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Literature / The Chesapeake Bay Saga

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A series by Nora Roberts that follows the trials of three adopted brothers on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, as they struggle with raising their father's final "stray". Cam, Ethan, and Philip Quinn are called home after their father, Ray Quinn, is injured in a car accident. After extracting a promise from them to take care of Seth, a young boy he'd recently adopted, their father dies.

Titles in the series:

  • Sea Swept
  • Rising Tide
  • Inner Harbor
  • Chesapeake Blue

This series provides examples of:

  • A Minor Kidroduction: The first scene of each book is the event that led to the respective Quinn brother being taken in by Ray and Stella as pre-teens/teenagers. Slightly subverted in Chesapeake Blue in that Ray has already taken Seth in and is driving him home; the narrative discusses Seth's first impressions of Ray.
  • Abusive Parents: All of the Quinn brothers have abusive biological parents.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Seth tests the patience of all three older brothers quite regularly.
  • Bad Ass Family: The Quinn family.
  • Big Brother Instinct: The Quinns in general, and Cam in particular, especially towards Seth in the early days.
  • Blackmail: Gloria, Seth's mother, continually tries to extort the Quinns for money. Initially, this is Ray and then his sons, who don't fall for it. However, in Chesapeake Blue, it's revealed that she also blackmailed Seth starting at age 14 and he is still paying her off at nearly age 30.
  • Cain and Abel and Seth: Seth, naturally, to the three older Quinn brothers. They now have to deal with not only the death of their adopted father, but with each other (after moving in to care for Seth) and with the speculation that Seth might be their father's illegitimate biological son.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Ethan and Grace have known each other since they were young. It's implied that Grace had a Precocious Crush on Ethan that was unrequited, owing to a large age gap.
  • Children Raise You: Most of the series is Cam, Ethan, and Philip just trying to figure out how to parent Seth.
  • Declaration of Protection: A twist on the trope, as the person being protected is Seth, not a woman. Cam, Ethan, and Philip are insistent that Seth isn't going anywhere, least of all back to his abusive mother from the moment they meet him. This is kind of hard for Seth to handle, having been neglected and abused most of his life.
  • Defiled Forever: Ethan sees himself this way. Grace disagrees, and Anna brings him around by pointing out that by Ethan's logic so is she, and that Seth wasn't much better off than Ethan himself.
  • Designated Parents: Cam and Anna, eventually, for Seth. In Chesapeake Blue, Seth admits that "inside," he considers Anna his mother.
  • Disappeared Dad: Several examples.
    • Ethan's biological father is never mentioned.
    • Philip's dad went to jail and never bothered coming back once he made parole.
    • Seth's father ran off, though probably with good reason considering who he married. He's still an ass for letting Gloria hold onto Seth though.
    • Cam averts the trope by being a disappeared son, having run away from his abusive father.
  • Family Business: Cam, Ethan, and Phillip end the trilogy running their own boat-building business. In Chesapeake Blue, Aubrey also works there.
  • Family Relationship Switcheroo: Seth is the last "stray" taken in by Ray Quinn, but unlike his brothers, he is actually biologically related to Ray. Initially thought the be his son, it's revealed later that Seth is actually Ray's grandson, the child of a daughter he conceived prior to marrying Stella that he didn't know about.
  • Happily Adopted: All three older Quinn brothers, and eventually, Seth.
  • Hates Being Touched: Early on, Cam grabs Seth by the shoulders during an argument and Seth freaks out because of incidents in his past . Luckily Cam dealt with Ethan's issues before and lets Seth know that he's safe with him without letting Seth get away with being a brat.
  • Intimate Artistry: When Seth meets Dru, his first interest in her is both sexual and artistic. He convinces her to let him paint her in exchange for some of his artwork that she likes.
  • Long-Lost Relative: Seth is this for Ray, and so is Gloria.
    • Sybil is also this for Seth, having met him only briefly when he was a child and then her caring for him is manipulated by her addict half-sister, Gloria.
