Book Recommendation: The Search, by Nora Roberts

The Author

Nora Roberts is one of my favourite authors.  I don’t love everything she writes (Year One, I’m looking at you), and I find her earliest works to be fairly bland, generic romances – but in the last 15-20 years, she has produced an incredible number of novels, many of which have found a permanent place on my shelves.  She is an author I turn to when I feel like something light and easy to read, with enough of a plot to hold my attention, and a guaranteed happy ending.  Most of Roberts’ books have some sort of mystery intertwined with the romance, some have supernatural elements, and almost all of them have characters with interesting professions which are well-researched and integrated into the plot in realistic ways.

The Book

The Search, published in 2010, tells the story of dog-trainer Fiona Bristow and artisan furniture maker Simon Doyle.  Both live in a small island community, and meet when Simon brings his new puppy, Jaws, to Fiona for training.  Though close to others in the community, Fiona is a very private person who lives alone with her three Labradors (Newman, Peck, and Bogart), and chooses not to discuss the fact that several years ago she was the survivor of a terrible crime.

Of course, being a romance, Simon and Fiona begin spending more time together, and Fiona soon talks him into considering Jaws as a candidate for the canine search and rescue squad she coordinates on a volunteer basis.  Being a Nora Roberts book, with a side-helping of mystery and suspense, it’s not long before Fiona’s past rears its head as well, with new victims beginning to appear despite the perpetrator who attacked her eight years ago being securely imprisoned.  It seems that there’s a copycat on the loose, and there’s every reason to believe that eventually he will head for Fiona, to finish what his idol started.

Why I Love It

The Search is one of my all-time favourite Nora Roberts books, for a number of reasons.  As a dog lover, I really enjoy the way the canine characters in this book are written, and the way the human characters live with and love their pets rings very true to life.  For example, right at the start of the book, there’s a scene where Fiona goes out with one of her dogs to help find a missing toddler.  She’s successful, and brings the little guy out of the woods to his terrified parents.  The father desperately tries to hold it together, but when he’s invited to meet the dog who led Fiona to his son, he breaks down and weeps on the dog’s neck.  The dogs aren’t part of this book as window dressing; they’re integral to the plot, and they’re written very well.  As a bonus, for anyone who is wary of stories where an heroic dog sacrifices him-or-herself to save their beloved human, all of the canine characters in this one make it safely to the end!

Another thing I love about The Search is the level of detail it includes on Fiona’s work as a dog trainer, and her volunteer work in canine search and rescue.  This is a feature of many of Nora Roberts’ books: many of her characters have interesting professions, and she clearly puts considerable time into getting the details of those professions right.  There are no information dumps for the sake of showing off research, but I came away from this book with a new-found interest in canine search and rescue.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I really liked the human protagonists in this book.  Fiona is a tough woman who has fought hard to make a life for herself after a traumatic past.  She has friends and family who are a close and active part of her life (something that can often be missing in romance novels), and a career she loves.  Simon isn’t quite as thoroughly fleshed out as Fiona, but he is a charming combination of no-nonsense gruff on the outside, and considerate and sweet on the inside.  There aren’t a lot of sweet words from Simon, but when someone needs him, he’s always there.

Where To Get It

Nora Roberts is a big name, so it should be fairly simple to access a copy of The Search through your local library system.  This is a repeat read for me, so I purchased my own copy from Book Depository, and pull it off my shelf when I’m in need of an easy, uncomplicated read.