Pearl Cove is the first Elizabeth Lowell book I’ve read, but it certainly won’t be my last. From the first page, I was drawn into a suspenseful plot, fascinating information about pearls and the pearl industry, and most of all, the larger-than-life characters of the Donovan family.
Ten years ago, Archer Donovan fell in love with Hannah McGarry, but he let her go because she was with his half-brother, Len. Archer hoped that Hannah’s sweetness would be a tonic for the bitter Len. When Hannah calls him to Australia in the wake of Len’s murder, Archer finds that instead, Len has made Hannah’s life hellish. Their passion rekindles in the midst of their attempts to stay alive, find out who killed Len, and salvage the fabulous black pearls for which Len was murdered.
Two things make Pearl Cove stand out from the run of the mill romantic suspense story. One is the depth of research and detail that Lowell includes. I knew nothing about pearls when I started reading this book; now I’m fascinated by them. The wealth of background information is smoothly integrated into the plot itself, and never interferes with the action, yet along the way I felt like I was really learning something. That’s the hallmark of a good author and a good researcher.
The other thing that makes Pearl Cove really hum is the characters. Judging from comments on Amazon.com, Archer’s guest appearances in Amber Beach and Jade Island had many readers salivating for his story, and I doubt they will be disappointed. Archer is a complex and challenging character, and Lowell has a real gift for getting inside his male psyche and reflecting the world and his relationship with Hannah as he sees it. Be warned: this leads to realistically blunt language (neither Archer nor his brothers shy away from Anglo-Saxon words for body parts and the sex act) at times, but it is certainly in character.
Backing up Archer are the Donovan clan: parents, sister Honor and brother Kyle, featured in the first two books, and additional siblings Faith, Justin, and Lawe. The interactions among the close, supportive family are some of the best scenes in the book. The characters are boisterously loving and protective of each other and in many ways remind me of Nora Roberts’ tightly knit clans. It’s an enjoyable fantasy of ideal family life and adds a dimension to the book. However, the other Donovans do not overshadow the central relationship between Archer and Hannah, who have some of the most passionate and earthy love scenes I’ve read so far this year. While keeping the wheels of the complex suspense plot turning, Lowell never loses focus on the essential relationship growing between Archer and Hannah, and the most riveting moments for me were of personal interaction, not action-movie-style heroics.
My one small problem with the book is that the suspense side of the plot, which effectively drives the book for the first two-thirds, crumbles somewhat toward the end, and resolves with more of a whimper than a bang. It became a little difficult to tell the players apart, and who was on whose team by late in the game, but by then I was so firmly strapped in for the ride, I found myself caring only a little.
The timing of Pearl Cove‘s release could not be better – this is a perfect book for summer vacation reading on the beach or porch.