The three Quinn boys are brothers of the heart rather than blood. They were each taken in and adopted by an older childless couple when they were all troubled youths. Through this experience, each one learned the power of love and the importance of family. Now they have to work together to keep a deathbed promise they made to their father to take care of another abused young boy.
Cameron Quinn has a love of anything fast. He lives a jet-setting lifestyle and has made a career out of racing all over the world. When he is called to the bedside of his dying father, he never expected to make a promise that would change his entire life forever, but he'd never go back on his word. Cam moves back into his parent's house along with his two brothers, attempting to make a home for Seth, a boy not unlike what he used to be, and whom their father had only recently taken in. Cam is anything but domestic, but with a little help, he's making a decent effort at holding things together. Still, he finds himself itching to get back to racing until a beautiful social worker begins to change his mind about what he thought he wanted out of life.
Anna Spinelli is the social worker assigned to Seth case. It's her job to determine whether living with the Quinn brothers is in Seth's best interest. Anna suffered traumatic events in her own young life that prompted her to get into her chosen line of work. She cares deeply about all her cases and often finds herself becoming personally involved with them, but none more so than Seth's. From the moment she meets Cam, she knows they are going to become an item and doesn't even try to fight it. She loves the time she spends with him, but Cam seems to view their relationship as nothing more than an affair with a limited shelf life. Will Cam see the light and realize they're all meant to be a family or will he stubbornly deny it and toss aside the people who mean the most to him in order to return to his daredevil life?
Until now, I had never read a Nora Robert's book. Yeah, I know, how can I, a self-proclaimed romance junkie, not have read any books from the queen of the romance genre? Honestly, I don't know, but now, I've rectified that with Sea Swept, the first in her Chesapeake Bay Saga. I'd heard wonderful things about this series, so I thought it would be a great one to start my foray into Ms. Robert's almost overwhelming backlist. It was a very good story that worked exceptionally well as a family drama. I could easily see this novel transformed into a Lifetime movie. It also contained an intriguing touch of the paranormal and a light mystery that kept me engaged and wanting to know more. At the same time though, I felt somewhat let down by the romance. It just wasn't as spectacular as I was expecting given the author's millions of enthusiastic fans, but overall, it was a reasonably satisfying read.
Cameron is one of three boys who were adopted as troubled youths by a loving older couple who had no children. Cam grew up to be a reckless charmer, who loves fast cars, fast boats, and fast women. He's used to living life at a breakneck pace, living on the edge, going wherever he wants, and doing whatever he pleases. He's made a career out of traveling the world, racing just about anything he can. He's unexpectedly called home to the bedside of his severely injured father who makes a deathbed request of him and his brothers that they take care of another young boy he recently took in but had not yet legally adopted. I had to admire Cam's devotion to the only family he'd ever known, and his immediate willingness to accept Seth as his little brother and to fight for his well-being. Despite making that commitment though, staying at home with a kid is a foreign concept to Cam, and he has no real idea what he's doing. At first, he's only taking care of Seth to keep his promise to his dad, but deep down, he relates to Seth and sees a lot of himself in the boy. Slowly but surely, he comes to care for Seth, as well as his social services case worker. He and his brothers also pull together to make a go of living in the same house to share the responsibilities of raising Seth, while starting a boat building business. Even though Cam begins to create ties to his hometown, the thrill and freedom of racing is in his blood, still calling to him, so he has a hard time accepting that he might want to stay permanently. Romance readers who enjoy reckless, hot-headed, bad boys who fight their feelings tooth and nail will probably appreciate Cam more than I did, but usually I prefer my heroes to show a little more gentleness and vulnerability. His personality type is also very far removed from my own, which made it difficult for me to relate to him. Because of that, he's not going to end up on my favorite heroes list, but I think that deep down, his heart was in the right place, and in the end, he did right by both Anna and Seth.
