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Book review: <i>The Liar</i> by Nora Roberts

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the cover of the book

When Shelby Pomeroy’s husband dies unexpectedly, she heads home to Tennessee, a young widow with a young daughter and a lot of debt. Hoping to put the past behind her, she settles in with the family she left five years ago, but it turns out trouble has followed her home…

The story

At the age of nineteen, Shelby was blown away by Richard. He was handsome, wealthy, self possessed, and had a smile that made Shelby feel special. He promised to show her the world, and for five years, he did. She left her family in Tennessee, got pregnant, got married, and travelled at Richard's side.

When Richard dies in a boating accident, which Shelby and her young daughter Callie avoided by a twist of fate, Shelby discovers her entire marriage was a lie. Not only was Richard living on other people's money, he'd left her with a mountain of debt – a house to sell, credit cards to pay, and no life insurance or assistance to speak of. Shelby also discovers other things about Richard: it looks like he was a fraudster, and the Richard Shelby thought she loved never really existed.

Broke, battered, and worried about how she'll be received in the home town she ran away from, Shelby and Callie drive home. While Shelby's mother, Ada Mae, is ecstatic to see her, some other family members, and also friends, take a little more convincing. While Shelby settles in, she knows she's being watched by the whole town, but she finds out also that she's being watched by strangers. It turns out Richard left some unfinished business, and there are at least two people coming to collect.

Shelby has a lot on her plate, and she also has Griff, the new builder in town whose eye she caught, and her old nemesis Melanie, who's trying to make her life a living hell...

The style

I’m a bit in two minds about this The Liar. I will caveat my opinion by saying straight off the bat that this isn’t my usual genre, not by a long shot. For people who read this site frequently, you’ll know that my two genres of choice are crime fiction and contemporary literature, and this story is more epic romance with minor thriller. As I said, certainly not my usual. I like my crime either encased in contemporary literature or short and sharp and police-y. So please bear that in mind for the duration of this review.

In the beginning, The Liar was ticking boxes. There was the mystery of Richard’s death, Shelby trying to get everything together and settle the debts and then work out why she’d ended up in this financial mess. When she discovers her husband wasn’t who he said he was, and there was a PI involved, I was all like, yes, this is good. This is working as a thriller. I admit, I found Shelby a bit annoying as a character, but I was willing to put that aside. However, because I was reading on a kindle, I couldn’t see the SHEER SIZE of the book, which would in paperback have been an indication that the thrilling was interspersed with A MASSIVE AMOUNT OF SOMETHING ELSE.

What is the massive amount of something else, you ask? Well, The Liar is set in the south, so there’s quite a lot of ole’ down home charm to cope with. Now I’ve never been to the south, deep or otherwise, so I’m not sure how true to form this book runs. My experience with Southern literature is very much informed by and sympathetic towards Rebecca Wells, who, let's face it, is amazing, but her stories certainly aren't supposed to be thrillers, so maybe that's the difference. However, The Liar may have a plotline geared towards thriller, but the characters are not overly three dimensional. Shelby is too nice. Too textbook, too cute, to predictable. Too good at being a parent ALL THE TIME at the age of TWENTY THREE. You know how all parents feel sometimes? Like their kid is annoying. Shelby NEVER feels like that. So she's either a saint, or an unbelievable character. Oh, sure, she beats herself up about running away from her family and being too submissive to Richard, but the reader's positioned to be all like, “oh, honey, it's not your fault, you're SO GREAT”. The love interest is too nice and too hot, the family members are all too supportive, and Melanie, one of the local antagonists, is too predictably bad. I find, in real life and also well written literature, all characters have dimensions. Everybody has something dark about them, something secret, something vulnerable. It's psyche one-oh-one. So that aspect got a bit much towards the end.

Now I would be remiss in my analysis without touching on sex, which happens a fair bit in the book (it is an epic romantic/thriller after all). I appreciated very much the way Shelby and her mother and grandmother are, refreshingly, open about sex. They talk about it, they're honest about it happening and the fact that it's good for relationships. These ladies certainly aren't repressed. When Shelby goes on dates, her mother gives her a condom. And while the sex scenes are very much Mills and Boon-y passion fests, I found this aspect of the story refreshing.

Who is this book for?

Look, it's not for me. But if you like an epic romance with a touch of thriller and you don't mind all your characters a little bit stereotypical, then for sure. Read this.

In short

Title: The Liar
Author: Nora Roberts
Publisher: G P Putman's Sons
ISBN: 978-0399170867
Year published: 2015
Pages: 512
Genre(s): Fiction
Review Type: