Initially, I was excited to be assigned this book to review. A hunky underwater archaeologist and a beautiful salvage diver working together to discover hidden treasure in a sunken Civil War blockade runner – what a great premise. Lots of potential for romance, adventure, excitement! But as I continued to read, my hopes sunk lower and lower until I was drowned in boredom.
Sam McGowan, the aforementioned hunky underwater archaeologist, is just itching to work with the best salvage diver in the business, Gordon Chandler. But when Gordon can’t make the scene and sends his daughter Rachel instead, Sam is disappointed, and he momentarily lets it show. Rachel, who has worked long and hard beside her father and her (equally hunky) brother, Jared, is put out by Sam’s thoughtless remark and the two begin their working relationship with a small amount of tension between them. Rachel is the best woman diver in the business, and she intends to prove herself to any and all disbelievers.
Norman Winter, the wealthy client who has hired Rachel and Sam to run the salvage operation of the Melrose, a wooden-hulled Confederate blockade runner sunk off the coast of the Carolinas during the Civil War, seems less interested in the historic finds that Sam and Rachel dig up during the operation, and more interested in making certain the salvage site remains a secret. Always in a white linen suit and dark glasses, Norman is one strange fellow, but Sam and Rachel live by the premise that the customer is always right. Since Norman is funding the operation, he can run it any way he wants.
As it turns out, Sam is the great great grandson of Captain Sam McGowan, the colorful skipper of the doomed vessel, so Sam is more interested in the intrinsic historical value of the what was on board the Melrose, than he is in finding any kind of treasure. Also, Norman has purchased Eden’s End, Sam’s ante bellum family home and is in the process of restoring it to its original grandeur, something Sam’s family could never afford to do.
While the author did her homework concerning diving, salvaging, and underwater archaeology, the rest of the story had some real problems. An important plot element, conflict, was almost entirely missing from the story. After Sam and Rachel’s initial misunderstanding, they got along just fine. No conflict there. Is Sam upset that a usurper has bought his family’s centuries-old home out from under him? No, not really. No conflict there. The villain is so obvious – who he really is and what he’s really after – there’s no conflict there. The dialogue between characters was rather bland and there were lots of point-of-view shifts that had me reading many pages twice, just to figure out who was talking or whose “head” I was in.
The plot moved along slowly but came to a grinding halt when it got to Sam’s family reunion. Nothing stops the forward motion of a story faster than a side-trip to a family reunion where lots of characters are introduced and food is set on the table and the old scrapbook is pulled out – none of which moves the plot forward. The only thing a family reunion does is add to the requisite page-count, and set up good-looking relatives for sequels.
If you can get past several passages that were nothing more than author intrusion (a big no-no in writing), having every detail explained at least twice, boring dialogue, and a less-than-sizzling romance between Sam and Rachel, you might enjoy Priceless. While nothing about it offended me, and the diving facts were interesting (I used to dive, so I know they were accurate), neither the story nor the characters were compelling enough to keep my interest. Sorry to say, Priceless missed the boat.