Hideaway: A Novel
“the underlying message of the book is that no matter how well loved and well supported you are, bad things can happen that aren’t your fault, and they can mess you up no matter what you do, for years and years. Somehow you have to overcome them.”
Good golly, holy mackerel, and jeezum crow—how does Nora Roberts do it?
Her latest stand-alone romantic suspense novel represents her 220th-something book. Think about that. Over 200 romantic stories. And they don’t get stale!
This explains, of course, her immense popularity and regular high placing among bestselling authors.
Romance, by commercial definition, has a simple plot. Originally it was boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl, and they live happily ever after. Changing times have expanded this to include all genders in different combinations, and happily-ever-after has expanded to include the option happy-for-now.
Within those parameters, anything goes. A dominant subgenre is romantic suspense, which blends the romance trope with some sort of dangerous escapade or protagonist in peril.
In Hideaway, it’s protagonist in peril. Cate Sullivan is kidnapped at 10 years old and spends the next decade-plus not only recovering from the ordeal but also outrunning—and hiding away from—the perpetrators who keep haunting and hassling her in a vendetta that never quits.
Cate never did anything to deserve it. She just had the luck of the draw that made her the gifted child of wealthy, famous parents. She’s used as a pawn to extract money from them. The plot fails only because little Cate is such a spitfire that she gets away on her own, and thus sends some—but not all—of the bad people to prison.
Physically unharmed, she’s nonetheless so terrified deep inside that as she grows into adulthood she can’t make herself step outside any safe environment. This grates against her need for independence, especially when she discovers she didn’t inherit the family theatrical talent and has to find her own niche in life.
From California to New York City and back again, she moves between explorations. But harassment follows her everywhere she goes. If it’s not media persecution, it’s anonymous phone calls keeping the past alive and threatening the present.
Not surprisingly, she can’t cultivate many relationships outside her protective family. New York offers enough camouflage in a crowd that she manages to date a bit and fall in love, plus get an advanced education. But when her lover is attacked and seriously injured solely because he’s with Cate, they realize the problem is bigger than both of them and must part.
Once safe again back in the family compound, she decides she cannot live the rest of her life as a victim. About this time in the story—halfway through the book—her true love enters the picture. Dillon has been there all along, at the ranch where she lands after escaping from her kidnappers. But Cate and Dillon grow up apart, and only when proximity returns them to each other does romance enter this romantic suspense novel.
In a way, that’s the point. Hideaway is a bigger story than boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl. Rather, it’s about the power and importance of family, which seems to be the dominant theme in Nora Roberts’ works.
For Hideaway, it’s as if Roberts asked herself: What is the worst thing that can happen in a big, happy, loyal, loving, prosperous family?
Cate is betrayed by the person she should most be able to rely upon, and that is what generates the story and dominates her life. Everyone else in her clan—blood related and expanded circle—devotes themselves to helping Cate recover from the betrayal and build her own life. She is seriously lucky in that regard.
But the underlying message of the book is that no matter how well loved and well supported you are, bad things can happen that aren’t your fault, and they can mess you up no matter what you do, for years and years. Somehow you have to overcome them.
Cate’s inner struggle involves figuring out when it’s important to stand on your own and chart your own path, and when it’s vital to swallow your pride and ask for help from others. Also to accept it when offered.
Her outer struggle involves staying alive. Her enemies prove that no amount of money, moral support, acreage, and privilege can fully insulate you from the world. Especially when somebody is determined to harm you.
Ultimately Cate’s inner spitfire emerges again to save herself and others and ensure a happy ending. That story of struggle, growth, triumph, and optimistic resolution—smoothly and snappily written in Roberts’ signature style—are why so many people read her novels.