I read this out of curiosity, a romance novel by one of today's most prolific writers, Nora Roberts. Montana Sky purportedly broke her 100 novel mark in 1996, and as of today she has written well over 200 novels under the pseudonyms Nora Roberts, J.D. Robb, and Sarah Hardesty.
Roberts definitely has skill and if she were not to write so prolifically and toned down on the formulaic romance tropes, would be capable of writing a very good book, I think. Roberts writes contemporary romance with modern day swearing and sex, and olden day romantic ravishment. Her plot in Montana Sky held a lot of promise, and it delivered in many respects. Three sisters who have never met each other and who are from very different backgrounds are thrown together in dire circumstances. One sister is a tough rancher, another a Hollywood sophisticate in high-heels who is now forced to negotiate cow pats, and the other a timid girl who flinches at approach of any man. There is a huge inheritance at stake and there is a killer on the loose. Classic adventure scenario.
I found Roberts to be very formulaic, however, which was disappointing because her dialogue and story pace showed that she was capable of so much more. The three sisters pretty much pair up right at the start of the book with the first male character they meet in the story and those relationships never change. There is no rivalry, no fooling around, no in-fighting, no lost loves, and so on. The reader is pretty much privy, from the start, as to who will end up with whom. Here she pales in comparison to a more serious author and the de facto inventor of the historical romance, Georgette Heyer, who describes a more human, messy, and believable cast. Roberts also relies overly much on steamy sex scenes to maintain interest in lieu of intriguing plotting and masterful writing. I have nothing against such scenes in principle but in this case I found them stylized and unrealistic. I did not believe them for a second.
There is a decent plot twist dealing with the killer in the end, though most readers will have figured it out early. Roberts's way of throwing the reader off the scent is to describe various male characters in various emotional situations that suggest they might be, instead of a loving partner, a psychopathic killer, which I thought an unwarranted manipulation of the reader at the cost of actually damaging the reader's sympathy for characters who are supposed to be "the good guys." Roberts tends, it seems, to favour the mallet as a fine tool of the writing craft.
In the end I found Montana Sky very readable with some impressive passages from an author who clearly can do better. Perhaps not financially, but critically. She definitely writes exclusively for a female audience, and I do not expect to read more of her work because it just did not appeal enough to my tastes, visceral or critical. I would certainly recommend her to fans of the romance genre, though. But I would recommend Georgette Heyer's Regency romances first. Sometimes Nora writes for her canned audience of millions of adoring fans, churning out up to five competent novels a year, but a lot of the time she just types....Continua