My taste in entertainment tends to be on the darker, violent and existential side of things. Horror, action and sci-fi tend to perk up my attention when looking for something to read, watch and/or play. This particular guilty pleasure I came across by accident. I think most people’s guilty pleasure were discovered by accident or happenstance. I would be the first to admit that romance novels would be the last thing I would consider my type of entertainment. Not saying romance novels have no place, but it definitely doesn’t fill the criteria of what I like and listed above.
Ten or so years ago I would never have picked up these books, but I have since found them to be much to my liking. I’m still not sold on a majority of romance-themed novels, but I have been sold on the one’s written by that queen of the romance novels: Nora Roberts (and to a larger degree the one’s she writes under the pseudonym J.D Robb). The novels which sold me on her type of writing was her Three Sisters Island Trilogy.
1. Dance Upon the Air
Dance Upon the Air was a surprise find for me as a reader. My initial introduction to Nora Roberts’ writing was through a mystery-romance series of hers written by her under the pseudonym, J.D. Robb. Her In Death series had just the right balance of mystery, police procedural, humor and romance to make this male not feel all weird reading was really was a romance novel. On the prodding of a friend who is a voracious reader of all things Nora Roberts, I picked up Dance Upon the Air. From the moment I began to read the exciting introduction of the Three Sisters Island being born, I was hooked line and sinker on this book.
The Three Sisters Island is a small and quaint little island community off the coast of Massachusetts whose origins, legend has it, was due to a powerful spell weaved by three sister witches. Their spell ripped a portion of the Massachusetts coastline from the earth and floated off to just off the coast to form a sort of haven for their descendants. A haven from the puritanical witchhunts which have taken the lives of both real witches and those falsely accused as one. It’s through the later generations and their descendants that the story for this trilogy is played out through.
Dance Upon the Air deals with one of the descendants of the Three Sisters. The books tale concentrates on the trials and tribulations of one Nell Channing whose a direct descendant of the Sister whose powers were of the element of Air. A delicate woman whose life has been a living hell due to a very abusive and powerfully connected husband, Nell finally escapes her abusive relationship through guile and trickery, but as the story progresses its not long before the husband she left behind finds out the truth about his wife’s apparent “death”. Nell makes it to Three Sisters Island and upon setting foot on its soil feels as if she’s returned home. Whether by fate or providence, Nell soon meets two other women on the island whose destinies have been preordained to entwine with hers.
Dance Upon the Air sounds a bit like the Julia Roberts thriller Sleeping with the Enemy. The similarities are pretty close, but Roberts’ tale of magic, fate and self-reliance was the better of the two. Nell’s experiences as she learns to live and love again on Three Sisters Island has a sense of hope and self-reawakening which the Julia Roberts film lacked. This book shares some of the thriller aspect of the film, but doesn’t rely on it to weave a beautiful tale. Instead, Dance Upon the Air reads more like the journey of a damaged woman whose realization that the place she has now decided to call home and those friends and lovers she’s met will be the anchor in finally realizing the life she’s always thought she should have lived.
2. Heaven and Earth
Heaven and Earth marks the middle installment in Nora Roberts’ Three Sisters Island Trilogy. The first book in the series, Dance Upon the Air, started off the trilogy on a magical note with Ms. Roberts deftly combining romance, abit of the supernatural, and a nice thriller into an exciting tale of intertwined destinies and pasts, strong female characters, and passionate romance.
Heaven and Earth starts with the wedding and honeymoon of Nell Channing and Zack Todd (island town’s sheriff). This helps cement Nell’s full acceptance into the island town’s fabric. Her trials and tribulations which led her to Three Sisters Island and the test she had to pass to finally begin her life anew seem less of a coincidence and more fate and predestiny. Nell is very open to such a possibility and helps explain to her just why she felt so at home upon her arrival on the island. She thinks its the magic in her past and blood that she now has learned she has. Her new sister-in-law and fellow “sister witch” Ripley Todd thinks its all crapola and would rather not dwell on such things. Ripley Todd knows of the island’s magical history and her own role in it, but her fear and stubborn reluctance to accept her magical heritage makes up the meat of the novel.
