How to Write a Likable Character, revisited


Nora Roberts, aka J.D. Robb, isn’t a best selling writer for nothing.  I have read and enjoyed many of her murder mysteries set in New York of the not very distant future and featuring a clever, beautiful and brave female detective and her equally clever, beautiful and brave (and also fabulously rich) husband.

I also enjoyed The Collector, published by Nora Roberts in 2014, but the too-good -to-be-true characters weren’t as sympathetic this time, in my opinion.   The beautiful New York detective has no interest in her appearance as a result of a traumatic childhood that involved none of the usual little girl accouterments such as dolls, pretty dresses, or even female company.  That works, at least for the purposes of the stories.

However her upbringing as an army brat has made the heroine of the Collector simply annoying.  The pretty, kind, and clever Lila meets a handsome artist who falls in love with her, but the independence she has developed as a result of her background for some reason makes her respond to his efforts to protect her like a petulant and bad tempered child.   I had a hard time integrating the supposed warmth and kindness with the apparently instinctive snide responses to any attempt to be nice to her.  There are people who are especially kind and immediately develop bonds of empathy with everyone they meet, but Nora Roberts isn’t very successful at bringing one of them to life.

The plot begins with Lila house-sitting in a Manhattan apartment and, a la Rear Window, witnessing a murder in a neighboring building.  This happens because she’s in the habit of watching her neighbors through binoculars, a not very nice thing to do and not really excusable because of an army upbringing or an interest in people.


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