The Book Gourmet

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Sanctuary by Nora Roberts

Sanctuary - Nora Roberts

Famous photographer Jo Ellen Hathaway suffers a breakdown, when she receives a folder full of photographs of her and one of her mother, the mother who disappeared twenty years ago, leaving her family behind. But in the photo, her mother is young, just as Jo Ellen remembers her. She's also naked...And dead.
When Jo Ellen comes out of the hospital, the photo of her mother is gone, like it was never there, and she takes refuge on the island of Lost Desire, in her home, with her estranged family, in order to get back on her feet, thinking she'd be safe.

But evil has followed Jo Ellen. Evil hiding behind a photo camera and lens, determined to outdo its mentor, and create a better portrait of an angel in death, and Jo Ellen would make an excellent subject.


This is what Nora Roberts does best. We have a very dysfunctional and estranged family separated by grief and self-isolation—a father who, after his wife's abandonment, abandoned his own children, in spirit if not in body, the oldest brother determined never to let a woman close in order to protect his heart, the youngest sister who hides behind a mask of a self-centered airhead, and the older sister who keeps everybody and everything at arms length, never needing anybody because they might abandon her like her mother did, who, following the lowest point in her life, comes home and brings the family back together.
Then there's the requisite romance, done in the usual NR laid-back, subtle style (but since there are three siblings, we get three separate romance sub-plots. They're completely different from each other, depending entirely on the characters that "live them" and their personalities, but they're also so well-done, they don't encroach on either each other, or the main plot.
There's of course the plethora of main and secondary characters, each shining through in their own way, each bringing something to the plot, and their relationships, interactions and evolving storylines are always a pleasure to read.

And then there's the suspense, so deeply enmeshed into the main arc of the story, its presence is always palpable. The reader can feel the evil, the danger lurking in the sidelines, creeping closer and closer. The added sprinkling of mystery as to whether the hero is really what he looks like or if he's indeed the villain, adds to the suspense and intensity of the read, keeping the tempo and expectations high as the reader turns the pages faster and faster.
When the truth finally comes (in only the last chapter!), the resolution is almost anticlimactic, after the heightened suspense and intensity of the path that led to it. The motive and reasoning certainly were, since it turned out the villain was just plain crazy.

A great mix of suspense, intrigue, romance, angst, family drama, and wonderful characters.