Born in Shame by Nora Roberts
****
Nora Roberts' concluding novel in her Born In... trilogy won't disappoint readers who've been tantalized by the hero in the two previous books. Yes, it's Murphy, and yes, you'll fall more than a little in love with him yourself by the end of the book (or maybe even halfway through it).

Shannon Bodine, illegitimate half-sister to Maggie and Brianna of the first two books, is left alone in the world when her mother dies in the first chapter. With her last breath, the mother explains that Shannon was the product of a short but undying love affair with a married man (Thomas Concannon) while on a vacation in Ireland. Returning to America, the mother married Colin Bodine, whom Shannon had always believed to be her true father.

After burying her mother, Shannon is faced with the dilemma of whether or not to meet these heretofore unknown half-sisters. Intrigued, and more than a bit resentful, she travels to Ireland. There she finds a welcoming Brianna, a suspicious and hostile Maggie, and... Murphy Muldoon, a beloved neighbor and surrogate brother to the Concannon sisters.

Murphy is sort of an Irish Renaissance Man. A farmer, he's also a musician, poet, gardener, mechanic, and all-around studly guy. Shannon, being a high-flying advertising genius in a prestigious New York agency, can't imagine herself living the bucolic high life in Ireland. As she is drawn into the family rhythms of Brianna and Maggie, and as Murphy penetrates her emotional armor, Shannon's ideas about life and love start to crumble.

As in Born In Fire, our hero falls fast and hard and stays there. Roberts crafted Murphy's character especially carefully, and he's by far the most compelling person in the book. Direct, unabashedly romantic, and determined to have Shannon at all costs, Murphy really carries the story. Roberts easily mixes American slang and Irish dialect, with the result that the dialogue is again a standout. Shannon could easily have become a caricature of the driven American career woman, but her confusion and longing for family roots are handled delicately and with realism. I only wondered what took her so long to grab this marvelous guy.

Roberts adds a touch of Irish mysticism to the plot by troubling Shannon with dreams of an ancient warrior -- dreams Murphy is familiar with. This device could have cluttered the story, but it appeared just enough to bring an added dimension to the setting. The subplots introduced in the first two novels are continued here, and the secondary characters make expected appearances.

It's too bad Nora Roberts has run out of Concannons. Her knack for crafting a good Irish romance could have kept this series going indefinitely.

--Cathy Sova


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