One of the many reasons why I love to read Nora Roberts novels is consistency. I know that when I open one of her books, I will find a level of writing excellence that goes beyond the norm. While other readers may find this aspect predictable, I find it comforting. That consistency is never more evident than in her summer hardcover, Black Hills.
In a decade-spanning story, Ms. Roberts introduces us to Cooper Sullivan and Lillian Chance. Cooper is the neglected child of wealthy self-absorbed parents, who ship him off to his grandparent's Montana ranch. This child of the city has never been more miserable. Hoping that having a playmate nearby will help, his grandparents take him to visit the Chance farm, where Lil Chance is a tomboy with a capital T. Cooper discovers that girls can play baseball, and that life on the ranch may be different, but it is not all bad. Cooper also learns that love can be unconditional and that he doesn't have to please his parents to find acceptance.
Cooper and Lil try to keep their friendship afloat, but as they go their separate ways to college and careers, things change. Feelings on both sides lead to misunderstanding. How will Lil handle Cooper coming back to Montana? She is a well-respected researcher, specializing in big cat rescues. Cooper has pulled up stakes in New York and settled in at the ranch to care for his grandparents. They will have to put the past behind them and try to be friends again.
A series of strange events at the wildlife refuge have everyone on alert. Security cameras sabotaged and other events indicate that someone is planning mischief. When the vandalism turns deadly, Lil and Coop realize that they have a killer on the hunt. Is he more interested in two-legged victims?
Black Hills was a winner for me. I loved the way that Ms. Roberts brought Cooper and Lil full circle. Their relationship was believable and uncontrived. The secondary characters had plenty of development and necessary to the overall plot. The animals at the refuge were not cardboard props either, but full of vitality and key to the story.