Playing the Odds, by Nora Roberts

30 Sep

Playing the Odds, by Nora RobertsPlaying the Odds

Anyone who has read my blog/reviews for any length of time is probably aware that I’m a fan of Nora Roberts’ writing. The woman can write incredibly strong heroines, believable children, realistic family dynamics, great dialogue, pretty decent suspense, long running police procedural with romantic elements series…

Yeah, you name it, she’s probably written at least one of these. Her current list of published works comfortably exceeds 200, and La Nora doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.

I have piles of Nora Roberts titles in my house, most of them read (and in my keeper room (I love books, what can I say?)) but a few yet unread titles exist—mostly, some of her first efforts. For some obscure reason hidden in my subconscious I often hesitate to read these older books.

Okay, it’s not really obscure nor hidden: I’m afraid that Ms Roberts’ first published works will not compare favorably with her more current oeuvre—which is actually bullshit, because I can re-read such early connected books as the five Calhoun stories and be as engrossed now as I was when I first discovered them (in 1997, when the dinosaurs roamed the earth and cell phones were heavier than a toolbox).


A while back I got my hands on copies of two omnibus editions of the first four MacGregors’ books¹ and last night I finally succumbed to the need for a) something new to read, and b) something I was likely to enjoy. As opposed to the several books that have recently become the objects of Hulk-smash hate (with any luck, I’ll get over the blind rage at some point so I can write the reviews).

But I digress (again).

Last night I grabbed the first book and read the first novel—and fell in love with Ms Roberts’ writing all over again.

Now, lest anyone feels compelled to point this out: this is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a perfect book. But holy smokes, it’s got so much goodness for a novel that’s a mere 245 pages long!

Okay, before this descends even further into gushing, let’s have ye olde back cover blurb:

The cards were stacked, though neither of them knew it. Serena MacGregor’s father left nothing to chance when he sent Justin Blade – part Comanche and all gambler – on a Caribbean cruise. His daughter was evading her responsibility to produce grandchildren by working as a blackjack dealer on the Celebration. Odds were they’d meet. Serena’s father had his hopes riding on what would happen when they did. Win, lose or draw, they were meant for each other, proving indisputably in this case that lucky in cards did not mean unlucky in love.(From fantastic fiction)

A few short reasons this book is awesome:

Serena “Rena” MacGregor is a PhD holding croupier working in a Bahamas/Caribbean cruise ship based in Miami. She’s self aware enough to have realized that she could be comfortable ensconced in the hallowed halls of academia and motivated enough to go for something entirely outside her comfort zone and previous experience.

Justin Blade is a Comanche gambler turned casino owner-cum-hotelier. Other readers may feel differently, but I never felt that his Native American heritage was over emphasized, eroticized or fetishised. It is an important part of his background, as it is for anyone belonging to an ethnic minority anywhere, but we don’t get any of the Noble Savage and fake woo-woo mysticism often found in Native American characters, particularly male protagonists.

We learn fairly early on that, at 18, Justin had been tried for murder. He was ultimately acquitted, for the man had not only attacked him first but also wounded him gravely enough to land him in the hospital for a few weeks—and then off to a cell for a number of weeks more. Justin’s need to isolate himself, his difficulty in trusting his heart to someone else, is perfectly understandable, not contrived like the old “oh, one woman betrayed me, all women are bitches/assholes/meanies and I shall forever treat them like shit.” You spend a few weeks in jail waiting for your murder trial, without knowing if any of the racist witnesses to the murder you are accused of will testify—or whether, once on the stand, will tell the truth—and tell me you have faith in the police, the legal system, or any of your fellow human beings.

Serena is a rocking heroine, because she rescues herself—throughout the entire book. This is not someone who just flows where life takes her, accepting whatever happens to her. For example, there are a couple of scenes at the beginning of the novel where Justin comes on to her a little too strongly—if any of the customers at my job tried to put his hand to my face, he would be nursing a bruise at the very least (and I’d likely be fired on the spot…)—but Serena allows it not out of timidity; she knows herself well enough to know that she allows Justin to crowd and corner her because she is as attracted to him as he seems to be to her.

After meeting Serena during her last cruise—as she feels she’s learned all she will from her year-long experiment, Justin plots to seduce her into working for him at his newest hotel. And indeed, just as he expects, she shows up there a few weeks later. Only, Serena has never considered working for Justin—point blank, she asks for an equal partnership. He’ll have her on her terms or not at all.

And the effing book was published in—please check this out—motherfucking 1985!!!

*deep breath*

The only weakness in the book, as far as I’m concerned, is Daniel MacGregor, Serena’s father, Justin’s dear friend, and engineer of their original meeting. I found his character slightly annoying and his machinations too over the top, slightly out of synch with how well the rest of the characters are written.

Still, and despite Daniel, Playing the Odds gets a 9.00 out of 10


¹ Selena~Caine contains Playing the Odds and Tempting Fate, Alan~Grant contains All The Possibilities and One Man’s Art

3 Responses to “Playing the Odds, by Nora Roberts”

  1. Rebecca 23/02/2014 at 6:56 PM #

    Thanks for your share!
    I am actually a fan of Nora Roberts, same with sylvia day, brenda joyce and maya banks. For those who are looking for Nora Roberts Collection and Sylvia day, (deleted link)
    They offer free downloads and requests. I’ve STOLEN many ebooks from them so far.

    • azteclady 23/02/2014 at 7:48 PM #

      Fixed that for you.

      Pro tip: when authors offer their books for free, they announce it on their own blogs and/or websites, and such deals appear clearly at reputable vendors, not shady asshole websites for people with no ethics.

      Like you.


  1. Shooter, by Dahlia West | Her Hands, My Hands - 11/09/2014

    […] and while I usually enjoy heroines who deal with their own shit and/or rescue themselves (witness Serena from Playing the Odds), in this case? Way too little, much too […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: