Book seven in my challenge to read one book (I haven't read before) a fortnight in 2012 is The Search by Nora Roberts.
Let me say from the start, I know this reading quest has the word challenge in it, and reading a book by Roberts, queen of romantic fiction, is hardly a challenge. Let me also say that I am not a book snob. I'll give anything a try, and I quite dislike people who will look down on you because you happen to be reading a children's book, a summer blockbuster, or, horror of horrors, some chick lit.
Roberts, as already said, is queen when it comes to chick lit. All her books (and I have read many) follow a certain formula - individual looks for romance, meets someone, they fall in love, there is a challenge of some sort to their love, they overcome that challenge and there is a happy ending.
But formula is no bad thing. Roberts' books offer great comfort, an easy read and a break from reality. They differ from each other because each of the characters, while sharing traits such as strength, intelligence and determination, also differ greatly because of their pasts, their presents and their futures.
The Search follows the story of Fiona Bristow, living as a dog trainer/search and rescue worker on a small island near Washington. Fiona is independent, a hard worker, strong, loved by family and friends and above all, brave. For those who look down on chick lit, surely the qualities displayed by Fiona aren't to be sneered at, and like the character, don't we all strive to be the best we can? Sure, she's an idealised version of ourselves, but still a version that can be achieved.
Into Fiona's life comes Simon Doyle, headstrong, creative and not looking for love. For those expecting a tale of a woman wearing a man down until he loves her, think again. Simon is not the challenge in The Search, and the romance is not what this book hinges on.
That honour belongs to a serial killer, murdering girls in a style similar to that of a man jailed for murder, and the attempted murder of Fiona, who was the one who got away. Weren't expecting that, were you?
The Search is fun, dramatic, dark, tense and romantic by turns. It's not a read for someone looking for serious fiction, but it's a good book for someone looking to get away from it all, and get caught up in a world where you can be safe in the knowledge it will all work out - even if it doesn't feel like that when women are being kidnapped and tortured to death every few chapters.
Roberts, a prolific writer, brings her usual easy style to The Search. Despite its formula, it's a good read, and one of those books that is perfect to read when you're all curled up in the warmth and the wind is howling outside. And for those who feel it's beneath them to read chick lit? Get over it, Roberts and her chick lit have spent close to 200 weeks at the top of the New York Times Bestseller List. So there.