Title: Black Hills
Paperback: 538 pages
Publication Date: 03/06/2010
I seem to be developing quite a guilty pleasure for reading romantic suspense [which is now not a very secret guilty pleasure, so I can’t be that embarrassed about it!]. My latest foray into the genre is Nora Roberts’s most recent paperback Black Hills [I think it’s the most recent; her output is so prolific that who can really say for sure!], set in the eponymous region of South Dakota. I was drawn in by the back-cover copy, which named one of the central characters as Lil Chance. It says something of the time that we live in that I didn’t just assume that Lil was short for Lillian [which it is in this book], but thought that it was some sort of rapper’s name [and it really would make a great rap name!].
Lil and Cooper ‘Coop’ Sullivan are the main characters and romantic crux of the novel, with Coop the son of rich but distant parents going through a messy divorce and sending him to stay with his grandparents. Coming from New York to the what he sees as the middle of nowhere, the young Coop is initially distinctly unimpressed until he meets his neighbour’s daughter, Lil. A mutual love of baseball brings them together and over the years their friendship deepens as Coop returns each summer. It culminates in them falling in love, but Coop leaves Lil heartbroken when he suddenly abandons her to return to New York [the cad!]. Twelve years later he returns to look after his grandparents and finds Lil with her own wild life reserve and little inclination to see him [and who can blame her].
But when someone starts killing hikers and wildlife, Coop realises that Lil is the focus of the murderer’s attention [he uses the deductive skills gleaned from being a detective and PI; lucky that!]. The plot is slightly over the top and in a sense very American, but as a reader I quite like the filmic quality of it and the suspense element means that the romance angle never gets too saccharine for my taste. You do find out who the killer is about half way through the novel, but Roberts’s writing style is fast-paced and addictive and it is not difficult to see why she is such a popular author; highly enjoyable.