First Place Contest Entry Irish Thoroughbred by Nora Roberts
Book Review by Maryanne Raphael May 20, 2008
Irish Thoroughbred is Nora Robert’s first novel. The main character is Adelia Cunnan, an Irish orphan who comes to America to live with her uncle after her last relative in Ireland died, Nora described her “deep auburn hair falling in gleaming waves to her shoulders, the large, deep green of thickly lashed eye, the up-tilted nose and full mouth with a startled pixie’s face.” A feisty redhead she is a tiny five feet two and looks like a teenager although she’s 23. Her favorite clothes are blue jeans and an old shirt and her favorite occupation is playing with and caring for animals.
When she arrives in America, Paddy, her father’s brother gives her a warm welcome. As always, Nora’s description helps us to see him right away. He is a“stockily built, compact man with a full thatch of curly grey hair and bright blue eyes like her dead father’s.” I saw him as a sort of friendly leprechaun. Her Uncle Paddy takes her to live at Royal Meadows, the finest horse farm in all of Maryland.
In a typical Nora Roberts introduction, Adelia meets the owner of the ranch, the love of her life, under embarrassing circumstances. When she can’t sleep she goes to the stables to visit the horses and just as she starts to open the door, Travis Grant grabs her, turns her around and holds her up “like a rag doll.” He is surprised to see that she is a girl. Her Irish anger riled, she gives him a harsh piece of her mind. She is shocked to learn that he is the owner of the ranch.
Nora describes Travis as “tall and powerfully built with deep tanned muscular arms, chiseled features, blue eyes, rich, full, thick black curls, nice mouth and good teeth.”
Nora captures the appearance of her characters right away and then the reader gets to know them and care about them as he or she sees them in action. The three main characters are presented in a way that draws us to them. They are substantial; the dialogue is seasoned with an Irish brogue and the narrative keeps us turning pages. All the characters sparkle with their own characteristics and all three have a genuine earthy quality that is very appealing.
Everyone loves race horses and the plot revolves about some of the best horses including Majesty. Adelia turns out to be the only one at the ranch who can really talk to the horses. This gives Travis an excuse to take her with him each time Majesty races.
Before coming to America, Adelia had a difficult life. Her parents died when she was very small and her stern aunt raised her and put her to work on their poor Irish farm. When her aunt died she was forced to sell the farm and go to America.
Grant also had a hard life His father was very strict, never showed love and forced him to work hard as a child. Her Uncle Paddy was his best friend. When Paddy is in danger of dying from a heart attack he asks Travis to take care of Adelia and Travis promises to marry her. She is passionately in love with him but believes he is marrying her only for her uncle’s sake because her uncle was like a father to him when he was growing up.
Margo Winters, a cold sophisticated woman who once dated Travis got angry because he would not marry her and went off to Europe. She now returns to Maryland hoping Travis has missed her enough to want to marry her. When she sees he’s married to Adelia she tries to convince her to leave him because she is too low class and can’t entertain his friends properly. Adelia is very proud and prepares to return to Ireland. Nora has us wondering will our lovers live happily ever after.
Characters are excellently brought to life We care about Adelia from the first time we meet her on the plane and we are rooting for her until the very end. Adelia may lack tact at times but she is unpretentious, outspoken, down to earth and crazy about horses and all animals.
As a writer I have learned a lot from Nora Roberts: how to create and portray interesting characters, how to develop a plot that keeps people turning pages, how to create conflict between characters and how to make readers care about them.
It was a treasure to find the first book that Nora ever wrote and to read her words about how the heroine is still close to her heart. Even an author of over 100 books does not forget her first book. “Who wouldn’t admire a woman who comes to America from Ireland, orphaned and alone and not only makes a new life for herself but boldly discovers a passionate love with riggedly handsome Travis Grant?” I love her passionate strong minded people such as Adelia who captured the heart of a great race horse and its owner.
Anyone familiar with Nora Roberts expects exciting material that keeps them interested to the last page. Lovingly crafted stories take us into the lives of very real, confused and likeable people. Nora is sensitive to the weaknesses and strengths of her characters and their conflicting hopes, fears, and frustrations. Her work is well written with perfectly paced uncluttered writing style. It has a wholesome setting with decent people, a charm that shines through every plot.
Nora’s fans know what to expect from her books and won’t be disappointed with this, her first one. For those who have never read her this is a good place to start.
Nora knew from the beginning how to capture readers’ hearts with exciting stories and sizzling romance.