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Birthright    by Nora Roberts order for
by Nora Roberts
Order:  USA  Can
Putnam, 2004 (2003)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio, CD

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* * *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

Suzanne and Jay Cullen's perfect lives are shattered the Christmas of 1974 when their infant daughter Jessica is snatched from her stroller while they're waiting in line for Santa Claus. Suzanne's single-minded determination to find her missing daughter eventually takes its toll on her marriage - she and Jay divorce. Their son Douglas has also lived under a pall of self-inflicted guilt for failing to protect his sister, even though he was only four when Jessica was taken. Now a grown man he lives his life unable to settle down or commit to any relationship.

When a Neanderthal settlement is unearthed in a controversial construction site in rural Woodsboro, Md., archeologist Callie Dunbrook is put in charge of the Antietam Creek dig and soon realises the find could become the highlight of an already stellar career. Her excitement is doused when she's informed that her ex-husband, anthropologist Jake Greystone, is also joining the team. She's vowed never to lay eyes on him again since their short and volatile marriage was a big mistake. She wants to put that year of her life behind her and concentrate on her work; hard to do considering she still loves Jake and knows she'll never again find the passion they shared.

Townspeople and media soon swarm all over the site. A televised interview featuring Dr. Callie Dunbrook leaves Suzanne Cullen shaken and certain that Callie is her long lost daughter Jessie. Doug tries to convince his mother not to chase after another pipedream but Suzanne is adamant and meets with Callie. DNA tests soon reveal that Suzanne Cullen is right -- Callie Dunbrook is indeed her kidnapped daughter.

Jake is the only one who sees what a toll these revelations have taken on Callie. Behind her strong, tough and independent exterior, he knows that she's hurting, questioning her very identity. Everything she has taken for granted about her life has been torn away. Jake joined the dig for one reason -- to get Callie back -- he's come to realise that there is no other woman for him. He's determined to make her see that they are meant to be together. He also knows that Callie will stop at nothing to find the 'bastards' who kidnapped her, (and very likely other babies).

Romancing his ex-wife back into Jake's arms proves even more challenging when the owner of the development company shows up dead. As Callie, Jake, lawyer Lana Campbell, and brother Doug Cullen continue digging not only at the site, but also into the background of a clever kidnapping ring, more bodies turn up and the threats against the excavating team and Callie escalate. Who wants to see Callie dead -- those opposed to any sort of development at Antietam Creek? Or the baby nappers who will go to any lengths to hide the truth?

Nora Roberts' latest hardcover release Birthright seamlessly interweaves character, plot and a nifty murder mystery into another page-turner that will leave you guessing until the end. But as with all of Roberts' stories, romance shines brightest. She not only shows Jake and Callie re-discovering, re-evaluating and re-inventing their love, she also gives readers a wonderful secondary romance between widowed lawyer Lana Campbell and Callies stoic and quiet nice guy brother Doug. And Birthright incorporates a message about family and how important it is, whether in the present or thousands of years ago.

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