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The cover for the bestselling novel SHELTER IN PLACE

SHELTER IN PLACE, published in 2018, is a romance novel by Nora Roberts. 

SHELTER IN PLACE spent 1 week at #1 on the NYT Bestseller List. Between 2009 and 2018, Nora Roberts spent a total of 29 weeks at #1 on the NYT Bestseller list (16 weeks as Nora Roberts + 13 weeks as JD Robb).

“Oh, bullshit.” Simone whirled back. “Bullshit.”


It was a typical evening at a mall outside Portland, Maine. Three teenage friends waited for the movie to start. A boy flirted with the girl selling sunglasses. Mothers and children shopped together, and the manager at video game store tended to customers. Then the shooters arrived.

The chaos and carnage lasted only eight minutes before the killers were taken down. But for those who lived through it, the effects would last forever. In the years that followed, one would dedicate himself to a law enforcement career. Another would close herself off, trying to bury the memory of huddling in a ladies’ room, helplessly clutching her cell phone–until she finally found a way to pour her emotions into her art.

But one person wasn’t satisfied with the shockingly high death toll at the DownEast Mall. And as the survivors slowly heal, find shelter, and rebuild, they will discover that another conspirator is lying in wait–and this time, there might be nowhere safe to hide.


Shelter In Place is used as an example in the following posts. Check them out!

Past TenseWriting a story in past tense is most common in genre fiction. Learn about 5 times to choose past tense.
Comparison of Point of ViewA comparison of point of view in literature (first, third limited, and omniscient) including modern fiction examples. Which is right for your novel?
Omniscient Point of ViewA comparison of point of view in literature (first, third limited, and omniscient) including modern fiction examples. Which is right for your novel?
the HookThe hook is the opening of your story. Learn the four elements of a hook.
SubplotsWhat is a subplot and how do you add one? Learn three popular types and three common methods for adding subplots to a story.
the AntagonistLearn the 4 types of antagonists, get 5 tips for writing an antagonist, and see modern fiction examples.


I find Nora Roberts’ writing to be a bit generic. For example, I read this book shortly after it was released and within a week I’d forgotten most of it (including the character names).

I can’t offer my opinion on a book that I basically don’t remember reading.

However, if you’re looking for a light, quick read? Nora Roberts will provide that.

But that’s just what I think. What about others?

Nora Roberts knows how to write a compulsive read that won’t let you go.

– Tonstant Weader Reviews

I loved the relationship between Reed and CiCi and Reed and Simone, as well as their witty repartee, which is something I’m not sure I usually equate to Roberts’ writing.

– Debbish

I hate to say this, but until Nora decides what she wants to write–whether that is romances, thrillers, or another genre–I’m done with her.

– My Little Book Corner

Roberts writes in a way that can be best described as merely adequately readable prose

 – Sabrina Rourke
a typewriter

Writing Practice

Check out these writing exercises and prompts inspired by SHELTER IN PLACE.

Prompt: The Opening Paragraph(s)

This is the opening paragraph of the novel. Ignore everything you know about the story and use it as a writing prompt.

Your Task: Using as much detail as possible, write another 300+ words.

Chapter One

On Friday, July 22, 2005, Simone Knox ordered a large Fanta—orange—to go with her popcorn and Swedish Fish. The choice, her standard night-at-the-movies fare, changed her life, and very likely saved it. Still, she’d never drink Fanta again.

Exercise: Rewrite

Choose any scene/chapter – an action one would probably be easiest.

Your Task: Rewrite it in the present tense.

Options: You can alter the scene in any way you want (including changing the point of view); Or, you can leave the scene as is, except the tense.

Think about it:

  • Which did you make the choices you did?
    • Did you change the POV? Why or why not?
    • Did you make any changes to the scene? Why or why not?
  • How does changing the tense alter the feel of the work?
  • Would you have preferred this novel be written in present tense? Entirely? Parts? None? Consider why.
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages to the choice of present tense?

Need an idea?

This is a basic drill – it’s purpose is work on improving understanding of past and present tense.

If you have no idea where to start, I would suggest you do the shooting in the first chapter(s).

Here’s the start of Reed’s experience with the shooting (Chapter 1, page 20 in my version).

SHELTER IN PLACEWriting Practice
He started to lope when he heard what sounded like firecrackers or a series of backfires. It made him think of GameStop’s shooting games. More puzzled than alarmed, he glanced back.Then the screaming started. And the thunder.Not from behind, he realized, from up ahead. The thunder was dozens of people running. He jumped out of the way as a woman careened toward him racing behind a stroller where the kid inside wailed.He starts to lope when he hears what sounds like firecrackers or a series of backfires. It makes him think of GameStop’s shooting games. More puzzled than alarmed, he glances back.Then the screaming starts. And the thunder.Not from behind, he realizes, from up ahead. The thunder is dozens of people running. He jumps out of the way as a woman careens toward him racing behind a stroller where the kid inside wails.

My ideas:

  • I chose not to make any other changes because this is a simple demonstration to get you started 
  • I think it could be useful to change the POV as well and compare how the third vs first sounds in present tense.
  • I think that the present tense makes it feel more immediate. It’s more worrisome. What’s going to happen? Will Reed make it? In the past tense, it feels foregone that Reed will live (even though it’s third person).
  • I think that having the whole novel in present tense would be tedious. Nora Roberts switches between characters very frequently, so even writing some scenes in present tense might be too many changes.

Exercise: Prove It

This is going to be a tedious drill. Sorry, not sorry.

Your Task: Go through the novel and find (at least) 5 examples that prove this novel has an omniscient narrator.

Need an idea?

Open the book. Read carefully. Think about every piece of information given – could the POV character have known that?

Here’s one hint (all page numbers are for my version)

In Chapter 4 (on page 58) the narrator begins to follow along with Reed. Officer Essie McVee meets him outside the funeral and they go to talk – still following Reed –

“Essie said nothing for a moment, but, like CiCi, she believed in truth and trust.” -Page 63

Reed has no way of knowing that Essie believes this. In fact, only a few paragraphs earlier he points out that he barely knows her.  The narrator knows more than Reed does, which means it must be omniscient.

a couple of guns and ammo


First Published
May 29, 2018
Print Length
(according to amazon)
439 pages
File Size
(according to amazon)
7,024 KB
PublisherSt. Martin’s Press
Goodreads Rating
(As of Feb 2019)
Goodreads Rating for the novel Shelter in Place
Amazon Rating
(As of Feb 2019)
Amazing Customer Rating for the novel Shelter in Place
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