s lap. She was smiling, too.

He took a step forward, then another, on legs that began

to shake. And Santa hoisted him up.

Merry Christmas! Have you been a good boy?

Terror struck Douglas’s heart like a hatchet. The elves

were closing in, Rudolph’s red nose blinked. The snowman

turned his wide, round head and leered.

The big man in the red suit held him tight and stared at

him with tiny, tiny eyes.

Screaming, struggling, Douglas tumbled out of Santa’s

lap, hit the platform hard. And wet his pants.

People moved in, voices streamed above him so all he

could do was curl up and wail.

Then Mama was there, pulling him close, telling him it

was all right. Fussing over him because he’d hit his nose

and made it bleed.

She kissed him, stroked him and didn’t scold him for

wetting his pants. His breath was still coming in hard little

gasps as he burrowed into her.

She gave him a big hug, lifted him up so he could press

his face to her shoulder.

Still murmuring to him, she turned.

And began to scream. And began to run.

Clinging to her, Douglas looked down. And saw Jessica’s

stroller was empty.

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Interviews & Essays

Roberts Hits Paydirt
In the spring of 2003, Heart to Heart took the opportunity to speak with Nora Roberts about Birthright.

Heart to Heart: What was the inspiration behind Birthright?

Nora Roberts: I think you should always write what you enjoy, and I enjoy relationships and puzzles. I like figuring out what draws people together -- romantically, in friendships, in familial relationships -- or what pulls them apart. For the characters in Birthright the puzzle pushes them to work together, to learn not only what endangers them but about each other and themselves. And making the story's heroine an archaeologist -- someone who'd be digging into the distant past while uncovering her own dangerous personal history -- seemed too good to miss.

HtoH: What do you think Callie and Jake's previous relationship adds to this story?

NR: Birthright plays on the past on several levels. Callie and Jake have the choice of building on their history, or allowing past mistakes to bog down any chance of a future together. I liked bringing these two people together who'd had passion, who'd loved each other, but who hadn't worked hard enough -- or understood how to work hard enough -- to make their marriage solid the first time around. This time, Callie and Jake dig into themselves to add understanding, compromise, patience, and open communication to their passion and love.

HtoH: Why did you explore the stolen child/illegal adoption story line from so many points of view?

NR: I think history is one of the essential elements that cements family. The connection that's stronger than blood is the heart, not the genes. In Birthright, I wanted to explore a heartbreaking and horrible trauma where the people most involved are innocent of wrongdoing. For me, there's nothing more painful and wrenching than the loss of a child -- and nothing more joyful than finding one. I wanted to address the perspective of everyone connected -- most especially the child herself as an adult.

HtoH: What made you decide to use the issue of disputes over development of open space in Birthright?

NR: Development is one of the ways archaeological sites like this are discovered, and I felt that exploring small-town conflicts, politics, and economics contributed something essential to the story I wanted to tell here. The character of a place is, generally, what draws people to it. Change happens, but too much change, too quickly can alter forever the quality of life the people have come to expect. Certainly the history of Woodsboro in this story -- going back to Neolithic times due to the dig -- was as vital a character as Callie.

HtoH: Can you tell us anything about your next book for the Penguin Group?

NR: In the fall of 2004, Penguin will publish Remember When. Part One will be a contemporary romantic suspense, written under my name. Part Two will leap into the future I write about as J. D. Robb, where Eve Dallas will investigate a case that connects to Part One. I hope people will find it as interesting to read as I found it to write.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 138 )
Rating Distribution

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 139 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2003

    Outstanding Read

    I love a mystery and a good romance, this book intertwines both. I feel this is one of the best books Nora Roberts has written. Her family dynamics are expressed with great feeling, pulling the reader into the emotions of her writing. This is a difficult book to put down until the last page has been turned.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 11, 2012


    It's been a long time since I curled up with a Nora Roberts book! I was pleased to see that some things never change . . knock-your-socks-off romance, a family-oriented story line (in spades!!), strong heroines who brook no nonsense and sexy male counterparts who keep the pages turning.

    As a youngster, I dreamt of becoming an archaeologist . . couple that basic premise with intrigue, sleuthing, seduction, betrayal and suspense and you've got a very entertaining read!

    I enjoyed this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2012


    This was a VERY good book! Loved it! Had somm unexpected turns but thats what made it so hard to put down.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 28, 2011

    Highly Recommended !

    Once again Nora Roberts has written a story that you just don't want to put down ! I would recommended it to everyone that likes her books .The plot keeps you guessing.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2011

    Great book

    Well written. Keeps your interest all the way to the end.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2011

    A MUST READ!!!!!!!

