Monday, May 25, 2009

My First Guest Reviewer!

My friend Renee and I were talking via the wonderful gmail chat feature when we got on the subject of books we don't like that everyone else does. Here is what happened. :)

Just finished reading . . . Sea Swept by Nora Roberts

When I took up Bridget’s challenge, I was a little worried. You see, while I understand that Nora Roberts is an amazingly prolific best-selling writer, her books have never really done much for me. The couple I read years ago, never really made much of an impression on me. Last year, I tried again. I read book 1 of the Circles Trilogy, Morrigan’s Cross, which was okay, but I dnf’d book 2, Dance of the Gods. It wasn’t that I hated it, it was more that I felt so indifferent about it, that it didn’t feel worth finishing.

Which brings me to Sea Swept. You see, late one night a while back, Bridget and I were chatting on IM, and she asked me, who is the author that everybody loves that I don’t. My answer was quick and easy. It turns out, Bridget does like NR quite a bit. She felt challenged to find which book (in NR’s amazing backlist) would be one that I’d enjoy. After a bit of back and forth, (I asked her that the book not be a paranormal since I’d recently tried the Circles books, and that if it was part of a series, it be the first book in the series, since I don’t like reading books out of order.) She decided that Sea Swept, book 1 in the Chesapeake Bay series, whould be my challenge book.

Here is the description for Sea Swept:

Cameron, Ethan and Philip were all troubled young boys who were rescued and adopted at difficult periods in their lives by Raymond and Stella Quinn. They didn’t share blood, but they became a family. In Sea Swept, Cameron's story, the family faces tragedy and scandal that will change lives. Cameron’s lived the reckless life of a daredevil since leaving the quiet community on Maryland’s Eastern Shore where Ray and Stella raised him and his brothers. He likes fast boats, fast cars, and fast women. Now he’s been called home, not only to say goodbye to the only father he ever loved, but also to face the challenge of caring for the last lost boy Ray was determined to save. Cameron has to learn to live with his brothers once again, and rivalries and resentments flare between them whilst they try to care for Seth.

Who is Seth, this prickly young boy a dying Ray asked his sons to protect? Tofind out, and to keep his promise, Cameron will have to put the life he’d chosen on hold. And deal with a certain sexy social worker who’s every bit as determined as he to provide Seth with the right home. Anna Spinelli is full of surprises, and challenges.

Only Seth's fate is in the hands of a tough but beautiful social worker. She alone has the power to bring the Quinns together - or tear them apart.

I really like family stories where each family member gets a book, like Julia Quinn’s Bridgertons, and Lisa Kleypas’ Travis family. I love to see how each family member operates as an individual as well as a unit. Usually, there is some kind of crisis to draw them together, which will allow the family dynamics to come into play. In this case, it’s the death of the Quinn’s patriarch. Seeing how the brothers, who have all built their own lives independent of each other came back together to support each other and their new brother made for great reading.

The brothers, adopted as teens, each come from tragic circumstances, and understand where teenage Seth has come from. While they struggle to make changes in their lives so that they can raise him together, they never question that they will do so. The relationship between them is one of the things I like most about the book.

My other favorite thing in the book is Anna. She’s a complex and interesting heroine. She has her own tragic history, but has come out on the other side a very strong and independent person. I liked reading about her passion for her clients, and ability to do see what’s best for them.

However, that brought me to what I felt like what was one of the book’s weaker points. Having dealt a lot with social workers on both a professional and personal level, I had a bit of difficulty accepting that a social worker as professional as she’s being portrayed would become personally involved with a client’s guardian, especially so early on in their acquaintance. (I have the same issue with books who have doctor/client, lawyer/client, or teacher/student relationships.) I really tried to turn off the “reality” portion of my brain, and just enjoy the book. Which, I was (mostly) able to do. What brought me out of the book, though, was toward the end, when she gets mad at Cameron for keeping some important information from her, because he was afraid it would jeopardize her recommendation. There was a little bit too much of her wanting it both ways: wanting him to accept her role as Seth’s social worker and wanting him to be more open with her on a personal level, but being mad that he didn’t trust her with information he thought might compromise her decision.

That matter aside, I really enjoyed the book. It didn’t blow me away, but was a good read. What worked best for me was the relationship between the brothers. I loved reading their give and take conversations, and how they’d deal with things, usually in a really “guy” kind of way. I’m looking forward to reading more about them, and I’ve requested the next book in the series, Rising Tides, from the library in audiobook format.

Edited to add: I'm over on her blog discussing Josh Lanyon's Adrien English series. Go on over and say hi!


Anonymous said...

I still haven't read a Nora Roberts book. I'm begining to think I'll end up being the last person on earth, lol.

Carolyn Crane (aka Carolyn Jean) said...

No, Barbara, I think I will be the last person! Maybe we can be NR virgins together.

Renee: thanks for the review! Very interesting, and I always wondered what this series was all about! I love family stories like this too. I love what you said about seeing the individuals as well as the people as part of a whole.

Mandi said...

Nice review! I have a hard time picking up a Nora Roberts book. I love JD Robb though ;)

Mistress said...

I'm with you Bridget.Roberts' romance novels are decent, but pretty underwhelming and forgettable. My favorite of hers is Northern Lights, I'm a sucker for Alaskan settings. But even N.L. lacks significant wow factor IMO.
Her J.D. Robb Novel on the other hand, are divine.

Renee said...

Barbara: Yeah, I've felt like I've missed the boat, too. :-)

CC/CJ: Thanks! I'd be interested in your take on NR.

Mandi & Mistress: I actually listened to 2 or 3 JDR books, and they were better than my memory of previous NR books, but felt sort of repeatitive after a bit.

Lady of the Review said...

It's funny, if you'd asked me five years ago who my all-time favorite author was, I would have said Nora. There are still books by her that rank up in my all-time faves, but her writing of late has been less than stellar. I much prefer her single title HC books over the awful paranormal trilogies that have been coming out these last couple of years.

I love the Eve Dallas books by JD Robb, but admit I haven't read the last three. Shame on me! I own them, just haven't read them.

My favorites are the MacGregor series (old Silhouettes that have recently been rereleased) and the Stanislaskis. She specializes in families. That is what I love the most about Nora's books. Families and the way she has her characters interact with each other. You can sense they feel connected & that's cool!

That being said, I don't count her as a favorite or even an auto-buy anymore and I find that really, really sad. :(

Renee said...

LotR: It's always harder to see an author loose their shiny, isn't it? It's the exact opposite of an author getting better with each book (which is always the hope.)

Yes, I found the scenes with the brothers definitely the strongest. I love those family dynamics!

Bridget: Thanks again for having me over here. It was fun to answer your challenge, and visit your place. See you on the IM! (Maybe there's some new mischief we can cook up! :-P )

Tracy said...

Good review Renee. I haven't read a NR books in friggin YEARS! lol I used to gobble everything she wrote up - including her JD Robb but haven't read anything of hers for the past, oh, 12 years. I keep hearing how good Vision in White is...maybe? haha

Mariana said...

I love Nora Roberts. Not all her books are 5 stars for me (or even 4), but I know I'll always be entertained. For me, her best works are Sweet Revenge, Homeport and Montana Sky. Her best series are the Irish Trilogy, Concannon Sisters and the Dream trilogy.