Susannah Sandlin is off to a very good start in her new Collectors series with Lovely, Dark, and Deep. What made this book so enjoyable for me is the interweaving of a suspenseful plot and setting along with a great cast of memorable characters.
This series revolves around a secret group of rare artifact collectors who are known as “C7.” This group is comprised of uber-wealthy, powerfully connected individuals who compete against each other to see who can be the first to acquire hard-to-find treasures. It’s a selfish, ruthless game where the players use their resources to coerce innocent, everyday people into becoming participants in their search for the precious objects of their interest. Although the game does have its rules, intimidation, emotional manipulation, and even murder are tactics that may be employed to keep those forced to play along in line.
In Lovely, Dark, and Deep, the coveted item is a ruby embedded cross believed to have belonged to the Knights Templar. Once C7 member Weston Flynn, a U.S. politician, learns of the legendary existence of this cross, he “enlists” the assistance of biologist Gillian Campell, whose ancestor is rumored to have stolen the cross but then died with it in his possession in a shipwreck off the coast of Nova Scotia, Canada. Although Gillian has no idea whether the family legend is true, she is forced into the search after her niece’s life is threatened. In order to find the cross, she needs the help of technical diver, Shane Burke, who has the knowledge and experience of diving in the deep, often treacherous waters of the wreck site if she has any chance at all of retrieving what amounts to “finding a needle in a haystack” within the given thirty day time period.
Although readers know the identity of the C7 player behind the search, Gillian and Shane are kept in the dark about the person manipulating them from behind the scenes. Their contact is a liaison whose nickname is “Big Tex” who gives them their instructions and inflicts damage to reinforce the severity of their situation. Failure is not an option, even though they both know their chance of success is slim to none.
Together they set sail for Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, where the ship carrying the cross is rumored to have sunk. The obstacles they face seem almost insurmountable given the rocky coastline and treacherous ocean currents. However, along their journey, they receive the help of some quirky characters whose distinct personalities are unforgettable. Shane’s friend, Jagger, who constantly hums Rolling Stones’ lyrics and the cantankerous elderly uncle whose B.S. deter never fails, play a vital role in their mission. When the group reaches Cape Breton, they are aided by ornery retired commercial fisherman Chevy, and his wife Cleo, who epitomizes the phrase, “I am woman, hear me roar.” These characters really livened up the story, and I especially enjoyed the minor conflicts that ensued among Shane and Gillian’s overprotective dog, Tank. Overall, the author does a great job with developing her characters except for the antagonists. They are flat and their motivations for being involved really could be fleshed out in more detail.
Both Gillian and Shane are very likable characters who are each burdened by past sorrows and regrets. Although their relationship is initially tenuous, the attraction between them is certainly there and the bond between them begins to solidify once they share their guilt and vulnerabilities with each other. Their romance and intimacy takes time to develop but smoothly blends into story. The love scenes are few and mildly descriptive, and I appreciated that they were never a distraction to the overall plot.
The action, pacing, and suspense throughout the story kept me turning the pages and I found it hard to find a good place to pause since almost every chapter ends with a mini cliff-hanger. I enjoyed the book and recommend it to readers who enjoy romance and a thrilling plot.
Source: I received an ARC of this ebook from the author to provide an honest and fair review.
Rating: 4.5 - Great
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