    I love this book! It is what you would expect from Nora Roberts! She is an awesome writer and has proved it again with this book! The characters and story line are great and kept me hooked and reading until I was finished with the book! A must read!!!!!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 30, 2003

    Four star book, Minus ten star reader...

    I don't think Ms. Roberts can write a bad book, but she surely has a dreadful reader here.Ms.Quigly.must hate men,they all had the same raspy,croaking,loud voices. My throat actually felt sore listening to her. She has the habit of dropping her voice at the end of a page so you have to connect the dots not to assume the sentence was ended.Fortunatly,she got Callie's sarcastic and linear thinking really well,one up for you,Ms.Quigly.Now,as for the book,one of Ms.Roberts Quality stories...not a bit boring..Quite exciting,thought provoking..and heart breaking at times..

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2003

    The book is GREAT! The narration HORRIBLE!

    It is a shame that a book as wonderful as Birthright has such a horrible narrator like Bernadette Quigley. I had the unfortunate chance to hear Ms. Quigley on the Three Fates audio and it was done so poorly, I actually returned it to the store. I didn¿t check to see who was reading Birthright, much to my chagrin. Ms. Quigley does not seem to have a range of voices to pull from, such as a fellow reader of Nora Roberts, Sandra Burr. In this reading Jake sounds like an eighty year old man and it¿s actually kinda creepy. Most of the male characters all have the same `voice¿ and you aren¿t sure who is supposed to be talking until their name is spoken. Ms. Quigley does an excellent job of reading Callie. She uses just the right amount of sarcasm in her voice and Lana is pretty well done too, but beyond that, it¿s terrible. I HIGHLY recommend the book, but stay far away from the audio!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2003


    Nora Roberts knows what she is doing when she sits down and starts to tell a tale. The woman is truly talented and amazing storyteller because you are pulled in by the characters and the overwhelming plot she has cooking. Automatically you know you won't put it down till you finish the last sentence on the last page.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 23, 2014


    Walks in

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 11, 2013

    Loved it

    Loved it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 21, 2012

    Thoroughly satisfying!

    Great plot! Very well developed and gripping. Real romances: she dealt with very relevant dynamics in human relationships including disappointment, withdrawal, distrust, superficiality, loss, forgiveness, hope. She really has a gift with interpreting/describing real life responses to tragedy to the extent where she pulls the reader completely into the lives of her characters. There is a long list of admirable, imperfect, easy-to-relate-to-characters in this book. Even the murdering antagonist has you rooting for them. All in all a thrilling read that I didn't want to end. There are some books that leave you empty, disappointed, even irritated. This book left me satisfied. Take the leap, spend the money, you'll echo my sentiments.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 29, 2012

    I think Nora Roberts is a trully talented author.She has wrote s

    I think Nora Roberts is a trully talented author.She has wrote sevral books but Birthright is my favorite.I love that the book Birthright is a combonation of romance and mystery. It was hard for me to put down the book after I started reading.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 13, 2012

    Recommend to anyone

    Favorite book

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  • Posted June 18, 2012

    Very good read. Page turner, did not want to put down!

    Very good read. Page turner, did not want to put down!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 13, 2012

    Worst Nora Robert's I've read so far.

    Several lose ends in the plot, repetitious phrasing comparing Callie's circumstances to an archeaological "dig", underdeveloped characters, sudden unexplained and illogical twists... made reading this book rather tedious. Not the quality I've come to expect from Nora Roberts.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 11, 2012

    Favorite Nora book

    The ending is perfection and all the archaelogical stuff is interesting. To me it felt like the movie sweet home alabam and i also loved the side story on Doug!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 22, 2011

    Couldn't put this book down

    I see why NR books are as popular as they are. This one was 5x longer than others of hers I've read but enjoyed all of it.

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  • Posted August 5, 2011

    I Also Recommend:


    Honestly, one of the BEST books I have ever read.

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  • Posted August 2, 2011

    Least favorite NR book

    I didn't enjoy this book at all. I thought the main character was unlikeable and I kept hoping by the end of the novel she would redeem herself, but that didn't happen. Since I couldn't like the main character, it was hard to enjoy the rest of the story. The ending was also so-so given that some of the culprits were never brought to justice. I may not have enjoyed this book, but overall I do enjoy Nora Roberts, so I will still continue to read other novels by her. If you are looking for better NR books, then I recommend The Search, Montana Sky, or High Noon.

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