Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Nora Roberts: The Chesapeake Bay Saga

Like most authors in the romance genre, the majority of Nora Roberts’ novels focus, at least primarily, on the heroine.  As a way of connecting with the audience – consisting mostly of women, though I do know many men who read romance too – it’s the easiest and quickest way to make sure that your reader is interested enough to buy your book and keep reading the story.  It’s an industry norm because it works, yet every once in a while you’ll run across a book that isn’t, mostly, from the female point of view.  Case in point: the Chesapeake Bay Saga. 
Beginning with Sea Swept and the introduction of the three eldest Quinn brothers – Cameron, Ethan and Phillip, we are drawn swiftly into the Quinn family and the mystery of the fourth, and much younger brother Seth.  The death of their father puts the four men in the difficult position of wondering “why” their father died, and trying to secure the guardianship of 10-year-old Seth. 
It is through the guardianship battle that the brothers meet Anna Spinelli, the social worker assigned to the case.  It is only luck, or fate, that has Anna and Cam falling in love.  On the surface they couldn’t be any more different – she’s practical and a planner, he’s impulsive and rash.  It’s not until you search their depths that you discover that for all their differences both Cam and Anna have very much in common.
Grace Monroe has known the Quinn brothers since they first came to St. Christopher, the small community on the bay that became home to them all.  In all those years Grace’s heart has been Ethan’s, though she’s never admitted as much to anyone and he’s never realized, even though he watches her, wants her, yearns for her.  Whether it’s the situation or the timing, after Anna and Cam are married Ethan loses his control over his desire for Grace, and Grace finally admits her own.  It’s not a smooth path to the altar for them but in Rising Tides Grace and Ethan finally manage to connect with each other and discover just how wonderful life can be when you love and are loved in return.
Phillip Quinn owes his life to his parents, Ray and Stella, and it is because of this that he and his brothers are willing to do anything to honor their father’s last wish.  To keep Seth with them, to make him theirs, and to give him the chance at life that Ray and Stella gave them.  And that’s why he splits his time between Baltimore and the Shore, between the advertising company he works for and the boat building business that and he and his brothers start up.  It’s because of that promise to his father that Phillip is around, in inner Harbor, to meet Dr. Sybil Griffin when she comes to St. Chris to find out what the situation is with Seth – her half-sisters son.  Sybil knows her sister is a liar and a manipulator, a thief and a cheat, but for all that she knows what her sister is she can’t believe that her sister would lie about Seth.  She should have.  With the Quinn’s Sybil discovers a way of life and of living that she never knew existed.  With Phillip she discovers that love is real and when it is, it’s worth any sacrifice to keep.  And within herself she discovers a core of strength that she didn’t know she had.
When Ray took him, and took him in, Seth had no idea the man was his grandfather.  When Ray died and the Quinn brothers and the women they loved made him theirs, Seth found his place in the world.  They gave him safety and love.  They made sure that he had every chance in life to do as he desired. They made him family and gave him everything he’d ever had that was good.  And so when his mother crawls back into his life he’s willing to do whatever it takes to get rid of her, if only for a little while.   When he comes home in Chesapeake Blue and finds that not everything is exactly as he’d left it, he knows that he never wants to leave again and that if he’s ever going to be truly free, he needs to get rid of his mother once and for all.  Knowing what needs done and doing it are two different things though and in the end it is only his love for socialite-turned-florist, Drusilla Whitcomb Banks that gives him the strength to do what he must.  Tell his family the truth and ask, once more, for their help.
The entire series is a study of men – what they think, what they feel, how they’ll act or react, and how far they’re willing to go to succeed and get what they want.  The Chesapeake Bay Saga is one of my favorites of Nora’s because it demonstrates that family doesn’t only come through blood.  The family you choose, the one you make, can be just as important as and sometimes even more important than the one you’re born into.

Sea Swept, 1998
Rising Tides, 1998
Inner Harbor, 1999
Chesapeake Blue, 2002

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