Chesapeake Blue, by Nora Roberts

>> Monday, April 04, 2005

I'm a bit sick of spin-off series, where every single minor character gets their book, where you spend the first book reading pages and pages which have no purpose but to set the grounds for the stories of the hero's seven best friends. What Kristie J. mentioned in her last post (i.e. people constantly asking "Author A, have you ever considered writing a story about the niece of the sister-in-law of the aunt of the nephew of the hero? She made such an impression on me in that one paragraph you wrote about her that I would love to read her story"), yep, I find that extremely tedious, too. Almost as tedious as those huge threads about who would you cast as Eve and Roarke ;-)

But, speaking of Eve and Roarke, Nora Roberts's series I don't mind at all. Her series feel organic, they don't feel like the author's trying to milk it, they feel like a complete story that couldn't be told in any other way. And still, I wasn't completely convinced when I heard about Chesapeake Blue, which tells the story of Seth, from the Chesapeake Bay series. I'd heard that Nora had written it, in great part, because so many of her readers had asked her for Seth's story, and that rarely works well. So, even though the reviews were pretty fabulous, this (and something I'd heard about the plot) made me hesitate and didn't decide to read it until now.

Seth Quinn is finally home.

It's been a long journey. After a harrowing boyhood with his drug-addicted mother, he'd been taken in by the Quinn family, growing up with three older brothers who'd watched over him with love.

Now a grown man returning from Europe as a successful painter, Seth is settling down on Maryland's Eastern Shore, surrounded once again by Cam, Ethan, and Phil, their wives and children, all the blessed chaos of the extended Quinn clan. Finally, he's back in the little blue- and-white house where there's always a boat at the dock, a rocker on the porch, and a dog in the yard.

Still, a lot has changed in St. Christopher since he's been gone-and the most intriguing change of all is the presence of Dru Whitcomb Banks. A city girl who's opened a florist shop in this seaside town, she craves independence and the challenge of establishing herself without the influence of her wealthy connections. In Seth, she sees another kind of challenge-a challenge that she can't resist.

But storms are brewing that are about to put their relationship to the test. Dru's past has made her sensitive to deception-and slow to trust. And Seth's past has made him a target of blackmail-as a secret he's kept hidden for years threatens to explode, destroying his new life and his new love. . .
I'm glad to report that I liked Chesapeake Blue much better than I expected. While the plot point I had some doubts about really was annoying, the rest of the story was lovely. Seth did indeed have a story to be told. A B+.

Seth was a wonderful guy. Having only just reread the rest of the series, I remembered his characterization as a young boy very well, and it's a plus that the grown-up Seth wasn't a completely different person from the young Seth, but simply the young boy all grown up, which is a different thing. I especially enjoyed seeing how his relationship with his three brothers evolved since I last saw them.

In fact, one of the best things of the books was what I usually find boring when done by other authors: the pages of catching up with beloved characters from other books. It helped that Grace and Ethan, Philip and Sybil and, most especially, Anna and Cam, aren't boring, generic lovebirds here. Just as Seth, they are the same people they were in their respective books, only with a few more years under their belts. And these scenes were truly fun!

The romance was really nice, too. I loved the way Seth was completely overwhelmed by his attraction to Dru, and she was an interesting character herself. They did have quite a bit of chemistry, and I enjoyed both seeing them together and seeing them interact with the rest of the family.

The only thing I didn't like here was the whole thing about Seth's big secret, that Gloria has been blackmailing him all this time (no spoiler, this comes out pretty early in the book). I just couldn't buy that Seth would have let her get away with this for so long. Maybe a few years right after the end of the other books, when he was too young to know better, but not until his 30s! Knowing perfectly well that the rest of his family would have actually welcomed an opportunity to grind Gloria to dust, and that it would have been, in fact, easy to do, it didn't make sense for Seth to keep this as a secret from them. To be sincere, it made him look like a bit of an idiot.

Luckily, the rest of the story was excellent, and this part, while important, wasn't all-pervading. I had a great time reading this one.


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