There’s a log of big in this book: the Big Sky country of Montana, where a big family runs two big businesses on a really big spread; and when the problems come, they’re big ones.
The biggest problem is Alice. She was the Longbow family’s black sheep who ran away in youthful rebellion, realized that was the wrong plan, and tried to get back. But just a few miles away from home, she was snatched up by sadistic religious fanatic and enslaved for 25 years, leaving the tight-knit family to think she had abandoned them and is long dead.
The story opens with the shocker of Alice’s abduction then switches to the present, giving a sense of foreboding while the family is introduced and their relationships established. Then the past and present start marching toward each other—linked, though no one realizes it, by the killing of two local women.
While Alice was gone, the Longbows kept building their luxury vacation resort around a working ranch. The enterprise is now in the hands of the fourth generation, managed by the savvy and sexy Bodine. She’s busy juggling employees, relatives, operations, and return of an old heartthrob when Alice escapes from her captor and astounds the family to a standstill by stumbling home, an almost unrecognizable wreck.
Aftershocks cascade through the rest of the story. It pulls together the family history and the two murders, Alice’s appalling past, and Bodine’s current romance, along with pairings among her best friends and siblings, tangled up with all the things that can go afoul in an outfit as huge as the Longbow ranch/resort.
This big, juicy novel is presented in Nora Roberts’ signature style, with snappy dialogue between believable characters and brushstroke descriptions that capture personality and place. Woven through are themes on overcoming (or succumbing to) grief and despair, the importance of family, and handling boundary conflicts—between business and personal, lovers and siblings, friends and employees—also the importance of playing straight in all aspects of life.
This last point, a characteristic of the author’s works, might be the most romantic part of the story to folks who wrassle with head games in their lives. How many of us wish for straightforward relationships across the board? Most of Roberts’ lead characters enjoy this ideal quality of romanticism while struggling through the difficulties of romantic love. Honesty and integrity are what allow them to ultimately succeed.
Come Sundown tackles romance from another angle, forming a classic “romantic suspense” plot of heroine and hero working together to resolve some criminal intrusion that jeopardizes their lives. The Nora Roberts version of this genre involves lots of friends and family and complexity. Like all her romantic suspense novels, this latest one is reliable with its tropes while presenting a unique scenario, making for not just a beach read or rainy-day read, but a play-hooky-from-work read impossible to put down.