Born in Fire by Nora Roberts
*****
Make room on the keeper shelf. Nora Roberts has delivered a winner.

This spicy contemporary romance, first in the "Born In..." trilogy, is set in Ireland and centers around Maggie Concannon.

Maggie and her sister, Brianna, have been raised in a bitter and loveless marriage. Their widowed mother continually carps about her miserable lot in life, and the girls' father, the only one to show them love and affection, dies as the novel opens. Brianna copes by retreating behind a facade of cool competence; Maggie allows her more fiery nature to surface in her work as a talented glass artist. Fiercely independent, distrustful of marriage, she is determined to live life on her own terms.

Enter Rogan Sweeny, an international art dealer with an eye for new talent. One look at Maggie's glasswork and he's determined to sign her for his gallery. One look at Maggie and he's intrigued by her uniqueness. Bewildered and exasperated by her artistic lifestyle, but unable to resist, Rogan soon begins a headlong tumble into love. But will Maggie be able to put her own miserable family upbringing behind and meet him halfway?

Roberts' style is earthy, realistic, and makes for an entirely believable read. She has captured the rhythm of the Irish dialect and used it to great effectiveness. Maggie emerges as a thoroughly likable heroine, one with whom we can easily identify. She has several endearing faults, but she's honest with herself, and this made me respect her dilemma more than if she'd spent half the book wallowing in confusion.

There is a dandy subplot concerning the widowed mother and what to do with her, and those scenes serve to underscore Maggie's emotional turmoil and reluctance to fall in love. The secondary characters are spare and necessary; I have a feeling more than one of them will crop up in the other books of this trilogy.

Roberts did one thing with her character of Rogan that I really liked. Once he realizes he is in love with Maggie, about halfway through the book, he never looks back. No waffling, no resistance to the idea, just a full-steam-ahead campaign to win her over. Roberts wisely kept her major emotional conflict confined to one character and let us enjoy the ride. And what an enjoyable ride it is!

--Cathy Sova

Other Nora Roberts Books
Born in Ice
Born in Shame
From the Heart
Holding the Dream
Megan's Mate
Montana Sky
True Betrayals
Waiting for Nick

As J.D. Robb
Glory in Death
Rapture in Death

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