Black Hills By Nora Roberts
A Literary Review

South Africaby Lenina Rassool
Posted: 9 November 2009
In: Books > Reviews Comments View Comments

Black Hills is a well-written, intriguing modern love story with an underlying plot of suspense. It cleverly weaves itself tighter and tighter until your focus has shifted to looking for a killer instead of rooting for the relationship.

Black Hills By Nora RobertsAs a devoted lover of Mills & Boon (I know... I can't help it), any book with a romantic plot - especially when the main characters start out hating each other - grabs me. As I got older, however, Mills & Boon had become much too short to sustain my hunger for more than a few hours so Nora Roberts novels are a delicious treat. What made this one an even bigger indulgence was the addition of a killer to the plot to spice things up - both in and outside of the bedroom.

That said, after more than 10 years of romance novels, I can usually guess a plot a page away and not every romantic scuffle has me up at 3am, eyes burning but unable to put the book down.

Black Hills had me hooked though. The main plot is your classic love story - independent and tomboyish Lil Chance living with her perfect parents at a cattle ranch in South Dakota and Cooper Sullivan, a rich kid from New York City whose parents care more about money than him. They meet, she breaks through his defences, they fall in love, they break up - and the chase begins.

Roberts could have gotten the formula straight off one of Mills & Boon's plot outlines on its web site.

And yet - it's so much more than that too.

The author expertly manages to add the necessary detail of cattle ranching and wildlife preservation without making me want to skip a paragraph... a habit when a novel is drowning in unnecessary panoramic descriptions. Books are supposed to feed your imagination without forcing you to stop and picture some weird intricate detail that takes five paragraphs to describe. Who cares?

In this book, simple phrases such as, "There were mists rising, and the birds had just started to chatter", tell you everything you need to know - that it's morning. Lil and Coop's passion for baseball and the countryside while they're young and then wildlife conservation and cougars when they're older is equally fascinating without making you work too hard to relate, even if you don't know anything about the subjects.

One thing I found a bit disconcerting however, was how early in the book the murderer and motive were revealed - smack bang in the middle. Usually, when an author takes the guesswork out of the killer's identity and what his motive is, it hints at a more compelling twist later on. It kept me guessing for about another quarter of the book - until I realised there was nothing more. I felt a bit cheated, actually. Roberts might as well have left the murderer out altogether and pitched the book directly to Mills & Boon. I would have enjoyed it more without the unnecessary anticipation and frustrating guesswork. It also doesn't justify the name of this book when the only defining thing about the Black Hills is the fact that the killer hides in them. After such a good read, skimming through the "big chase" at the end - through those nondescript hills - almost ruined the conclusion. Almost, except that it helped Lil and Chase realise how much they love each other, and that they have an ability to put their past behind them and live happily ever after. Happy endings might not fix everything but I'm a sucker for that warm fuzzy feeling, so this is definitely a book I'll be reading again.

The review copy of Black Hills by Nora Roberts was provided by Penguin Books (South Africa). It is available from leading book stores and online retailers, including, , and . OpinionShare/Bookmark
Rating: 8/10

Key Facts (Review Copy)
Title: Black Hills
Author: Nora Roberts
ISBN/EAN: 9780749929268
Publisher: Piatkus Books (an imprint of Little, Brown Book Group)
Edition: First
Year: 2009 (2 July 2009)
Format: Paperback
Pages: 538
Dimensions: 153x234x45mm (WxHxD)
Genre/Keywords: crime, fiction, murder, romance

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