Review: Black Hills by Nora Roberts

Posted July 8, 2009 by Holly in Reviews | 4 Comments

Review: Black Hills by Nora RobertsReviewer: Holly
Black Hills by Nora Roberts
Publisher: Penguin
Publication Date: July 7th 2009
Genres: Fiction, Suspense
Pages: 464
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A summer at his grandparents' South Dakota ranch is not eleven-year-old Cooper Sullivan's idea of a good time. But things are a bit more bearable now that he's discovered the neighbor girl, Lil Chance, and her homemade batting cage. Even horseback riding isn't as awful as Coop thought it would be. Each year, with Coop's annual summer visit, their friendship deepens from innocent games to stolen kisses, but there is one shared experience that will forever haunt them: the terrifying discovery of a hiker's body.

As the seasons change and the years roll, Lil stays steadfast to her aspiration of becoming a wildlife biologist and protecting her family land, while Coop struggles with his father's demand that he attend law school and join the family firm. Twelve years after they last walked together hand in hand, fate has brought them back to the Black Hills when the people and things they hold most dear need them most.

Coop recently left his fast-paced life as an investigator in New York to take care for his aging grandparents and the ranch he has come to call home. Though the memory of his touch still haunts her, Lil has let nothing stop her dream of opening the Chance Wildlife Refuge, but something ... or someone ... has been keeping a close watch. When small pranks and acts of destruction escalate into the heartless killing of Lil's beloved cougar, recollections of an unsolved murder in these very hills have Coop springing to action to keep Lil safe.

Lil and Coop both know the natural dangers that lurk in the wild landscape of the Black Hills. Now they must work together to unearth a killer of twisted and unnatural instincts who has singled them out as prey.

I can’t remember if I mentioned this here on the blog before, but I grew up in the Black Hills of South Dakota. When I found out that Nora Roberts was going to write a book set there, I was beyond excited. Lately I’ve been feeling really homesick. There’s nothing more amazing than the Black Hills in summer. I figured the perfect way to combat that feeling was to read this book.

Unfortunately, this book didn’t do for me what I was hoping it would. While it wasn’t a bad book, it didn’t transport me back home like I expected it to. I’m afraid the problem here is that I went into it with extremely high expectations and it wasn’t able to live up to them. I found myself craving mentions from my old haunts, or wanting more detailed descriptions of places I’ve been. Since I didn’t get what I was looking for, my enjoyment was marred somewhat. There were also a couple things she got wrong – things only a native would be bothered by. Those are personal issues, however, and probably not things others will notice.

The synopsis does a pretty good job of outlining the story so I won’t recap.

I really enjoyed Lil. She was a strong, capable woman who knew what she wanted and went after it. I really felt a strong connection with her. I think Roberts did an excellent job of showing us how it was Lil came to be the woman she was. She was strong and independent, but I never felt she crossed the line into being too independent. She was willing to stand up for herself when she needed to, but also willing to ask for help when she needed it.

Coop I was less impressed with. Although I understood his reasons for becoming cynical during the time he was away from Lil, I was really bothered by the way he handled his relationship with her. Both now and in the past. Coop decided he wasn’t good enough for Lil when they were teens and broke up with her “for her own good”. The he comes back and decides he wants to be with her again, just like that.

My problem stems from the way Coop acted. Or, more accurately, the way he didn’t act. He never once showed contrition for breaking up with Lil when they were younger. Nor did he even seem to care that he truly broke her heart. He sort of just shrugged her feelings off, choosing to believe instead that he did the right thing by walking away from her. At one point she tells him she had the right to decide for herself and he basically responds that no, she didn’t. I just can’t tell you how much that frustrated me.

To be fair, he worked hard to show Lil he cared for her. I really felt their connection and believed they cared for each other. I did like that Lil didn’t just give in to Coop. She was mad at him for acting the way he did and wasn’t afraid to let him know it. In the end I was happy to see them work out their problems, but still frustrated with Coop. I think because he never got it, never admitted he was wrong or showed that he respected Lil enough to allow her to make her own decisions. What’s to say he wouldn’t make a decision for her again, thinking it was “for her own good”?

Obviously I had issues with that.

I also had issues with the villain of the piece. It’s established fairly early on who he is and why he’s doing what he’s doing, but I didn’t really find him to be all that bad. I guess that part of it just didn’t seem like that big of a deal to me. I never once felt concerned about how things would end, or like he was a true threat.

Aside from that, I did enjoy the relationships Lil had with her friends and family, as well as the ones Coop had with his. I’ve always thought Roberts really excels and writing friendships/family relationships and this book is no exceptions. The secondary romance between Lil’s best friend and a close family friend was cute.

Although there were parts that worked, overall I didn’t care much for the story. I’m not sure if it’s because of my own personal issues or the story itself. I’ll be curious to see what the rest of you think.

3.25 out of 5

This book is available from Berkley. You can buy it here or here in e-format.


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4 responses to “Review: Black Hills by Nora Roberts

  1. Holly – I gave this book to my S-I-L, who also grew up near the Black Hills. She enjoyed the story but had several regional issues with the book as well. Her biggest being that natives don’t call them “mountains” ever. I thought that was an interesting detail that I would never have caught. What I said to her was that the book made me want to visit South Dakota, which is something I can honestly say I’ve never felt before.

    Like you, I wasn’t feeling the bad guy at all. I never understood his motivation, and didn’t really get an EeeeVIL vibe from him.

    I liked Coop better than her last hero (the dude from Tribute), so I was better with him. And I liked Lil as well. You and I had more or less the same reaction to the book. But then her last few books have been “lesser” reads than usual for me.

  2. Hey Holly 🙂

    Very good review 🙂 I think that the bad guy was not very well developed. The psychology behind his motive was just not right. For me, part of the let down was how fast they figured him out as well.

    I liked Cooper better than you did. I understand that he handled it wrong, the break up of the relationship and he should have explained it to Lil… but ultimately, in my opinion, he took the right decision… and since it was the right decision, it’s hard to feel regret right? She wouldn’t be where she is now if they had stayed together. Both of them had to grow up, especially Coop who had to figure out who he was. I think that part was well explained…

    Frankly, I think that Cooper would really have stayed away from Lil if she had moved on… but she hadn’t. Sure, it would have been nice to see a little more contrition and him acknowledged that he hurt her… but there was a lot of hurt on both side…

  3. Hi Holly, nath sent me this way- I live in Rapid City and seeing the setting for this one got me all excited as well. I’m not a native, having only been here 7 years, but it feels like “home”. I’ll have to see if the library will carry it, surely they would! I’m curious to see if I notice the same problems.

  4. holly

    You’re absolutely correct – a native would never call the Hills “mountains”. Nor would we refer to the Spearfish Creek as “the Spearfish”.
    Since Nora is hit or miss for me as is, I probably shouldn’t have expected as much from this as I did.

    Nath, I understand that it seemed like Lil weoukd have given up her dreams for Coop, but we’ll never know, will we? I guess I feel like he really underestimated her. The fact that he wasn’t at all sorry for doing it makes me wonder if he wouldn’t do it again.

    Lisa, thanks for stopping by. I’ll be really curious to see what you think once you read it. Will you come back and let me know?

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