Wednesday, July 18, 2012

"Submerged" Review

The last place Bailey Craig wants to be is back in Yancey, Alaska. But that is where she finds herself after the death of her beloved aunt Agnes. When it is discovered that there may have been more to the plane crash that killed her aunt than just an accident, Bailey must remain in her hometown for longer than is easily endured. Small towns don’t forget, and Bailey has a less-than-desirable reputation.
Cole McKenna is both excited and nervous to hear that Bailey Craig is back in town. As one of the rescue divers called to investigate the plane wreckage, Cole will be working closely with Bailey to discover what really happened to her aunt. But Bailey broke his heart years ago, and he wonders what it will take to put it back together.

The quiet town of Yancey, Alaska, harbors a deep secret. As more and more evidence is unearthed, the truth of the past will come to light, not only for the town, but for Bailey and Cole as well.
For a debut author, I thought the writing in this novel was good. The story was easy to read, the suspense was excellent, and the plot was intricate. At one point close to the end, I had to put the book down to go cook dinner (or do some other mundane thing), and I told my husband, “I can’t believe what a predicament I just left those poor people in!” When I feel bad leaving the characters in a jam, then I know that I am really involved in the suspense part of the story.

Overall, the romance was done well, too. There were only a few times when I was tempted to roll my eyes at something that was too syrupy-sweet romantic. The good thing was that the romance didn’t overshadow the suspense. At the same time, the suspense wasn’t so much that it squeezed the romance out of the way, either. It was very nicely balanced.  I did notice, however, that Cole didn’t always seem to think like a guy. At one point he thinks to himself that Bailey smelled “like a meadow after a spring rain.” Now, maybe my husband just isn’t the poetic type (which is certainly OK with me), but I think he would describe it more as “you smell good,” or “you smell like fruit” instead of with such a flowery description!
Since my favorite genre is historical fiction, it was nice to see a little bit of that come into play in this book. And yet I couldn’t help but get bogged down in the historical aspects of the story. Russian history is complex and hard to describe as it is, so putting most of it at the end of the novel in a huge chunk made it even harder to follow. It might have worked better if the historical aspects had been revealed throughout the book instead. Since the reader didn’t have those facts until the end, it made it much harder (in fact, almost impossible) to figure out the bad guy’s motive for causing all of this in the first place.

As for the characters, there were a lot of them. I only label Bailey and Cole as the main characters because they are listed in the back-of-the-book description. The other characters are interesting, and I realize that they will have their own stories in the next books in the series, but I thought a little too much time was spent building up the minor characters.
As for Bailey and Cole, they were not necessarily relatable to me on a personal level because I have not been through their experiences. I understand that it would be hard for Bailey to move on from the things she had done, especially going back to the town where all of that took place. But I did sometimes find myself thinking that she was being very self-involved. She seemed to always be dwelling on the fact that the people around her were thinking the worst about her. I just couldn’t help thinking that she needed to get over herself. The other characters in the book had more on their minds than just Bailey Craig.

However, spiritually, the characters were easy to relate to. The message of grace and forgiveness comes through clearly in this novel. No matter what we have done in the past, we must accept that Christ died for those sins and move on in the knowledge of His grace and mercy. It does us no good for our past sins to hold us back from living the life that Christ wants us to live right now.
I was really excited to read a book set in Alaska, somewhere I really want to visit one day. But, throughout this story, I kept getting tripped up in the descriptions of people and places that were supposedly in Alaska. Even if it might sometimes hit 80 degrees in August in Alaska, that doesn’t mean that everyone there runs around in sundresses and flip-flops and goes surfing. I’m sure there are some sandy beaches somewhere in Alaska, but, in my mind, most of the coastline is rocky. It just felt incongruous. The whole time I was reading, I felt as if you could have lifted the story right out of Alaska, put it in Hawaii or the Caribbean, and (except for the Russian history) you would have had the same story. This is just my personal preference, but if you are going to set your story in Alaska, I would enjoy it much better if it actually feels as if it is taking place in Alaska.

The suspense part of this novel was good, as was the overall message of grace and forgiveness. I wouldn’t mind reading the next books in this series…as long as they take place in winter in Alaska!

I will give Submerged … 3 BookWorms.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bethany House/Baker Publishing Group. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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