Dance Upon the Air, the first book in Nora Roberts’ Three Sisters Island trilogy, is something of a comfort read for me. I’ve read it a couple of times over the years and it is my favorite of the series. I had not, until this recent reading however, taken in the audiobook.
To take in Nell and the other Sisters narrative in this manner was interesting. It didn’t turn out to be the peak of my audiobook listening experience, but it did add a facet to a story that I return to from time to time.
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Published: 10 June 2008 (originally published June 2001)
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
When Nell Channing arrives on charming Three Sisters Island, she believes that she’s finally found refuge from her abusive husband–and from the terrifying life she fled so desperately eight months ago…
But even in this quiet, peaceful place, Nell never feels entirely at ease. Careful to conceal her true identity, she takes a job as a cook at the local bookstore cafe–and begins to explore her feelings for the island sheriff, Zack Todd. But there is a part of herself she can never reveal to him–for she must continue to guard her secrets if she wants to keep the past at bay. One careless word, one misplaced confidence, and the new life she’s created so carefully could shatter completely.
Just as Nell starts to wonder if she’ll ever be able to break free of her fear, she realizes that the island suffers under a terrible curse–one that can only be broken by the descendants of the Three Sisters, the witches who settled the island back in 1692. And now, with the help of two other strong, gifted women–and with the nightmares of the past haunting her every step–she must find the power to save her home, her love…and herself…
Domestic abuse (including physical & emotional), blood
Sandra Burr had a good, clear voice when narrating the parts of Dance Upon the Air between dialogue. The views of the island, descriptions of food, tender moments between lovers, all good. Her choices for vocalizations, however, left a bit to be desired.
Some of the voices didn’t sound good for the characters. Mia, for instance, one of the main characters, was pinched & nasally, making her sound much older than she actually was. Nell, the proper main character, was too breathy and soft compared to the narrator’s stronger moments. Since she was the focus of much of the action, it made her lose depth.
Another part of the production that was odd was in a flashback/dream sequence. When Nell is recollecting/dreaming about an encounter with her abusive ex, Evan, the narration takes on an echo-y quality that doesn’t sound good. When you hear it, it’s almost like the narrator is reading her lines underwater. The effect is unnecessary because the writing makes it clear this is a dream sequence, so the bad echo sound effect merely makes it an unpleasant listening experience.
- The setting of Three Sisters Island. It was very picturesque and comforting. I’ve always enjoyed the ocean and reading books set near the shore or an island are especially pleasing.
- Mia’s shop, Cafe Book. What is not to like about a cafe/bookstore? However, as Mia is also the island witch, her store is also something of a pagan supply shop as well so there’s also a magical quality to the various nooks and crannies of the place.
- The support/friendship that Mia offers Nell even before the mystical/historical connection comes up.
- Zach & Ripley’s sibling connection is another that’s strong. Even as they butt heads (siblings, what can you do?), they’re good together as the island cops and as support for one another against the adversaries that pop up in the story.
- Nell’s strength in the kitchen that allows her to find her strength in other areas. Not in a “get in the kitchen” sort of way, far from it. This strength ties into the magical elements, into her past life with her mother, and more that helps repair her foundation so she can build again after Evan’s abuse.
- Lulu’s grumpiness that belies that softy underneath.
- The mentor relationship between Mia and Nell.
- The various manifestations of physical magic, whether the more ritual or the slightly more comical. It was still held in respect by those using it, but not to the point of rigidness.
- The setup for future books and yet how this story didn’t wholly hinge on those other stories. The ending didn’t feel like a monstrous cliffhanger. It was complete in and of itself.
- Zach was something of a hypocrite at various points throughout the book when it came to Nell and her past. Because he wanted to be with her, he had to reconcile that she showed up on the island under mysterious circumstances (assumed identity [for good reason!], abuse history, etc), but at many points he pushed too damn hard and made it clear that his wants, his needs, “for” Nell should take precedence over her healing, over her figuring things out. It was so frustrating.
- Some of the language that was used in the sex scenes felt a little heavy handed on the “need to mate” scale.
The audiobook performance was not particularly enjoyable when it came to the voices the narrator, Sandra Burr, used. I’d be up for trying a book she narrated that didn’t contain dialogue because I thought those portions of Dance Upon the Air were adequate, but aside from that, I don’t think I’d pick up another audiobook if she were narrating it.
Narratively speaking, this is one of Nora Roberts’ older titles. I think I need to try some of her newer books to see if her characterizations, interactions, etc., have improved because the storylines are certainly interesting, but I think there are some bits that don’t sit right and keep the book itself from being more highly rated/enjoyable.
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