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From Tangier to Little Choptank...for lunch
on March 17, 2004
I confess that I want to complain about this trilogy/quadrilogy largely because of my un-PC affection for it. These books offer brief (and, alas, imaginary) fulfillments of three of my long-cherished wishes: close extended family, a job that lets me have evenings off (maybe with a beer in hand) and both of the above in Chesapeake country. (I already have the great relationship, but one of the sorrows of adult life is finding that even spectacular relationships don't fill every gap.)
Okay, so Roberts doesn't know Chesapeake country as well as people seem to think--no, you CAN'T sail in a fifteen-foot skiff from Tangier Sound to the Little Choptank before lunchtime, and if Ethan's really a waterman he'd know you haul up your heavy stuff with winches, not wenches. Okay, so the real reason the Brothers Quinn all have to be self-employed is because the lower Shore's economically depressed. So the Quinn family, despite its tormented background, is just a little too perfect: what, NO learning disabilities, sexual dysfunctions, drug problems, power struggles, school cutbacks, or marital struggles for dominance? Everybody survives those heinous childhoods without any therapy at all and comes out more mentally healthy than anyone has a right to be? (Incidentally, that's why we probably won't get Aubrey's story; as the eldest of the first generation of Non-Conflicted Quinns, she has no childhood betrayals to overcome.) And who took care of all those kids anyway while Anna was working long hours in Princess Anne and Cam was at the boatyard? Even Grace might blanch at the prospect of nursemaiding seven kids.
These are all genuine flaws in the books, including Chesapeake Blue, but as an exilt from Chesapeake and extended family alike, I'm eerily forgiving of this series. Imagination and memory fill in the gaps: if Roberts implies that Phillip (my fave--pity he has no speaking part in this novel) drives off the Bay Bridge into pristine salt marsh, ignoring the development that's scarring the Shore from Cecil to Accomac, I just shake my head and sniffle onwards. I still love this series as much as it's possible for me to love formula romance.
The bottom line? Family plus location, location, location. The sex is pedestrian (I mean, COULD the orgasm be described in nonviolent terms a bit more often?), the romance plot predictably predictable, but the idealized family and the idealized Shore together are a sentimental powerhouse, at least for readers like me.