Pros: Roberts' first novel is included!
Cons: not as good as her full-length novels
Nora Roberts is probably the one romance writer who doesn't make me feel horribly guilty to be reading romance novels when I have yet to read so many of the classics. Her novels are always well-researched, and I never feel like my brain is turning to mush when I'm reading. I was ecstatic when my sister handed me Irish Hearts, a compilation of two Roberts novels: her very first book Irish Thoroughbred, and a sequel to it, Irish Rose.
::: Two Irish Lasses :::
Nora Roberts has always gravitated toward the Emerald Isle for both characters and settings, and chose a displaced Irishwoman as the heroine of her very first novel, Irish Hearts. Adelia "Dee" Cunnane was orphaned in Ireland at a young age. Her aunt came to take care of her and help work the family farm, but after the aunt has a stroke, Dee takes on all the work herself. When the aunt finally dies, Dee must resign herself to the fact that there is no way she can keep the farm, and writes to her closest remaining relative, Paddy Cunnane, an uncle training horses for Travis Grant, the owner of Royal Meadows horse farm.
Dee moves in with her Uncle Paddy and manages to get herself a job as a groom at Royal Meadows, assigned to one of the most promising horses Grant owns, Majesty. Travis and Dee both find themselves attracted to each other, but in that combative, awkward way so popular in romance novels. When Paddy has a heart attack, he asks Grant to marry Dee so that she won't be left alone in America, and Grant complies. Where their relationship goes from this rushed and arranged marriage, is of course, the heart of the novel.
In Irish Rose, Travis and Dee Grant and their children make a trip back to Dee's homeland, along with a friend, Burke Logan, owner of neighboring farm Three Aces. Logan meets Dee's distant cousin Erin McKinnon when they stay with her family on the trip, and recognizes her as someone who wants to make an escape. He offers her a position as bookkeeper at his horse farm in America, and Erin jumps at the chance, even though she's a bit wary of her attraction to the brash American.
Erin is still traditional, and when she refuses to live with Logan, he decides to marry her, quickly drawing her into society, where she feels out of place, as well as danger, as someone is drugging their horses to disqualify them. When Erin finds out more than she should have about the crime, she is suddenly in a great deal of danger, and Logan realizes how much he loves his wife.
::: Predictable, and Yet... :::
Both of the novels contained in Irish Hearts are fairly predictable, as many romance novels are. There is never any doubt that the main characters in each novel will end up together forever, expressing their undying love for each other before the last page of the book.
Irish Hearts is a great read for any diehard Roberts fan. You can get a glimpse here of the writer she would eventually become when you read Irish Thoroughbred, because you feel totally immersed in the world of horse racing when you are reading this novel. She also continues the story in not only Irish Rose, but also a later Silhouette romance called Irish Rebel, picking up the story several years later.
The mystery and intrigue in Irish Rose isn't as good as some of Roberts' later, full-length novels (like Homeport, but for a shorter romance, it's much more interesting than the genre usually provides. As a result, Irish Hearts is a better-than-expected read, and perfect for summer beach reading.