  • Mama Bear: Seth has three, none of which is his actual mother.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Cam, Ethan and Phillip are visited by their Ray Quinn after his death and get advice in their love lives from him.
    • Seth is visited nearly twenty years later by Stella Quinn who died before he could meet her, and she tells him things that his brothers almost forgot about their childhood.
  • Meaningful Name: Grace wanted to be a dancer.
  • Missing Mom: Anna's mom was murdered by drunken hicks... Not making that up.
  • Not Actually His Child: Subverted. Ray knew prior to taking Seth in that he wasn't his father, but everyone else assumes he is after his death until the reveal.
  • Papa Bear: Cam from the start, even when he didn't like Seth. Ethan and Philip came into it later.
  • Promotion to Parent: Cam is this with Seth, despite not meeting Seth until after Ray's death. Made somewhat ironic considering Seth's connection to Ray Quinn.
  • Rape as Backstory: Let's see.
    • Ethan's mom pimped him out against his will, making him so messed up that he decided to go for a swim off the Quinn's pier without actually knowing how to swim. Luckily his dog distracted him with a game of fetch. And it's also the reason he refused to pursue Grace despite having liked/loved her for years before the series started.
    • Anna was raped when she was ten by the same guys who killed her mom. This might be the reason she keeps her dates at arms length until Cam. It does help her empathize with Ethan in Rising Tide and convince him to stop being an idiot about Grace.
    • Seth barely managed to avoid it, though a big emphasis is put on the fact that the near misses were deeply scarring and it would have happened eventually if he'd stayed with his mom. In Chesapeake Blue, Gloria tries to claim she protected him from this, though Seth doesn't believe her. She immediately agrees that she would have started pimping him out eventually.
  • Rule of Romantic: Anna having a relationship with Cameron (a foster parent for a kid on her caseload) would not have gone over nearly so well in real life as it did in the book.
  • Shed the Family Name: Some references are made in the series to Seth wanting to drop his last name (DeLauter), as it has bad associations for him—it's the last name of his abusive mother and a father he's never met and doesn't even know the name of. He also desperately wants to be part of the Quinn family. He is soon formally adopted and gets his wish.
  • Social Services Does Not Exist: Averted in the form of Anna, who honestly is just looking out for Seth. Also played straight in Chesapeake Blue, when Seth acknowledges that he rarely spent time in areas the police or Social Services took interest in.
  • Son of a Whore: And not the Hooker with a Heart of Gold type either. Ethan's mom pimped him out, Philip's denied any responsibility for him after he was shot, and Seth's mom spends most of the series blackmailing anyone who cares about him and generally trying to use him to make a quick buck. It's not surprising that Ethan and Philip considered Stella Quinn to be their mother rather than the women that gave birth to them.
  • Sour Outside, Sad Inside: Seth starts out the series this way. He is incredibly reactive and angry, violent and brash. The first person he connects with is Grace, but he is wary of anyone else. This facade hides his intense fear of rejection by his brothers and being handed back to his abusive and neglectful mother. And since he's also not quite used to unconditional love and care, he doesn't quite know what to do with it.
  • Tangled Family Tree: Seth is Ray's biological grandson and adopted son. This makes him legally Cam, Ethan and Phillip's brother/nephew. They were father figures to Seth and Seth, Cam, Ethan and Phillip consider each other brothers, but the age gap means they're more like father/uncles.
    • Also, let's add the fact that Philip marries Seth's biological aunt, his mother's sister.
  • There Are No Therapists: There are seriously no psychological services at all for any of the Quinn brothers, despite every single one of them having a traumatic history of abuse and neglect. This is especially odd for Seth, who has a social worker involved. Even when the book was published (late 1990's) it was common practice for children with pasts like Seth's—especially given the allusions to sexual abuse—to be referred for therapy by their social workers in short order.
  • Time Skip: Between Inner Harbor where Seth is eleven and Chesapeake Blue where Seth is fully grown close to twenty years has past.
  • Trilogy Creep: The first three books are a trilogy released together, Chesapeake Blue released after the rest embodies this trope, especially as it is released and set after the first three.