Anna is a very practical woman with a no-nonsense approach to life. She knows pretty much from the moment she meets Cam that she's eventually going to end up in bed with him and doesn't try to fight it in the least, instead accepting it for what it is. After suffering through tragedy and trauma in her own childhood, she was inspired to become a social worker to advocate for innocent children who can't stand up for themselves. As such, she cares about Seth as more than just another case. In fact, she has a tendency to become somewhat personally involved in all her cases, but none more so than Seth's. Anna's relationship with Cam did give me pause. I couldn't help wondering about the rules on a case worker becoming romantically involved with the guardian of a boy under her supervision when she was supposed to be evaluating their situation objectively. I think her practicality helped her to maintain impartiality, but in real life, I'd guess it would be difficult for most social workers to do so if they were in the same situation. Anna is a caring woman who falls hard and fast for Cam and his whole family, but as with Cam, I didn't develop a deep connection to her.
Most of the time, I felt like Cam and Anna's romance was secondary to other events in the story. I think it was this combined with the fact that I didn't relate well to Cam and Anna as individual characters that prevented their romance from really sparking for me. Cam is very overtly sexual, while Anna has a matter-of-fact attitude about sex. I felt their personalities and perceptions of their relationship didn't leave a lot of room for tender feelings or true passion. In my opinion, they didn't really share any deeply romantic moments either. They end up in bed together with little fanfare leading up to it. I tend to prefer both characters feeling something more serious about one another before falling into bed, but that wasn't the case here. I think both of them begin the relationship resigned to the fact that it's a no-strings affair. Anna starts realizing she's falling in love with Cam, and Cam realizes he's feeling "something" for Anna without much build up to those emotions either, which made it difficult to understand why they were feeling those things in the first place. I truly hate to have to say it about this well-loved grand dame of romance, but when Ms. Roberts does delve into some deeper introspection and begin to explain these emotions, she's really telling about how they arrived at that place rather than showing the development of their feelings in a more organic way. This definitely left some distance between me as the reader and her characters. I was also bothered by the physicality (Anna starts throwing things at Cam) that ensues when their relationship conflict hits the fan. To me, that's not acceptable behavior, especially for a social worker, or romantic at all, even though Cam seemed amused by it.
What Sea Swept lacked in romance, it certainly made up for in family drama. I loved the relationships between Cam and his two brothers, Ethan and Phillip. They all have very different personalities. Perhaps because of this, they tend to argue a lot and occasionally get into a fist-fight, but they always come out the other side as friends. It's very obvious in spite of their bickering that they truly love and would do anything for one another and that goes for their new brother, Seth, too. I love the way they all pull together to fulfill their father's dying wish by ensuring that Seth stays with them and isn't put back into foster care. In many ways, I related to Phillip and Ethan better than I did Cam, especially Ethan, because he seems more quiet and thoughtful. Ethan obviously has a crush on Grace, a young single mother who is a friend of theirs and who helps out around the house. These two become the main hero and heroine of the next book, Rising Tide. I also loved the backstory of how these three men became brothers and the wonderful couple who took them in. Although their mother passed on quite a while before the story opens, their father, Ray, is an inspiration to Cam from beyond the grave, when he appears a few times as a ghost, adding that touch of paranormal that I mentioned earlier. The boys also have a bit of a mystery on their hands when rumors surface that Ray may have been Seth's biological father and that the car accident that killed him may have been a deliberate attempt at suicide. This mystery is not solved in this first book, so I have a feeling it will develop and play out throughout the entire series or at least the first three books. It is also implied that Ray's ghost will be appearing in turn to all of his sons.
Even though I had a hard time connecting with the main characters and even though the romantic relationship didn't quite do it for me either, I did generally enjoy Sea Swept overall. The intense and complex familial relationships are where the story really excelled and my favorite part about it. This first foray into Nora Roberts' work was reasonably satisfying, but I'm not entirely sure her writing in general will work for me long-term. I was rather surprised to see a seasoned author like her engaging in an extreme amount of head-hopping which is a writing style I'm not fond of. I've always felt that rapidly changing perspectives distract from the building emotion of the characters and story, which likely contributed to me not connecting with them as well as I would have hoped. Ms. Roberts may end up being one of those authors I pick up occasionally rather than reading obsessively, but in any case, Sea Swept was sufficiently good enough to draw me into the Quinn family's lives and make me want to continue with the series to see how the story plays out, especially since Ethan's book is next.
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