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Throwback Review: "Sea Swept" by Nora Roberts

Sea SweptI finished re-reading Sea Swept late last week and for some reason I have been putting off writing the review.  I don't know if it has anything to do with the fact that I've read this book so many times over the years that all those previous readings color the way I perceived it this time, making it harder to separate the feelings I had before I cracked open the e-book (metaphorically speaking, of course) from the ones I had while actually reading it.  I have to say that while it is a good book and will always be a good book, the way I read it this time is different from the way I read it those other times.  It is odd to think that this is a book that I first read nearly 16 years ago and looking back on where I was at that time, sitting at the kitchen table in my mom's apartment, making a list of La Nora's books that I still hadn't read and needed to find in either the Howard Beach or Ozone Park libraries, at how much I've changed in that time--no wonder my opinion of Sea Swept (and Cam in particular) changed.  (At one point, craving a re-read of the series, I ventured all the way to the Queensborough Hills Library in Flushing to get a copy of one of her books.  True, I was in college at the time and it was only about four stops from school on the Q88, but I still had to pay an extra fare on my Metro Card to get my little hands on that book.)

Cameron Quinn had it all.  He was a champion racer, craving a need for speed that was nearly insatiable, and lived a life full of glamour and opulence.  After yet another win, he receives the worst news of his life--his father was dying and he needs to return to the picturesque shores of Saint Christopher, Maryland to take care of his younger brother, a child he hadn't met.  Not happy about how fast his life went from fast boats and French models to housework and homework, he wants out desperately, but he wasn't one to break promises, especially not deathbed promises to the only father who ever mattered to him.

Anna Spinnelli was the social worker assigned to the Quinn case.  She'd heard of Ray and Stella Quinn and how they'd taken in three surly teenage boys over twenty years ago, but she'd never gotten to meet them.  Now, she has to decide whether their sons are capable of taking care of the most recent edition to the family, 10-year-old Seth, a little boy who pulls at her heart.  She was determined to be objective, but that goes out the window the moment she meets Cam.  Like Seth, he pulls at her, but in a different, completely unprofessional way.

Sea Swept, the first book in the Chesapeake Bay Saga (originally the Quinn Trilogy), was first published in 1998 and it is very much a book of its time.  There are very few mentions of things like cell phones or the internet, both of which were still in their infancy at that time--hell, my family only got a computer for the first time that year and we wouldn't start using AOL until the summer of 2000.  Anna still received faxes at her office and there was one scene in which a big deal was made out of the fact that both Anna and Cam had portable phones.  Don't get me started on the idea that Philip had a "snazzy" laptop.  Snazzy.  Laptop.  Oh, technology.  I'm picturing the old computers in the original run of The X-Files.  Those things looked heavy.  I wouldn't want to put one of those on my lap.  Nope.

More than the technology (which I had to brace myself for when reading), Cam wouldn't be the same person had he been written today.  His rough edges wouldn't be quite as rough.  He'd be more of a Beta hero and while I love those very heroes, especially compared to all those military Alphas that I loathe more than Esther "hate, loathed, and abominated" the poor boy next door (until she loved him, that is) in Meet Me in St. Louis.  I'm not sure how I would feel about a different type of Cam, but I did have some issues with the way he handled things.  The way he treats Anna in the end, I remember thinking how romantic it was when I was 15 and didn't know better, but looking at it nearly 15 years older, I shudder.  Romantic?  Not quite.

The thing that bothers me about Sea Swept is the BIG MISUNDERSTANDING, which isn't really a misunderstanding at all.  Cam chooses not to share vital information with Anna.  That's a choice, one he knows is the wrong one and that he should not make, but makes anyway.  Anna had every right to be angry with him, but he didn't see it that way.  He didn't understand that in finding out these things, crucial things that would effect her decision in Seth's case, would sever their relationship.  No doubt modern heroes would make the same mistake, but I think that it wouldn't take them quite as long to figure out what they did wrong.  Even in the end, I don't think Cam completely got why she was so mad at him and why she needed to go away for a while.

I know this is a review and normally that means there has to be a grade at the end, but to be quite honest, I don't think I could come up with an accurate grade--one that wouldn't partly be based on all the other times I read and loved this book.  That might be a problem for some of these Throwback Reviews.  I might have to think about how this is going to work when some of the books will, like this one, be books I've read in the past.  I'm already planning to review either Fast Women or Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie, both of which I've read before--Fast Women was my first Crusie.  It would be disingenuous of me to say this is a four or five star book based solely on the fact that I've read it multiple times over the years, but it would also be wrong of me to give it a lower grade because it wasn't what I wanted it to be this time around, which again if I'm being honest, might very well have something to do with the antibiotics I was on at the time I was reading it.

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