Disclaimer: A review copy was provided by Netgalley and the publisher for an honest review. No other remuneration was received.
Book Title: DEVIL AND THE DEEP
Author: Julie Ann Walker
Series: The Deep Six #2
Publisher: SOURCEBOOKS Casablanca
Category: Romantic Thriller/Romantic Suspense/Military Romance/SEALs
Author’s Website: http://julieannwalker.com/
Release Date: July 5, 2016
Main Characters: Maddy/Bran
Find It: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | Apple iBooks
Source: ARC provided by NetGalley, ebook format
The former SEALs of The Deep Six return in a sizzling series from New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Julie Ann Walker.
A COVERT MISSION
Maddy Powers’s life revolves around cocktail parties, political fundraisers, and charity events – but she can’t forget the daring former SEAL who appropriated her father’s yacht a few months ago … or the scorching kiss they shared before he disappeared into the deep blue sea.
SPARKS A FLAMING DESIRE
Bran Pallidino carries a dark secret behind his lady-killer eyes – one that keeps him from pursuing a serious relationship with Maddy. But when she’s taken hostage during a trip to the Dry Tortugas, the men of Deep Six Salvage drop their treasure hunt for a sunken galleon and embark on a dangerous mission to save Maddy.
WITH EARTH-SHATTERING REPERCUSSIONS
As they fight her merciless kidnappers, they discover this isn’t a simple hostage situation, but something far more sinister. Passion boils between Bran and Maddy, but what good is putting their hearts on the line if they don’t survive the dawn?
READ ON FOR MY REVIEW!
I don’t like giving bad reviews. As a writer myself, I know how much work, love and care goes into bringing a story from inside your brain to the printed page where others can read it. It’s uncomfortable for me to say negative things about a writer’s product.
But when I take on these galleys, I promise an honest review. It doesn’t do the writer or the reader any favors to lie about what I’ve read. And I also believe that constructive criticism is important for the quality of writing — I know I appreciate it. Not every reader is going to love your work.
That being said, I just couldn’t get more than 10% into this book. I’ve heard good things about the author, and her books receive good reviews on GR and Amazon, but if DEVIL AND THE DEEP is any indication, I must be missing something, because I don’t get it.
The writing was technically fine: no egregious spelling, grammar, or structural problems, but everything else in what I managed to get through just kept hitting bad note after bad note for me.
The premise held some promise (promising premise!), and I have enjoyed a few SEAL stories, but the characterization and execution here was thin and unpalatable. I didn’t read the first book in the series, but in my experience, a good sequel lets you sink in to the universe anyway and makes it easy to understand the characters and motivations. That didn’t happen for me here, and I’m usually pretty sharp on the uptake. It seems like the writer just assumes that anyone picking up this book read and pretty much memorized the first. Because of this, a great deal of what’s going on in this story struck me as senseless.
Usually prologues that don’t have much to do with the plot at hand except as an exposition/backstory dump are serious red flags. I would rather have heard more about the pirates’ story given only a few pages in the beginning than the events that followed.
But a lot of times, a thin or silly plot can be forgiven if the characters are sympathetic or compelling somehow, or the chemistry between the central pairing is sizzling and immediately apparent. It’s a mistake to keep the main characters apart as long as they are here, even if it’s a thriller. None of the other characters did anything for me either. Let’s put it this way: the only one that didn’t drive me nuts in one way or another was the English bulldog, named *shudder* Meat. But his name isn’t his fault, so I won’t hold it against him. Pets always get a pass from me. They’re usually smarter than the people anyway.
I can’t say I found the other characters particularly entertaining, or even realistic. They were all paper doll stereotypes. Take Alex, the youngest female member of the Deep Six Salvage Company (who is not actually a member, but a grad student working on her PhD in… sunken ships, I guess. It says she’s a historian, and she wants to do her dissertation on the “search for and excavation” of a shipwreck. Um… okay.) Naturally, she’s a combination of a geek and an annoying little sister. She is described like she resembles Annie (from the play — wild, curly red hair, freckles, and I picture her with dorky glasses, but I can’t remember if they were actually there in the story), and she spends her time acting like a tween, constantly prying into and teasing people about their romantic lives, giggling, “sing-songing,” being nosy, skipping around and basically just existing to make me want to slap her in the face.
But wait — Alex isn’t alone in the annoying person category. The heroine (Maddy) is absolutely unbearable. She is written in such a way that her every piece of dialogue should be tagged, “she Southerned,” instead of “she said.” The Aw-shucks, slap-mah-butt-and-call-me-bacon characterization just grates from the first scene. We get it. She’s from the south. That’s not even the worst of it. She’s also incredibly selfish and shallow. She shows up at one of the islands (not-so-coincidentally near where the hero, Bran, is doing his research) with three “scholarship girls” from a foundation funded by her father to get “underprivileged kids” out of their dangerous and/or un-enriching neighborhoods.