Ripley’s attitude towards the magic that permeates the island and the two other women supposedly tied to her, Nell Channing and Mia Devlin (the resident island witch and seemingly its most desired woman on the island), run from tolerance to outright restrained hostility. Ripley’s willing to tolerate her new sister-in-law’s acceptance of her magical heritage. Mia Devlin on the other hand she avoids and ridicules in equal amount. Mia takes it all in stride but at the same time drops comments in an attempt to remind Ripley of her past and future. Ripley doesn’t like this at all and does all she can to avoid the fire-haired Mia. But soon a new factor drops into her life which would lead to her finally confronting her fear of her heritage and her role in what could be the survival of Three Sisters Island.
This factor comes in the guise of Dr. MacAllister Brooke. Mac, as he likes to be called, is a professor whose main call in life is the hunt of the so-called supernatural. His travels and research leads him to the island. He plans on researching the island and determining as to the veracity of the island’s supernatural past and origins. For some reason he and Ripley are set on a course to deal with each other. Mac sees Ripley as a challenge and an attraction forms. Ripley on the other hand sees Mac’s research and choice of profession as being something close to being worthless, but as they continue to stay in close proximity she too cannot deny the growing attraction between them.
As the story moves along, Ripley and Mac must contend not just with each other’s prickly and stubborn natures, but an outside force threatens to destroy the peaceful lives of the original Three Sisters’ descendants and the idyllic island home they and the other townspeople call home. Ripley will have to decide in the end whether to accept that which she has feared for so long, or close herself off from it forever and thus dooming her and everyone close to her. In the end, Ripley will not be alone in her own confrontation with the darkness looming over the Three Sisters Island, Mac, Nell, Mia, Zack and many others will be there to help and support her.
All in all, Heaven and Earth is a great continuation of the epic tale began with Dance Upon the Air. Ripley and Mac’s relationship is a source of both humor and heat. It’s amusing to see polar opposites, yet with so much in common personality-wise, fight tooth and nail not to give in to what is definitely two halves of the same coin finally finding each other.
3. Face the Fire
Face the Fire is the third and climactic installment to Nora Roberts’ entertaining and fun Three Sisters Island Trilogy. The first two books dealt with the first two “sisters” whose powers were tied with the elements of Air and Earth. In this third book, Mia Devlin, the third so-called sister of the title takes her power from the element of Fire. Like the element itself, Mia mirrors it in her stunning look, with her flowing fiery-red hair and even fiery demeanor. In the previous two books in the trilogy it was always Mia who guided and helped both Nell and Ripley to finding their true path in life and in finally accepting their magical heritage.
Face the Fire now has Mia becoming the center of all the magical happenings on the titular Three Sisters Island. The previous two books gradually gave its readers more and more information concerning the original Three Sisters and the prophecy/curse which befall them and which still hangs over their descendants and the island refuge their created. Nell and Ripley have done their part in trying to prevent the darkness about to descend on their island home, but its all up to Mia and her own intertwined destiny with a man who broke her heart many years past that must find a way to head off disaster and break the curse that has plagued their line through the generations. Will Mia succeed in breaking the chain of heartache which started with her ancestor? No matter what, Mia has her two “sisters” to help and assist her in her own trials.
Of the three books in the trilogy this one would lean heaviest on the supernatural aspect of the series. We learn even more of the back story of the Three Sisters Island which Mia has called home all her life and one she’s protected by herself against the evil her ancestors (also Nell’s and Ripley’s). Of all the three “sisters” who form the core of the trilogy it’s Mia who has fully embraced her heritage and her story also show’s that she is the most powerful of the three but no less damaged by a past relationship that she must acknowledge and repair if she, Nell and Ripley will succeed in preventing the age’s-old evil from returning to Three Sisters Island and finishing what it was preventing from doing so by the original three sisters.
In the end, Face the Fire is a worthy conclusion to what has been a magical trilogy. The novel continues where Dance Upon the Air and Heaven and Earth left off. It was nice to have Mia becoming the center of the story. In the previous two books she’s always been like the omnipresent powerful white witch who knew all. This time around we got to see her human side and know that she’s as damaged as her other sisters. Ms. Roberts did a great job with this trilogy and as great as the three books has been and why it continues to be a guilty pleasure of mine.