Under Currents by Nora Roberts
Narrator: January LaVoy
Published by MacMillan Audio on July 19, 2019
Genres: Romantic Suspense
Length: 14 hours, 41 minutes
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Zane Bigelow grew up in a beautiful, perfectly kept house in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains. Strangers and even Zane's own aunt across the lake see his parents as a successful surgeon and his stylish wife, making appearances at their children's ballet recitals and baseball games. Only Zane and his sister know the truth, until one brutal night finally reveals cracks in the facade, and Zane escapes for college without a thought of looking back...
Years later, Zane returns to his hometown determined to reconnect with the place and people that mean so much to him, despite the painful memories. As he resumes life in the colorful town, he meets a gifted landscape artist named Darby, who is on the run from ghosts of her own.
When I’m in between series or recovering from a book hangover, I’ll re-read old favorites or go to some reliable authors for satisfying standalones. I guess it is kind of like an amuse-bouche for my brain. Nora Roberts is one of my go-to authors for several reasons; the most important of which is that I’ve yet to read a book by her I haven’t enjoyed. A close second is she has a massive catalogue so I’m certain to get my hands on one I haven’t read. When I pick up one of her romantic suspense or family-centered dramas, I feel like I can jump right in. Her plots are interesting and compelling, but not so complex that I spend the first half of the book trying to figure out where the story is going. Under Currents popped up on my library search as available and appeared to be just what I needed to help me recover from a month’s long fixation on Nordic Noir. While it was a good read, it was a little more complex than I expected.
Under Currents is written in four parts and reads a little bit like an anthology of connected novellas. Part One might easily be subtitled “Terror and Triumph” where a young, teenage Zane Bigelow and his sister Britt suffer horrific abuse at the hands of their parents; eventually finding the strength in themselves and some caring community members to break away. I’d caution anyone with triggers around domestic violence because the scenes in this part of the book were disturbing and graphic. It was hard to read, but by the end, it was very clear who the villain of the book was supposed to be (spoiler alert, the diabolical father).
I’d call Part Two “Finding Love.” 18 years after the first part, the chapter opens with a new character, Darby, finding a fresh start in a small NC Town. Coincidently, Zane returns from the big city to set up shop as a small town lawyer. The two meet and dot dot dot. Nora Roberts has a definite gift for character development and I totally loved Darcy as a lead. She has issues but she isn’t paralyzed by them. She’s enthusiastic and her love of horticulture and landscaping was infectious. As a fellow survivor of domestic violence, she has a personal understanding of the abuse Zane suffered. It is obvious that her triumphs help Zane heal the residual damage of his experience.
The last two Parts would be “Suspense Story 1” and “Suspense Story 2.” There are two very distinct plots that unfold sequentially. I thought this was a little disjointed and that they would have been better served to be intertwined. The antagonists in each part are vile, bloodthirsty jerks. It makes the other characters in the story so much more likeable. Although I am calling these parts “Suspense” I use that term loosely. I thought this portion of the story was pretty predictable but appreciated it for how it allowed Zane and Darcy to form and even deeper connection under adverse circumstances. It also gave one very charismatic but terribly ugly dog a chance to shine.
Although there were personal victories for the characters at the conclusion of each part, Under Currents delivers a sweet HEA in the end. Ms. Roberts doesn’t skimp on her descriptions of small town life, including both the bucolic and the grubby. She peppers the story with interesting cameos, but makes sure to take her time developing the main and supporting characters so that we feel like we know them like neighbors. I’d have liked to see more of a transition between the first part and the second part, but that could have been cut down for pacing and page count. I almost wonder if there is another book out there that tell Britt’s story. While Under Currents wasn’t exactly what I was expecting and had a few storyline issues, it was still a satisfying read.
January LaVoy is just so good as a narrator in this book. I really loved the emotion she puts into the characters, especially young Zane and young Britt. Her performance of Darby made me like the character even more than had I read her on a page. It found the pacing perfect and it was easy to distinguish between the character’s. I listened to this story at 1.25x..
Listen to a clip: HERE
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I own this one on audio and hope to get to it one day. It definitely sounds more complex than I expected.
Good review. I thought this book was good (I read it rather than listened to it.) At the same time, the domestic abuse aspects were difficult for me to read about, and I probably won’t reread it. (Before you ask: I have no personal experience of domestic violence or child abuse, and grew up with kind and loving parents.)
I haven’t read a Nora Roberts book in a while, but I need to get into some of her later stuff. This sounds good, even if a bit disjointed.
I enjoyed this one and I love January LaVoy as a narrator! This wasn’t really a favorite though – probably due to the disjointedness you mention.
I am in love with this cover.