I’m sure most everyone who follows my reviews has noticed this by now, but I really love Nora Roberts. I don’t tend to read all that much in the contemporary or romance genres, but she’s my exception. I’ve been reading my way through her back catalogue since I was fifteen or so, and for the past ten years have been reading her new releases as soon as I can get my hands on them. Now, she’s one of the few authors who is an insta-buy for me. While Under Currents didn’t blow me away, it was another strong offering that demonstrated to me once again that Nora seems incapable of producing a dud. She’s just awesome.
“The couldn’t take who we are away from us. We’re who we are despite them.”
Over the past few years, Nora’s writing has undergone a shift that I both respect and regret. She’s always been the source of my ultimate comfort reads, but that light easiness has fallen by the wayside. And I respect her so much for it. Nora’s stories have shifted from fairly straightforward romances to books that, while still romantic with an almost guaranteed happy ending, deal with some pretty hard topics. Recently, these topics have included mass shootings and how survivors wrestle with the aftermath decades later, kidnapping and sex-slavery and how families adjust to having a broken family member returned, and how the children of serial killers have to deal with the horrors wrought by said parents and the fear they feel that their blood might be tainted with violence. And that’s just to name a few. In Under Currents, Nora addresses domestic violence and abuse in various settings, from suburbia to squalor to affluence. We see how abuse impacts children from their first contact with it and through their adulthood. We see how easily hidden the worst abuse can be, and how it can pervade even the seemingly nicest and safest neighborhoods. We also see how abuse can become a cycle for some, but that others break free of it and often spend their lives helping pull others from the wreckage.
“You showed me what was real. Real family, real parents, even real husband and wife. Without that, without you… Abuse is a cycle. Without you, I might have become like him.”
Mixed into and rising above this trauma were characters who were Nora’s patented blend of funny, engaging, hardworking, and empathetic. These were people who would come together to help each other or outsiders at a moment’s notice. They are incredibly self motivated, and most of them are self-employed entrepreneurs on a small scale. The setting is lovely, the community charming, and the writing is beautifully descriptive and easy to envision. As always, romance and family are the key binding agents of the story Nora weaves. The only thing that didn’t ring true for me was the mystery element. It was glaringly obvious who the secondary and tertiary villains would be, so much so that the main characters should have guessed it immediately. Their ignorance was almost jarringly unbelievable.
“Maybe there were undercurrents and always would be, but they’d never drag him down again.”
I love that Nora took a chance and started incorporating issues close to her heart into her fiction. It was a huge risk to take, especially with such a large fanbase. Thankfully it’s a very loyal fanbase, and they/we seem happy to follow her anywhere. I applaud her for stepping outside the box and producing meatier works like Under Currents. I can’t wait to read whatever she writes next.
You can purchase a copy of the book here, with free shipping worldwide!