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As J. D. Robb

Ceremony in Death
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Rising Tides by Nora Roberts
(Jove, 7.50, PG-13) ISBN 0-515-12317-X
*****
Nora Roberts is the preeminent queen of the family sagas. Nobody does it better. I can produce references. Just ask the Concannons, the O'Hurleys, the Stanislaskis, the MacKades, the royal family of Cordina, the Donovans and the MacGregors. Rising Tides is the second book in the trilogy about the Quinn brothers: Cameron, Ethan and Phillip. If you need a refresher on what the first book, Sea Swept, is about, I recommend that you read Susan's review of it.

Now, the age-old question of the chicken or the egg should you read Sea Swept first or does Rising Tides stand alone? My advice is simple; read Sea Swept first. It sets the stage, builds the foundation and introduces us to the cast of characters. The only person we don't meet in the first two books [grumble, grumble] is Phillips's love interest. Everyone else is a recurring character. Sea Swept has valuable details which add layers to the second book.

Rising Tides begins three months after Ray Quinn's death. Cam and Anna are on their honeymoon in Rome, Phillip is still working weekends on the boat building enterprise and Ethan is working long days on the water and spending his evenings laboring over their current boat project.

A mutual attraction lasting for over ten years is about to blossom. Quiet, self-effacing Ethan and Grace Monroe, a resilient young woman who's holding down two jobs to make a decent life for her and her two-year-old daughter, are finally going to act on that attraction.

Ray again makes gentle, timely appearances. At first Ethan decides he's dreaming, but soon recognizes the truth. Ray offers advice regarding Seth, but he's most concerned that Ethan not reject Grace's love out of some misguided emotion, an erroneous belief that his past makes him less than worthy. The growth of Ethan and Grace's relationship is a joy to watch. Tentative at first, although they've known each other for years, their relationship develops slowly and naturally. Unlike Sea Swept, Rising Tides is a relationship book and, for me, fulfilling and satisfying. Ethan and Grace are honestly portrayed, with foibles, but good people nonetheless.

Young Seth is just as mouthy as before; his language is just as salty. His gruff exterior conceals a bruised and fragile interior, but one that's healing nicely. His base of security is growing each day. Phillip is also running true to form. Ever the dignified snob, he considers the house wine served at the local pub to be barely one step above horse piss. Part of Nora's genius is in allowing us to see how men bond and show affection. Seth's reluctance to let two-year-old Aubrey kiss and hug him is all for show.

A genuinely funny moment revolves around Anna's flowers, ones that Ethan has surreptitiously cut for Grace. When Anna notes their absence, she starts the questioning. First Seth, then Cam. No luck catching the culprit. When she barges into Ethan's room and catches him in his underwear, she doesn't even notice his embarrassment. She's on a mission. Ethan senses that a confession and a plea for forgiveness will be in vain. With Cam as a sudden ally, he gives her an outrageous story about rabbits and deer as the potential flower killers. City-bred Anna believes them, but wants to prevent future wildlife meals. Sprinkle dried blood around the flowers, they tell her, the kind you buy in a garden store.
"Or urine."
"Dried urine?"
"No." Ethan cleared his throat. "You just go out and...you know..."

Guess what Cam gets to do?

I have only one quibble with Rising Tides. Ethan decides to be noble and self- sacrificing. He'll bow out of Grace's life. She deserves better. I hate this plot line, but thankfully all of this happens so near the end that it's resolved quickly. I knew that Ethan's stupidity would be short-lived. Indomitable Anna is going to intervene. She and Grace are an invincible force. Stand back, Ethan.

Rising Tides is another superb example of Nora's talent. It's a welcome addition to the Quinn family saga. Phillip's story, Inner Harbor, will conclude the trilogy in January. I'll be asking Santa for a copy in my stocking.

--Linda Mowery


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