Key of Light by Nora Roberts
Key of Knowledge by Nora Roberts
Key of Valor by Nora Roberts I picked this trilogy by the “best-selling women’s author of all time” because it claimed to be based on Celtic mythology and because the second book’s heroine is a librarian. These are romance-adventure books, where the adventure is deftly woven in with the traditional romance structure. The connection to Celtic mythology is, well, a little hazy. They mention some verifiable Celtic names when they’re doing research, but the gods of this book were not based on any actual gods, living or dead. That aside, here’s the basic notion: Three women who’ve never met before but have mysteriously all lost or nearly lost their jobs are invited to a fancy party at the big, possibly haunted house on the hill just outside of town. There they are treated fabulously and told a story of an old Celtic god-king who fell in love with a mortal woman. That was permissible, but taking her back behind the Curtain of Dreams with him to be his queen was not. In revenge, the king’s enemy, Kane, took the souls of his three teen daughters and locked them in a box with three locks. The keys were to be hidden in the mortal world. In every generation, three mortal women with the faces of the three sisters would be given the opportunity to find the keys. If they succeeded, the Box of Souls would be unlocked and the sisters released from their deathless sleep. If not, Kane would have proven that mortals really are worthless.
Malory, an art dealer, searches for the first key in Key of Light. They really mean Key of Beauty, but I guess that didn’t make for such a good book title. Dana, a tall and foulmouthed librarian, searches for the second key in Key of Knowledge, while Zoe, a hairdresser and single mother, searches for the Key of Valor. You might be wondering where the romance and women’s fiction comes into all of this. Wonder no more: finding each key involves each woman acknowledging a) that she is really good at what she does and b) that she can safely let into her life the handsome, wealthy and devoted man who is wooing her. (It’s romance, so we must allow the people to have problems even if they are all heart-stoppingly gorgeous and will have only temporary financial difficulties.) They all have different reasons for feeling they need to be single, of course, so completing the quest involves Personal Growth.
Roberts does a fine job of upping the stakes of the quest in each book, making each successive heroine work harder and be in more danger than the one before. All the characters appear in all of the books. The downside is that you know from book one which girl will end up with which guy, but on the plus side, the couple from book one isn’t just dropped after their book. Finally, there’s a strong element of women pulling together, as the three women are best friends almost immediately (but I’d have to say, if you believe the quest thing, best friends is pretty logical), working together not just on the quest but also helping with the romantic and job issues. I’d quibble with facials and toenail-painting as the most important method of female bonding, and I dislike the occasional use of words like “plunder” and “ravish” for consensual sexual activity. But all in all, this trilogy made for addictive reading.