Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Nora Roberts - The Collector

When professional house-sitter Lila Emerson witnesses a murder/suicide from her current apartment-sitting job, life as she knows it takes a dramatic turn. Suddenly, the woman with no permanent ties finds herself almost wishing for one. . . .
Artist Ashton Archer knows his brother isn’t capable of violence—against himself or others. He recruits Lila, the only eyewitness, to help him uncover what happened. Ash longs to paint her as intensely as he hungers to touch her. But their investigation draws them into a rarified circle where priceless antiques are bought, sold, gambled away, and stolen, where what you possess is who you are, and where what you desire becomes a deadly obsession. . . .

Comment: Despite the fact some books by a beloved author aren't always as great and being aware some more recent ones in series by this one in particular haven't been the best, I still feel dedicated to the work of Nora Roberts. I like to keep some of her titles on the shelf, thankfully she is prolific and writes one or two a year, and the idea I'll always have something by her to read does not stop being appealing.

This title is from 2014 and in it we meet Lila Emerson, a professional house sitter and novelist. Lila likes to do a good job while she is taking care of the house of others and her reputation makes her name one which keeps being recommended, allowing her to travel and see many things. Lila also likes to use her binoculars to watch others while she is staying somewhere. Many can see this a being nosy but Lila is inspired by the lives of others, often settled in a way she chose not to be...until the day she sees a woman being murdered and of course Lila has to call help. From then on, between the police and the brother of the man suspected of killing the woman and then himself, her life changes and she feels she has to know what really happened and by having seen something, she feels parts of it as well. But the real killer discovers Lila saw something, could it be her life is in danger too?

This was, as I expected, a very patterned story for anyone who is familiar to the work of the author. I don't mean this as a critic; in fact, there is something peaceful in knowing what kind of story one will get. Of course, the formula works better in certain stories than others but when it comes to the author's standalone novels, most of the time, the result is one I like.

Lila's work of house sitting is quite original, at least I don't think this is as easy or as glamorous as the story intended to portray...someone simply staying and benefiting from the house itself with the owners permission... when  the story begins, Lila is stating as new job and she can use the jacuzzi, she can live there as if it's her house, no matter the references to "leave things as they were" or to not leave things out of place or her own stuff forgotten... although, I suppose people who can afford to have this service while they are in vacation or something probably feel comfortable enough to allow it.

I wouldn't mind trying this but wouldn't it be weird to use/deal with things which belong to others? I must be too suspicious but the idea both fascinated and left apprehensive. Of course, for the plot's purposes, it was quite handy and I must confess I liked the cover of my edition a lot, it's quite suggestive, one being without much care, just admiring the night view in a sleek, elegant place... it also made it believable how Lila saw the crime but couldn't know all the details, making this a good setup for the upcoming scenes.

From the moment Lila meets the "hero", Ashton, I think the rest followed a more repetitive pattern, as I've said, they go from just working together to explain a few facts to become inseparable and from then to love was practically just a few chapters. I could see how such a situation would be conductive to more intense feelings so quickly but the practical side of me felt like there could have been more to make this sound more organic, as if they couldn't help it. The way the story developed, though, there were many moments where it just felt planned. Which it was, of course, but... I still wish the romance had been sharper or more complex in how they felt they couldn't help but falling in love.

The same thing for the secondary relationship between Lila and Ashton's best friends, who happened to have been married as they were younger... what are the odds! But ok, this was just a device to bring them together in convenient times. I also think the other characters are pretty much the staple of Nora Roberts' work, easily identified and compared with so many others in previous books. I don't mind it, but it can feel a bit too easy how characters just play their roles like clockwork.

What was surprising was how the antagonist, the villain used a female assassin to do his dirty work. I can't remember many female killers in the body of work of the author so that was quite invigorating even though the motivations and behaviors we get while briefly in that woman's head are pretty basic. Still, this worked out for this story but I must say the whole collecting notion which explains the title is just too superficial, as if the villain had nothing else to do but sit in a chair plotting and looking at his collection. It's so... simplistic and basic. I do think Nora Roberts could improve the characterization  bit more.

Like I said, this can also depend on the type of story, after all the same device worked well for me in other books by her. The police investigation was too simple, there were several coincidences and when there's more than one, the plot just feels fake, obviously, as if it couldn't exactly develop that way or at that pace. I did have this feeling here and there but since I see these books as comfort reads, I could put aside what I liked less and appreciate what I liked more. It hasn't worked in other books and I'm certain readers not fans might find too much to criticize in this one anyway, but... I think it's still a good use of time, comparing to a lot out there.
Grade: 7/10


  1. (making my way here from twitter)

    I agree with everything you say about plotting and characterization, and would like to add, regarding the woman assassin, how uncomfortable I was that the only Asian person in the book was described as an stereotype, almost like a Bond killer. We know NR is very capable of writing nuance killers--even as little as we learn from, say, the bad guy from The Witness, there is nuance there--but here both the assassin and the villain behind here are nothing but stereotypes.

    1. Hello! Yes, that is true. There is a clear focus on the woman being Asian and that reads badly, especially since there isn't as much focus on race in the vast majority of her books. I admit I don't feel very comfortable discussing this subject, I can't always tell if a comment, a word or a sentence I write might be misunderstood because English isn't my mother language and sometimes words might not have the same level of interpretation in a different language.

    2. Thank you; and yes, it's tricky when reviewing in a second language.

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