Dark Witch, by Nora Roberts

It's pointless to complain about repetitiveness in a Nora Roberts book. The woman has published over 200 novels; at this point I'm not sure if there's a romantic conflict out there she hasn't beaten to death. Certainly all the subjects in her latest novel Dark Witch are pretty shopworn—but if you're in the right mood, “shopworn” can translate to “enjoyable and comforting”.

Dark Witch is the first novel in the Cousins O'Dwyer trilogy. When American horse trainer Iona Sheenhan arrives in Ireland, she receives an unexpectedly warm welcome from her newfound cousins, Branna and Conner. The three are descended from the 13th century witch Sorcha, who once fought and nearly killed the evil sorcerer Cabhan. Cabhan has been lurking in the shadows ever since, waiting for the trio of O'Dwyers to be born who are destined to either restore him to full strength or destroy him forever. Iona has no idea of what her presence in Ireland might mean, but she's determined to help her cousins and their allies... including handsome stable owner Boyle McGrath, who doesn't have any magical powers, but is perfectly willing to fight the good fight with his fists.

Dark Witch is a significant improvement over Roberts's last series (which mostly served as an extended advertisement for her family's hotel), and she even manages to display a few flashes of originality. Vulnerable, optimistic Iona and taciturn Boyle are stock characters for Roberts, but the arc of their romance takes a couple of unexpected and rewarding turns. Unfortunately, the things Roberts is usually best at—writing about interesting work and long-term platonic friendships—get short shrift in this book, and she makes almost no attempt at having her characters speak with plausible young adult voices. To be fair, some of this is probably due to the set-up-heavy structure of first installments, so I have higher hopes for the remaining books in the series, which will center around well-established relationships and hopefully give Roberts's strengths more room to breathe.
Posted by: Julianka


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