What hooked me? The beginning prologue which showed a first time arsonist's delight in watching flames grow. Then, the main story line began with the main character entering the scene and discovering the arson set to destroy her family's restaurant. For a lesser writer, the first hundred or so pages would be plain backstory, but for me, they created an extremely engaging character, Catrina Hale, set in the midst of an engaging extended family.
Fire becomes central to Reena's life as she becomes an arson investigator with the Baltimore police department. While Roberts stresses her competence and intelligence, Reena takes a long time to realize she's being stalked by a fire bug. Just thinks she's lousy at building romantic relationships.
The book isn't and is a standard romantic suspense novel. The final love interest is boisterous compared to the usual stern, contained, slightly bored romantic hero so commonly found in romance fiction...but he has more than his carpentry skills and looks to recommend him. Her close-knit, boisterous Italian family, a family so bustling it becomes a character in its own right--separate from its individual members--is one of the joys of the book. There are so many lives bumping into each other, it pulled this reader into reading just one more chapter...oh, maybe just another one...when I should have been doing something else. And, I'm not a Nora Roberts fan. [Doubt if I'll ever be since I put down more books of hers than I've read.]
I'll share a couple sour grapes. The back story which includes Reena's childhood trauma and her college years...and maybe her sacrificed-to-the-plot-line boyfriends. From what I read in the writer trade magazines, writers are discouraged from including such a lump of backstory stuff. Roberts not only carries it off but makes it a crucial part of the story's development.
Get out your check list for why Blue Smoke is a good read. Nicely rounded characters, including the secondary ones. A fast moving plot with lots of action. Well-placed, nicely described settings. Quibbles enter with the repetitive perfect arson fires, the violence, and the slowness of Reena to clue into the fact she had a stalker when he's got a bell ringing over his head, though Roberts doesn't name him.
A nice competent book with a hooking plot line. Hey it hooked me away from a perfectly good, widely praised read. Find excerpts and lots of reviews on Amazon and at B&N Nook.
My Writing Rut
Strange things happen when you work on the support for your writing. No. Not promotion. Just the strange stuff like lists for keeping the names of characters and places straight. A task that become obvious as I tried to build up some writing speed on my first Trapper Tremaine story.
Made a major discovery one evening when I started to doodle a map of Andor. It's the US, but made smaller by more than a third, like the stretch including Utah and Nevada. In Andor it's all mountains with various river valleys. The problem came with the Inner Sea which eliminated Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and the Dakotas. There was no way Pillar could get from Taddledon to the Bittermounts with one overnight on the bus, otherwise. So, I have to go back and rewrite description, mostly sceenery, for Pillar's first bus trip.
As I've complained before -- there's no counting the reasons why you have to go back and rewrite. I'm still deep into the rewrites of the middle of On the Run.
And, no. I don't think outlining would help me much. It's probably give me "writer's block", the writers form of indigestion.
Any way, I have a fairly detailed scene outline for Trial by Lies, but it doesn't help when I never seem to find the time to actually write the story.
Did get a couple chapter rewrites for On the Run cleaned up. Still have two more to rewrite before I get to write new stuff. Didn't get a new WIP snippet up on my author website.