Born 10 October 1950, Washington, D.C.
Also writes under: J. D. Robb
Daughter of Bernard E. and Eleanor Harris Robertson; married Ronald Aufdem-Brinke, 1968 (divorced 1983); Bruce Wilder, 1985; children: Daniel, Jason
Prolific and popular romance novelist Nora Roberts has published nearly 130 books since 1981. By 1999 more than 85 million copies of her books were in print. In 1997 six of her books were on the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists. In 1998 she had 11 titles on the New York Times list. She writes category romance, romantic fiction, and suspense novels. In 1996 Publishers Weekly reported Tristar had paid an advance of $100,000 against $400,000 for a television option of her book Montana Sky, "one of the highest prices paid for a TV two-hour movie."
Roberts has received numerous awards for her work: the Golden Medallion, from Romance Writers of America, in 1982, 1983, 1984, and 1986; Waldenbooks Award, 1985; Maggie Award, Georgia Romance Writers of America, 1985; Rita Award, Romance Writers of America, 1990, 1991, 1992; and the B. Dalton award for several novels. In 1984 Romantic Times named her best contemporary author, and she won several Reviewer's Choice awards from that publication. She was the first author inducted into the Romance Writers of America Hall of Fame. According to Publishers Weekly, she is particularly popular with military wives and is a favorite at book fairs. She works hard to promote her books and has a good rapport with her fans.
Roberts' success was no accident. Married at eighteen, she began her working life with several secretarial jobs, and later as a young mother with two small boys put a lot of creative energy into her family's domestic life. As she told People magazine, "I became a kind of earth mother. I baked bread, canned, sewed, macraméd, embroidered, grew vegetables." Roberts was also a fan of Harlequin romance novels: "For that period in my life—a bad marriage, endless days with small children—they were a kind of sanity." During the winter of 1979, the family was snowed in for more than week, and needing something to occupy her, she wrote a steamy romance herself ("It was very bad"). Her first efforts were rejected, but she sold her first book, Irish Thoroughbred, just a year and a half later, in 1981, and has been writing her popular novels ever since. She was divorced in 1983 but later found happiness with Bruce Wilder, a carpenter and bookstore owner: "I am living proof that what I write about can happen in real life," she told People.
One of Roberts' recent books, Sanctuary (1997), is set off the coast of Georgia. Jo Ellen Hathaway, a photographer, unnerved by shocking pictures that someone is sending her, returns to Sanctuary, her family home. Her sister Lexy, an unsuccessful actress, is now a waitress at the resort. Brother Brian loves his home—has no desire to leave—and enjoys running the resort and cooking for their guests. Older cousin Kate, who came to help the family when their mother mysteriously disappeared, has been in love ever since with their father, Sam, who has never gotten over the loss of his wife and has been little comfort to his children. The mysteries, involving the sender of the mysterious photographs and the disappearance of Annabelle Hathaway, and the romantic entanglements of the Hathaway siblings provide enjoyable, entertaining reading.
Another recent novel, Homeport (1998), tells the story of archeometrist Dr. Miranda Jones of Maine, "a Jones of Jones Point. And she was never permitted to forget it." Returning to her family home, she is viciously attacked and robbed. Her life is further complicated by Andrew, her alcoholic brother, and a bitter estrangement from her mother, Elizabeth, who summons her to Florence to test a Renaissance sculpture, The Bronze Lady. She becomes involved romantically and professionally with Ryan Boldari, an art thief. The smoothly written plot involves art thefts, murder, forgery, treachery, and romance.
One of the aspects of Roberts' books that appeal to many readers is that her heroines are strong, determined, intelligent. In the interview with People she said, "My readers are real women with real lives, and they don't all live in trailers." Roberts told Cathy Sova of the Romance Reader Web site, "I had always written what I felt were strong heroines, but as time passed the books reflected more and more what women wanted in a relationship. Equality, sensuality.… And the heroes were no longer burdened with having to be the richest man in the free world."
Roberts likes to write books continuing a story over several novels, such as the Born In… series and the Calhoun and the Daring to Dream novels. As she explained in the interview with Sova, "I really like 'connecting' books…immersing myself in characters I can stay with a while." Considerate of her readers, she prefers to publish the connecting books in paperback so readers will not have to wait a long time for the next part of the story. Although most of her novels have a contemporary setting, she has also written historical romances, including those in the MacGregor clan series; the Donovan Legacy novels, which are about witches; and the Eve Dallas novels, which are set in the future and written under the name J. R. Robb.
In 1997 Roberts filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against fellow romance novelist Janet Dailey for plagiarism. An enthusiastic Internet user, she noticed an e-mail posting from a fan pointing out passages in one of Dailey's books that were almost identical to passages in one of Roberts' own. Dailey later confessed to plagiarizing at least several passages from Roberts' books. Roberts found the year-long legal process an unnerving experience; she admitted to People, "I couldn't write for a while.… I felt like I was being stalked." According to Publishers Weekly, Roberts donated all of her financial compensation (an undisclosed amount) to the Literacy Volunteers of America, the Authors Guild Foundation, and the Authors League Fund.
Selected titles: Blithe Images (1982). Search for Love (1982). The Heart's Victory (1982). Tonight and Always (1983). Sullivan's Woman (1984). Playing the Odds (1985). The Right Path (1985). The Playboy Prince (1987). Luring a Lady (1985). Courting Catherine (1992). Honest Illusions (1992). BestLaid Plans (1994). The MacGregor Brides (1997). Seaswept (1998). Inner Harbor (1999). River's End (1999).
People (18 Aug. 1997, 12 Apr. 1999). PW (29 Apr. 1996, 11 Nov. 1996, 2 Feb. 1998, 4 May 1998). Writer's Digest (Feb. 1997).
further information available online at: http://www.theromancereader.com/nroberts.html.
—KAREN LESLIE BOYD