My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Nora Roberts really does love her some “girl who’s been away for ages goes back to family home in a small town, and OHNOEZ THERE’S A MURDER” plots, and Carnal Innocence is yet another one of those type of books. Fortunately, this is a plot formula that Ms. Roberts does well. So even though there’s nothing terribly out of the ordinary in this novel, it’s a fun read nonetheless.
This time around we’ve got a world-famous violinist, Caroline Waverly, returning to the small Southern town of Innocence to recuperate from a grueling performance schedule, romantic betrayal from her conductor and lover, and her domineering mother. But there are murders going on in Innocence; young women are being lured out at night. And one of the initial prime suspects is Tucker Longstreet, one of the sons of a local old and wealthy family, with a reputation for being quite the lady-killer. The question is, of course, does this mean literally?
This being a Nora Roberts novel, the answer to that question is a no-brainer. Roberts takes her usual circuitous (but not too circuitous) route towards identifying the real killer, and along the way sets up some quite nice chemistry between the prim Caroline and the lazily charming Tucker. I quite liked both characters, not only because of my partiality to lead characters who are musicians, but also because Tucker invariably reminded me of Sawyer from Lost. He has the same kind of rogueish Southern charm, and that’s a quality that Roberts writes with engaging skill.
Since the setting is Southern, there are racial tensions here as well as religious ones. Both of these are played a little heavy-handedly at times in the plot, but on the other hand, I still found them realistically done. The inevitable awful family secrets among the Longstreets, coming to light, set the book up for a resolution that did actually surprise me a bit, too. Three stars.