Naturally, these girls are as follows: a “dark-skinned, black-eyed” Latina, daughter of Mexican immigrants “who had emigrated from Mexico in the hopes that their daughter might grab hold of the American Dream with both hands and live it to its fullest,” a Jersy street kid that says “yo” a lot (while she isn’t described as African-American, every one of her character marks make her sound as such) and had “too-wise-for-her-age eyes,” and a father with Rheumatoid Arthritis who “put food on the table” by driving trucks. I may be mistaken, but in my experience, someone with RA is not able to sit all day with their hands clenched on a steering wheel or stick shift. But anyway. Finally, there is a “rural” blonde, white girl named…. care to take a guess?…Sally Mae. All we know about her is that she’s “bird-like,”and has an accent thicker than Maddy’s. Read: redneck. Of course, all these girls are “surprisingly smart,” or they wouldn’t be there. It’s like being bludgeoned in the face with the stereotypes of every scholarship kid ever.I mean, they’re not country club kids, so they must be ghetto rats or confederate flag waving hicks, right?
So here we are, with our “special girls,” on an island. But is our heroine there being generous, trying to give back to the world some of what she has as the privileged daughter of an oil tycoon? No. She’s there to try and meet Bran again. Apparently, he saved her from pirates at some point in the last book? I don’t even know, and as far as I got in this one, it never became completely clear. When Bran did save her, I guess, she apparently fell in insta-lurve, and started emailing him everyday, hoping to catch her a knight in… whatever ex-SEALs wear. Not that Bran is any better, as he always replies, and is inexplicably in “love” with her, as well.
There’s a name for that pathology. I believe it’s White Knight Syndrome.
I mean, how shitty is it to bring some “scholarship girls” out to the middle of nowhere so she could get laid? She even thinks, “I should have my philanthropist’s licence revoked.” But at the same time, she’s “proud,” of the work she does for charity. I… just can’t even.
Oh, and Maddy is apparently irresistible to all men, as well. As she and “her girls” arrive on their deserted island for a camping trip, I guess, they meet the island’s caregiver, a poor, dumb Gomer Pyle ranger named… wait for it… Ranger Rick. Maddy observes things about his response to her like, “He suddenly found the sand at his feet immensely interesting and starting digging for some mysterious object with the toe of his hiking boot.” Of course, she’s surprised she sweeps men off their feet, because, aw shucks, she’s just a modest southern belle who doesn’t even have “big, fluffy Texas hair” or cleavage!
It just gets more annoying from there. I knew I wasn’t going to make it through the book, however, when she started talking about “what some might diagnose as a mild case of PTSD.” She was kidnapped and her father’s yacht shanghaied by pirates, so it’s not completely out of the realm of possibility that she did have some traumatic stress. However, she in no way acts like someone who actually suffers from PTSD. Giggling, flirting, blushing, plotting to net Bran… I don’t know. Between the hokey language and her weird characterization, she just pushed me right over the edge of annoyance.(But I guess she gets kidnapped again in this book, so maybe she and Bran will be hippy happy and ready to get married by the end.)
Wait! That wasn’t what made me finally put this book down. That was when the bad guys–the same bad guys? A whole new set of pirates? (who are apparently Mafioso, I think?) Again, no clue. –are sitting around on a boat they obtained with fake identification (well, at least they didn’t steal it, I guess), arguing about whether there’s some alternative to kidnapping an oil barron’s daughter for ransom to fund their own inroads into the oil industry. The exchange goes something like this:
“No,” Gene spat, “I can’t help but think there’s got to be another way.”
… As patiently as [Tony] could, he said, “Gene, we’ve been through this a million times. No venture capitalist will touch us. We’ve exhausted all our reserves and the reserves of our investors. We need cash.”
“Maybe I could ask him again,” Gene said, something close to desperation in his eyes. They both knew to which him Gene was referring.
“He’s already told you no three times,” Tony reminded him. “…And he’s pushed you to this.”
“No.” Gene shook his head. “It wasn’t him. It was OPEC. Goddamned OPEC!”
And the story goes on to explain what OPEC is. Goddamn OPEC. It’s over-written and over-explained, just like everything else in the story… of what I managed to read, anyway.If the author could use a simple word, she used a complicated one. If she could describe something with five words, she used ten. Plus, we never miss a single thought, movement, or motivation, because everything is spelled out in detail.
I just can’t recommend this book. This is just my opinion, of course. I know Ms. Walker has plenty of fans, and this writing game is all about taste. DEVIL AND THE DEEP was really not to mine. It’s very rare that I give a DNF, but there was just nothing here to hang my hat on and pull myself through to the end. So I’ll give a sad: