Thursday, March 19, 2015

Book Review: Lovely, Dark, and Deep by Susannah Sandlin

The good thing about reading slumps is that you get to catch up on your old reviews that you forgot that you never posted. I have a backlog of books that I read a while ago (or recently finished) that I never wrote reviews for. I fall victim to my desire to get on reading the next book and completely forget to write something about the book I just read. Bit of a fickle reader but hey, aren't we all?

Susannah Sandlin (also writes at Susannah Johnson) is currently working on a paranormal series set in New Orleans called The Sentinels of New Orleans that I was completely obsessed with. It has wizards, voodoo, shifters, and the historical undead and is well-written. So, I was curious about her other books. She has a series about vampires called The Penton Legacy but as some of you know, I'm not all into vampires so I've set it aside for now.  Lovely, Dark, and Deep intrigued me though. It isn't paranormal and it doesn't really focus on the South as much as her other books so I was curious and excited to read it.

Going into this book:
Oh goodness, I love this author. Is it going to live up to my expectations? Will I be disappointed? She always writes her men well and has the appropriate level of snark for her heroines. Her heroines are strong and generally independent and don't put up with any crap. Her world building is interesting. How would this book compare to The Sentinels and will I see a repeat of DJ in this book? Will it be the same characters, just under different names like some authors do? I AM FLIPPING EXCITED!

After reading:
Lovely, Dark, and Deep is an interesting novel because it is driven by the actions of a sociopath that is nearly anonymous and truly twisted. But the reader hardly sees him throughout the plot. He communicates through a lackey via phone calls and threatening emails. He is never directly involved in what is going on so you get this almost puppet master aspect to the book. The Collector is the perfect evil villain in the traditional Bond type way. He is rich. He is powerful and he does not care about anything but himself, his reputation and his money.

It's so rare when you have a true villain that you can't see but you know is there. It isn't some other worldly presence. It isn't a crazy dictator. It isn't an evil overlord who can destroy the world with a mighty sweep of his hand. This is a normal human man who can destroy the lives of people on a whim and will never be held accountable for it. He controls everything and doesn't care who is affected by his desires and actions.

Do you know how terrifying that is? That a single person can hold the power of your life just because you are a means to a vain and selfish end? When I say that he doesn't care, the villain literally puts no value on human life. It doesn't matter to him. People are not people to him, they are stepping stones.

That's why I like the premise of this book. These characters are not driven to save the world or change how things are done. They have to act in the ways that they do because a crazy guy with a ton of money is threatening everything they love for something that may or may not exist.  
Gillian is a headstrong independent woman who works with alligators. She humanely traps and removes them so that they can live out their natural happy life away from humans. She has some skeletons in a closed and locked closet that she hasn't opened in a long time and she likes it that way. She likes being alone. But when an off-hand comment on a news show lands her on the radar of a treasure-seeking sociopath, she finds her family's and friend's life being held ransom in exchange for a family heirloom that is closer to rumor than fact.
So Gillian ends up on a boat with a excessively attractive diver named Shane who has his own demons to fight in order to save her family. Shane is being blackmailed too for his boat, his livelihood and the last people he cares about. Every step they take to finding the mysterious pendant that was lost in a shipwreck is wrought with threats and losses. The intent is clear. Find what the Collector wants or die.

I did have problems with this book though. From the beginning, Gillian is attracted to Shane. Totally normal, I get it. He's hot. He's a diver. Got a rockin' bod. Got it. Stop talking about sex all the time. Gillian is supposed to be emotionally scarred from something in her past. Same with Shane. Their families may be murdered for something they have little control over. I'd appreciate a bit more urgency and panicking but instead there is a lot of focus on wistful kisses and "what could have been". The romantic aspect of the book seemed to take over the plot instead of the fact that their families are at risk due to their time wasting.
I wanted to yell at them to either do it and get it over with or move on. You have other things to focus on. Have a hot sexy encounter, get it out of your systems and then get to work! Or when you have spare time sailing along the coast, do it then. There was some time wasted when they could have been trying to figure out who was the one threatening them. It seemed that they kept getting distracted by each other (which I can understand, sexual tension is a bitch) instead of doing the job that they were forced into doing. If I were in Gillian's place, I would have told Shane "Let's hold off on the sexy times until we figure out if we are going to ruin our families' lives or not. Then let's have fun." I'd be too stressed to be able to handle any more tension due to wanting to do the nasty while probably under the ever watchful eye of the Collector.
But the plot was solid throughout. Everything is well thought out and makes sense. 
Gillian is desperate but clever. She is able to keep herself together and not turn into a fainting soft woman. She is strong and is able to make logical sound decisions despite the heavy emotional burden she is under. I loved that she joined in with the dives even though she wasn't sure of how she would be able to help. There is nothing worse than sitting around and waiting for someone else's results and she doesn't let anything stop her. Same with Shane, although his emotions factored into his decision making in a greater way. 
I was scared for the characters and the threats were real. There was none of this hypothetical danger. It was palpable which was wonderful. Make a bad choice? Someone dies. Don't act quick enough? Another pulled trigger and a fresh threat.  They were always looking over their shoulders and the tension created by that was real.

I loved the premise, loved the villain but got sick of the angst really quickly. Still gets 4 stars because it kept me on the edge of my seat and I am going to read the next one in the series.


  1. That happens, but at least you are catching up on reviews now while you can. Great review! Another one added to the ever growing TBR

    1. That's the goal, haha.

      Thank you! This author is a lot of fun :-) Might try to convince you to get into her paranormal series