Every year, between April-June Nora Roberts releases a new book—not that she doesn't through out the year, but the book released specifically in these months is what I wait with eyes (and years) wide open! It's my yearly bookish ritual of sort. So, when the pandemic and subsequent lockdown in India began, I was worried the wait will get longer and that she might put on hold the launch of her new book. But, I was relieved to see an Instagram post announcing the release of a new book and I couldn't wait to lay my hands (not literally, because lockdown and bookstores weren't open back then). More so, I couldn't wait to get over the lockdown fatigue that I was beginning to feel and the reader's block that refused to go away. And, Hideaway sort of became Roberts' lockdown gift for me.
The story, which spans a few decades (quite common feature in a lot of Nora's books, especially the recent ones – Come Sundown, Shelter in Place, Undercurrents, to name a few), opens with the funeral of Hollywood superstar (and royalty) Liam Sullivan. His whole family has gathered at his home in Big Sur—and it is a big family and took me a while to put all characters in place. While the whole family is busy with guests, 10-year-old Caitlyn (Cate) Sullivan while playing with her cousins is kidnapped from her great-grandfather's home. Cate, too, like her great-grandfather, great-grandmother, grandfather, father, mother, is a star, having done a number of movies. While the kidnapping surely comes as a surprise, but as a Roberts' fan you know that is it someone close to her (won't reveal much). Cate, to the dismay of the kidnappers, is a brave and intelligent girl. She escapes from their clutches and lands at Dillon Cooper's (a teenager) family ranch. There, he is taken in and comforted by his mother and grandmother. Soon, Cate's family along with the Sheriff arrives and is taken home. But, Cate's problems are far from over. While the kidnapper is soon caught, she struggles to let go of the ordeal and her family becomes too protective of her. Her father even relocates to Ireland for a few years, until she grows old enough to return to Los Angeles with the hopes of acting again and putting her past behind her. But, it's not a smooth ride. Not only has to build her confidence, she also has to face the traitor (who has been released from prison) on several occasions. And, deal with the vengeance that follows.
I am a Nora Roberts fan and my bookshelf and kindle is mostly occupied with her titles. I especially enjoy her standalone romances and romantic suspense. And I love it the story spans across a few decades—it makes understanding the characters even better. While Roberts' does a fantastic job in writing about and bringing alive the Sullivan family, I would say this book was a little less on romance and even so less on the suspense part—you already know who the culprits are. When you are introduced to Dillon as a teenager you know, as a Roberts's reader, that he is going to be her love interest. Even though both of them meet several people, fall in love even, while growing up, Cate and Dillon ending up together is no big surprise. The only disappointment came in the fact that their romance was not that interesting as it was between Cate and Noah (her NYC boyfriend).
But, in an age where parents and grandparents are abandoned, families are now just three-four people, I liked the way the joint family dynamics was shown. Even Dillon's family, though small, is a close-knit one. Cate's relationship with her grandparents, especially is quite beautiful—when her grandfather suffers an injury and her grandmother puts Cate in-charge of looking after him while she is busy with Broadway...the scenes surely bring out a chuckle or two and also show how deep their bond is.
This time I was also surprised at the climax—normally the murderer or the conspirator in her books is someone who the protagonist trusts or is very close too...True Betrayals, Carolina Moon, Divine Evil for example. But, in Hideaway, the killer is a complete stranger. Till the very end, I kept thinking this person is actually going to reveal a very startling family connection and destroy the trust that Cate has on her family (and I as a reader had built about family ties). The end, which was quite an anti-climax, seemed a little hurried.
I wish Cate and Dillon's romance had more place in the book to make it a true romance. Hideaway reads more like a Sullivan family book, not in a bad way though. Relationships of all kinds find a prominent place over romance in Hideaway. And, as a Nora Roberts's fan, I am the fence: whether to love it for the portrayal of family ties or hate it because there is less romance. Nonetheless, a must read for Roberts's fans. For those new to the genre of romantic suspense or to Roberts's books, I suggest picking up some of her older titles would be a good start—Carolina Moon, The Villa, The Witness, Divine Evil, True Betrayals, to name a few.
Author: Nora Roberts