To Go: 58
31. The Dressmaker — Kate Alcott
32. Spin — Catherine McKenzie
33. The Elegance of the Hedgehog — Muriel Barbery
34. Anna Karenina — Leo Tolstoy
35. A Necessary End — Peter Robinson
36. Envy — Sandra Brown
37. The Preacher — Camilla Läckberg
38. Hidden — Catherine McKenzie
39. Ricochet — Sandra Brown
40. Sea Swept — Nora Roberts
41. Rising Tides — Nora Roberts
42. Inner Harbour — Nora Roberts
Finished reading: July 14, 2013
I read the first three books in Nora Robert’s Chesapeake Bay quartet—loaners from my mother—in a row, so I thought I would consolidate the reviews into one post and save all you poor followers from the unnecessary emails. It also works better this way because, while being independent stories, the three novels share an overarching narrative which I wanted to discuss.
In Sea Swept, Cameron Quinn, boat-racing champion, returns home from Monaco when he gets word that his father was in a car accident. When he arrives in Maryland, he rushes to his father’s death bed where Ray Quinn asks his three adopted sons to take care of his newest stray, a young boy named Seth. Cut off from his posh lifestyle, Cameron has to adjust to his new home life, and find a way to reach out to his new charge, all while entertaining a simmering flirtation with Anna Spinelli, the social worker assigned to Seth’s case.
Nora Roberts has always been pretty hit-or-miss for me, but Sea Swept was a sharp, funny read with unexpected depth. Cameron Quinn—charismatic and, underneath the tough veneer, kind—makes for a pretty wonderful lead character, and Anna Spinelli—fair-minded and truly caring—is the perfect match for him. Roberts pulls together a believable love story between the two, set against the picturesque backdrop of St. Christopher’s, Maryland, with enough witty banter between the four Quinn men to keep you laughing through the book.
What I especially liked about Sea Swept—as well as the other two books—is the Quinn family backstory. Ray and Stella Quinn adopted three angry, abused young men from broken homes, and gave them better lives, full of love. It’s a little more depth than you can usually expect from a Nora Roberts series, and the writing—thankfully—doesn’t stray often into ridiculous territory. The stories are all written sensitively, and the cast of characters are worth investing in.
Finished reading: July 17, 2013
In Rising Tides, Ethan Quinn, a fisherman and boat-builder, is settling into his new life, helping his brothers to care for the young and haunted Seth, while loving Grace Monroe, a long-time friend and single mother, from afar. After the two admit their feelings for each other, their burgeoning relationship forces Ethan to confront the painful childhood memories he’s held onto his whole life.
Though Ethan’s introspection and commitment-phobia (because of some fear that he’s genetically predisposed to cruelty) in Rising Tides was at times cliche and bordered on overly dramatic, the book had a sentimental streak that warmed my heart. Grace just exuded joyfulness and optimism, and her daughter, Aubrey, had some of the cutest lines of the book, and they more than made up for Ethan’s “noble sacrifice” routine, which wore a little thin. Rising Tides also featured more of that comical brotherly dialogue I love so much.
Finished reading: July 21, 2013
In Inner Harbour, Phillip Quinn, an advertising executive working part-time at the Quinn family boat-building business, finds himself drawn to Dr. Sybill Griffin, a visitor to St. Christopher who claims to be working on a book about small towns. But the quiet, watchful Sybill is in Maryland for more than just research, and her connection to Seth rattles the Quinn clan, and provides some long-overdue answers about Seth’s parentage.
Phillip and Sybill were likely my least favourite pairing, but that isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy Inner Harbour. Though I like sleek, sophisticated and generous Phillip, I found Sybill at times a little too clinical to be realistic; her constant reminders to herself to stay back and remain objective and quietly observe were a little grating. But her kind heart and nervous efforts to ingratiate herself with Seth and the Quinns made her a little bit easier to like.
On that note, the reason Sybill finds herself in St. Christopher’s—to observe Seth, her biological nephew, and ascertain whether his abusive mother had invented a tall tale about her son being ‘stolen’ from her—brings the series’ subplot, which had been bubbling under the surface until that point, to a boil. Unfortunately, it was anti-climactic.
Throughout the novels Gloria, Seth’s terrifying birth mother, has been a background antagonist who doesn’t have much to her: she’s a shadowy, cackling villainous template who never truly does anything to threaten the status quo for the Quinn household during the three books. When she finally does show up near the end of Inner Harbour, to demand some sort of payment for Seth (an unsuccessful extortion scheme was her method of antagonism), all it takes is a hard shove and a few nasty words from Sybill to send her packing. On one hand, it shows emotional growth for Sybill, which is, I think, a plus. But for a plot that Roberts expects her audience to invest their time (and considerable worry) in, the conclusion is a bit of a disappointment. However, the home-stretch fumble isn’t unfortunate enough to ruin an otherwise enjoyable series.
Next book: Slow Heat in Heaven — Sandra Brown
(P.S.: Yes, the book count will return to normal in the next review. This was only a temporary arrangement for the sake of the triple-review.)