I haven’t read Whiteout – the book that precedes Uncharted in Adriana Anders’ Survival Instincts series – but although there is an overarching plotline running through the series, there’s enough information provided here for a newbie to jump into the story without feeling lost, so Uncharted can be read as a standalone. It’s my first experience with this author, and unfortunately, I can’t say I was all that impressed; the writing is solid, the story is intriguing and the set-pieces are well-written, but the central characters are bland and never came to life, the romance is lacklustre and while most romantic suspense requires some suspension of disbelief, way too much of it is required here.
Leo Eddowes is former military, a pilot with a unit from an elite private security company tasked with locating the man believed to be in possession of one of only two extant samples of a deadly virus. She and her team had been in Antarctica in Whiteout, where they barely survived a confrontation with a… team of scientists and mercenaries tasked with stealing and testing a deadly virus by Chronos Corporation, one of the world’s biggest pharmaceutical companies. She and her team have moved their search for the virus and the man believed to have it to Alaska, but have been unable to locate either of them – and now her team has left and she’s had to stay behind owing to a bout of food poisoning or a stomach bug; whatever it is, she’s not in top condition and just wants to sleep it off and go home. She’s not allowed to do either of those things however, because old Amka, one of the women from the town of Schink’s Station won’t stop pounding on her cabin door. When Leo, groggy and still sick, opens the door, Amka tells her that another team from Chronos will arrive any minute and demands Leo fly out to bring her godson safely home. Believing that godson to be the man in possession of the only remaining sample of the virus, Leo shucks off her grogginess (or tries to), and goes with Amka to find the town’s only remaining air transport – a small light aircraft from the 1940s that’s obviously been cared for, but which has seen better days.
Elias Thorne is one of America’s Most Wanted, a former US Marshal set up to take the fall for mass murder – including the deaths of his own parents – and he’s been in hiding for the last decade. A static-laden phone call from Schink’s Station alerts him to the fact that trouble is on the way and tells him “she” is on her way to get him – but he has no idea who “she” is and doesn’t know if “she” is part of a rescue or of another group who is after him. Then he watches, helpless, as a small plane is shot down and crashes into the frozen lake; Elias makes his way carefully across the ice to see if he can help the pilot, only to be confronted by a woman in the cockpit pointing a gun at his head.
Uncharted gets off to a flying (sorry!) start and the author does a really good job of setting the scene, ramping up the tension as Leo sets off on her rescue mission and in setting up the mystery surrounding Elias. The descriptive writing is evocative and helps build a picture in the reader’s mind of the terrain and locations that the couple encounter throughout the story, and there are some really tense moments as Leo and Elias find themselves on the run from the mercenaries who are out to capture them and the virus.
Unfortunately however, after the initial excitement of the crash and then a couple of narrow escapes, the lack of actual plot became apparent. I’d reached the halfway point, and nothing new was happening other than Leo and Elias wandering around Alaska going from one life-threatening situation to another as they tried to outsmart and outrun the people hunting them I know that’s the plot of many romantic suspense novels and I’ve probably read and enjoyed some of them, but without strong, engaging characters who made me want to root for them, and without much in the way of chemistry or romantic development between them, Uncharted got boring very quickly and the read became a real slog to the finish.
As for the amount of suspension of disbelief required… first of all, we’ve got Leo, who is decidedly unwell and describes herself as “hardly able to see straight” yet still getting into and flying an unfamiliar plane; after the crash, she’s clearly sustained a head injury and/or concussion, yet she’s walking and running and lifting heavy equipment. Elias is shot and sustains a bad wound to his side, and yet he, too, is very quickly back on his feet and doing all manner of energetic and dangerous things. I understand that an adrenaline rush can enable an injured person to carry on doing things they perhaps shouldn’t be able to do for a little while, but it seemed as though the author felt the need to justify the fact that these two people were still walking, running, hanging off cliffs and whatever else while on their last legs for most of the book by constantly reminding us of Leo’s illness and Elias’ injuries, and it felt ridiculous rather than edge-of-the-seat exciting.
As for the romance, well it’s all insta-lust and I honestly couldn’t work out what these two people saw in each other. We’re told Leo and Elias are attracted to one another but I never felt any real degree of emotional connection between them – and don’t get me started on the ‘we’re running for our lives, but let’s shag anyway thing’, which is one of my biggest pet peeves ever. Also – when the most interesting character in your romantic suspense novel is the villain, you’ve got a problem.
Uncharted was a dreary reading experience – after the first few chapters, I just wasn’t motivated to pick it up and it took me more than twice as long to read as it should have. Maybe I’ll try another romantic suspense novel by Adriana Anders, maybe I won’t. But I certainly can’t recommend this one.