Dance Upon the Air by Nora Roberts
(Jove, $7.99, PG) ISBN 0-515-13122-9
****
Dance Upon the Air is the first in a new trilogy by Nora Roberts, who is known for writing great stories about a set of brothers or a set of sisters. If this book is any indication of the quality of this series, Nora has done it again.

The twist in this series in that the story is based on a legend of three witches, all sisters, who leave Salem Massachusetts at the height of the witch hunts in 1692. They cast a spell that their descendents will be reunited and safe at some time in the future, after each fulfills their destiny.

It is now modern day, and we meet the descendants of these three witches. Mia knows she is part of the legend, and has been waiting for the other two to come to the island. Her childhood friend, Ripley, has refused to acknowledge she is a witch and she and Mia have had a split because of this. The third witch is the heroine in Dance Upon the Air.

Helen Remington, alias Nell Channing, is on the run from her abusive husband. She faked her death and changed her name in order to escape him. Nell is drawn to the island off Cape Cod known as Three Sisters Island and she hopes it is here she can live in quiet solitude and with some peace.

Here she meets the other two women, and is drawn into the legend and the witchcraft. She learns about herself and her powers slowly and with much trepidation. The first time she makes fire, I was elated right along with her! She also meets the love of her life.

Sheriff Zachary Todd and his sister, Ripley, are the law on this tiny island that is full of summer tourists and down-to-earth full time residents. Zach prides himself, as a third generation law officer, on keeping the peace. He is caring, and filled with the self-confidence of a man who knows what makes him happy. He falls for Nell and gives his love freely.

But Zach senses Nell is hiding something and he has to work to get past her barriers to get her to admit her love. Nell is fearful of conflict and anger. She has a tenuous grasp on her self-confidence, drawing on the strength she has gained since she left her old life. It is through her relationships with Mia, Ripley and Zach that she truly learns about herself. Zach gradually helps Nell overcome her fear to embrace their feelings of love. Yet always there is the shadow hanging over them from her past.

The village is full of endearing neighbors who Roberts portrays as the kind of people you’d want to know in your own small town. Although the characters are only lightly developed, they are written into the story so it enhances the liveliness of the town atmosphere and helps Nell experience the feeling of acceptance she craves. It seems as if the villagers accept the fact that there may be witches about, but since the witches do not openly flaunt themselves, this part of the story is never truly explored.

It is obvious that this is one part of a series, as it is noted that all three witches must complete their destiny for the spell to be broken. Yet, knowing that does not distract from the completion of this romantic tale.

Vivid with the rituals and sorcery of ancient witches, this tale is first and foremost a truly romantic story. Zach and Nell are the focus of the story, with scenes full of seductive kisses and romantic meals as they discover their feelings and explore their sexual relationship.

As much as I enjoyed this story, I don’t think I’d claim it as my favorite Roberts…yet I finished reading it in one day and couldn’t put it down. I think that attests to the power of Nora Roberts as a writer.

The conclusion of Dance Upon the Air captures the magic and power of love. And it sets the stage for book two, one book that I will definitely be looking forward to reading.

--Shirley Lyons


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