Desert Isle Keeper
Cold Evidence, the sixth installment in the loosely connected Evidence series, is a romantic suspense novel that manages to take an established pattern and flesh it out with very appealing protagonists and a remarkably realistic touch – a true winner!
Undine Grey is a marine archaeologist involved in the salvage mission of a submarine that sank in the 1950s in the Salish Sea near Seattle. The submarine was on its last trip before demolition and manned by a group of veterans. All this sounds harmless enough, but then the boat above Undine explodes while she is returning from a dive to the wreck, killing her colleagues. She barely survives and is picked up by a nearby boat and taken to decompression just in time.
On that boat happens to be Luke Sevick, with whom Undine had an extremely ill-fated relationship more than ten years earlier, which, as is slowly revealed, had catastrophic effects for both of them. In spite of the emotional turmoil in which he finds himself on seeing her, Luke stays with Undine until she is out of danger. Still, he is shocked to find her outside his door a few weeks later: Undine has been afraid of diving since her accident, but she feels compelled to return to the wreck to discover what’s down there and whether any foul play is responsible for her colleagues’ deaths; and Luke is the diver she feels most safe with as a partner.
The past that Luke and Undine share is remarkably painful, even by romance standards, and that is on several counts and may well raise a red flag for some readers. However, Rachel Grant does a good job in distributing the blame evenly and anyway concentrates more on the fallout with its heaps of anger, remorse, and guilt, which has changed both characters’ lives irrevocably.
Not unexpectedly, foul play is responsible for the explosion, and soon Undine and Luke find themselves in deep water indeed. The villain is soon revealed – a bit too much on the moustache-twirling side for my taste – but what saves the suspense plot is the way in which it is anchored in contemporary events and real places, and way the author raises the stakes with each turn of events. At the finish, I found myself biting my fingernails.
Equally fascinating is the love for anything marine that shines throughout every page of the novel. Undine is the daughter of a well-known marine biologist (hence her first name) and more or less grew up in fins. Luke also worked in marine biology before becoming a Navy SEAL and later working for NOAA. The descriptions of diving, of living next to the beach, of loving all marine life, are utterly compelling.
Which brings me to the leads. I loved reading about both, but with a difference. Undine is on the whole a girl next door, if you ignore the world-famous father and the academic background, with thoughts and attitudes and a degree of attractiveness you can relate to as a reader. Luke, on the other hand, is mostly perfection come true. The author works so hard to make him utterly mouth-watering that it shows, and pulled me from my reading now and then. He redeems himself by being truly charming, but I would have preferred him less god-like.
The sex scenes start off quite hot, and I was fanning myself around page 80, wondering how Rachel Grant would top it. Well, she doesn’t. The sex continues hot, but Grant concentrates more and more on the emotional impact and less and less on the mechanics, which become less important for the characters, too, as their love grows. I found that very moving.
There are a few cameo appearances from characters who appeared in earlier novels in the series, but nothing that overwhelms. An originally minor character is pushed into the spotlight on the last pages, and boy do I hope he will be featured in a future novel in the series.
Cold Evidence was my first Rachel Grant book, but you can be sure that it won’t be my last. (Did I mention that minor character I want to read more about?) Even though the book is not about everyday events, it felt grounded. You can see these characters having a life, and also dealing with the unexpected. This is one romantic suspense novel that I highly recommend!