Sunday, June 11, 2017

REVIEW: Jewels of the Sun (book) by Nora Roberts

Jewels of the Sun is a contemporary romance novel with supernatural aspects. It's the first book in a trilogy and was originally published in 1999.

Review:

Surprising herself and nearly everyone who knows her, Jude Murray quits her job as a psychology professor, rents out her Chicago condo, and flies to Ireland to live in a little cottage once owned by a relative of hers. She hadn’t even reacted this drastically when her husband asked for a divorce only a few months after they’d gotten married. All she knows is that she’s stressed and unhappy with her current life, and she has no idea what to do about it. She intends to stay at the cottage for six months, write an academic paper about Irish legends, and somehow figure out what to do next.

The village of Ardmore awakens a part of Jude that she’d thought long since squashed out of existence, a dreamer willing to believe in romance and magic. She’s baffled and pleased when two local women, Brenna O’Toole and Darcy Gallagher, decide to befriend her. Then there’s her attraction to Darcy’s charming and gorgeous brother, Aidan. And the beautiful and sad ghost who seems to be residing in her cottage.

This was a reread. I loved it when I first read it: the cozy Irish village and welcoming villagers, the Gallagher and O’Toole families, and Jude learning to just do things without worrying so much about the possibility of failure. I still enjoyed it this time around, although my enjoyment was a little more measured.

The main thing that kept me from completely sinking into this story was how painfully obvious it was that Jude came from a fairly wealthy family. She’d have to be, in order to suddenly quit her job, fly to another country, and spend six months working on a paper that, on its own, would probably never pay any bills. At one point, she went on a shopping spree with Brenna and Darcy and spent 2000 pounds on lingerie, plus who knows how much on purses, shoes, and outfits. Just thinking about it made panic well up in my throat - I couldn't help but remember how I'd felt when I paid $100 for a nice coat to wear to job interviews back when I was job hunting. Jude was also a bit shocked at her shopping spree, but whereas I kept thinking about her spending that much money without knowing when she’d see another paycheck, I had a feeling that Jude’s reaction was primarily inspired by her having done something so out of character for the person she’d been back in Chicago. Chicago Jude was practical and wouldn’t have spent so much money on sexy things.

I have a really nice life, but I can’t imagine ever having the kind of safety net that would be required for something like Jude’s story. When it dawned on her that what she really wanted to do was write stories, she worried about failure, but not about how she’d pay her bills if she failed. I could relate to aspects of Jude’s personality quite a bit - I, too, have a tendency to avoid risks and drama - but not so much her background.

That said, I still consider this one to be of Roberts’ better books. It was a quick and cozy read. Aidan was great, a guy who used to be a wanderer but who’d since matured and settled down. The gift-giving bit was lovely and sweet. The way he tried to handle Jude near the end of the book was more than a bit boneheaded, something he probably should have figured out sooner, but I could mostly understand how he’d gotten those idiot ideas in his head. And the groveling at the end was nice.

There were lots of other moments I loved that weren’t directly related to the romance. The way Jude’s mother, who up to that point had been painted as stiff and unemotional, got angry on Jude’s behalf. The hints of Brenna’s unrequited feelings for Shawn. Molly O’Toole’s steadiness, and the surprise Molly’s husband and Brenna had lined up for her. The way Darcy panicked when she realized that she might have had a part in setting Aidan up to be deeply hurt. Darcy wasn’t my favorite character, and I recall her book being my least favorite one in the trilogy, but I did like the way she’d get into snarling fights with her brothers and yet still clearly care about them. (Although her asking Jude for details about sex with Aidan seemed weird. Do sisters with brothers ever really do that? I only have a sister, and I can’t imagine wanting to discuss her sex life.)

The book’s supernatural aspects weren’t too bad either. This is one of the few “Nora Roberts trilogies tied together by something supernatural” that I can stand. The supernatural aspects are well-integrated into the romances and aren’t too hokey. Basically, a long time ago a mortal woman named Gwen fell in love with a faerie prince named Carrick. However, she doubted that her feelings for him and his feelings for her were real and ended up marrying the perfectly nice man her father lined up for her. She had kids, a decent marriage, and a nice but not passionate life. All the while, Carrick tried to woo her but made one big mistake - he never actually told her he loved her. At the end of Gwen’s life, he essentially cursed himself and Gwen not to be able to move on until three other couples fell in love. It was a bit silly and lacking in details (Carrick never actually specified which three couples, so it could have been anyone falling in love, not just the Gallagher siblings) but not too bad.

Jewels of the Sun hasn't perfectly stood the test of time for me, but it still made for a good reread.

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