Cordina’s Crown Jewel by Nora Roberts

This is my third What’s in a Name Challenge book, the one with jewelry or a gem in the title.

Genre: Romance, contemporary
Themes: Big Secret, Big Misunderstanding, Royalty
Year of publication: 2002
No. in series: 4
Setting & time: Vermont, USA and Cordina, a fictional kingdom in Europe
Explicitness and number of sex/love scenes: Several rather purple ones

Princess Camilla de Cordina is teetering on the verge of a nervous breakdown and decides to take a break from her duties. Keeping a low profile, she goes on a road trip and enjoys being just another young woman. A mishap with her car brings her into the company of grumpy archaeologist Delaney Caine. Being short on money, she accepts a temporary job from him while she waits for the car to be fixed. Since he lives in a rustic cabin in the woods, they are together in close company and as she cleans his house, cooks him proper meals and types up his notes, they begin to fall in love. But he doesn’t know who she really is…

I know pretty much what to expect when I pick up a Nora Roberts novel to read. There will be a couple who fall in love almost despite themselves, some kind of obstacle to overcome, instant falling in lust and/or a gradual falling in love, a falling-out, and a satisfying coming-together at the end. In fact, this formula applies to most romance novels, but the enjoyment in reading them is all in the execution and the settings. I know I can always expect a few purple love/sex passages from Nora, along with solid, unpretentious writing outside of the love scenes, and a story well told.

Roberts is also very good at creating great characters, but in this particular case I found neither character that great, just passable. I also grimaced at how contrived the whole “lacking in funds” plot element was. It says in the story that Camilla dare not use her credit card for fear of her name being recognized by a store clerk. 30 years ago this would have been a perfectly acceptable plot element, but not in this day and age (or indeed in 2002 when it was first published) when there are ATM's on every other street corner. I know the story takes place in a time-frame with ATM's, because e-mail and websites are mentioned, and I was using ATM's a good 5 years before I had ever heard of e-mail, way back when the Web didn’t exist. This, however, is a minor detail that can be overlooked.

What I couldn’t overlook was that I couldn’t sink myself into the story like I love doing when I read any book. When the book is a romance novel this means that either I become the heroine or the hero, or I fall in love with the hero for the duration of the book. Neither happened here. I can’t quite put my finger on why, but perhaps it was the sweetness of the story and the relative ease with which the falling-out was mended and the obstacles overcome. I do know that I generally like Roberts’ romantic thrillers better than her straight romances, so maybe I just need a bit more darkness and complications for her novels to really resonate with me. 2 stars.

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