“Submerged” by Dani Pettrey

Perhaps it’s a mistake to read reviews (especially critical reviews) before reading a book. I read a few reviews of Submerged, and my memory of one of them amounts to: 1) there is no coral in Alaskan waters, and 2) the female protagonist, in clinging to her past unworthiness, was making a mountain out of a molehill.

A sabotaged plane. Two dead deep-water divers.

Yancey, Alaska was a quiet town…until the truth of what was hidden in the depths off the coast began to appear.

Bailey Craig vowed never to set foot in Yancey again. She has a past, and a reputation–and Yancey’s a small town. She’s returned to bury a loved one killed in the plane crash and is determined not to stay even an hour more than necessary. But then dark evidence emerges and Bailey’s own expertise becomes invaluable for the case.

Cole McKenna can handle the deep-sea dives and helping the police recover evidence. He can even handle the fact that a murderer has settled in his town and doesn’t appear to be moving on. But dealing with the reality of Bailey’s reappearance is a tougher challenge. She broke his heart, but she is not the same girl who left Yancey. He let her down, but he’s not the same guy she left behind. Can they move beyond the hurts of their pasts and find a future together?

My responses: 1) the Wikipedia page was inconclusive, and 2) yes, she totally is.

I Really, Really, Really Need To Stop Reading This Genre

Bailey was Yancey’s whore through high-school (nothing graphic, but probably too spelled out for sensitive readers). After finding Jesus in college, she’s left that lifestyle behind to become a Russian History professor at some college (a college that doesn’t seem to bat an eye when her trip to bury her guardian aunt turns into helping a police investigation for weeks upon weeks…but that’s not really important).

It’s been ten years since she left her childhood home, and everyone (except the two guys who haven’t matured since Jr. High) treats her with love and acceptance — so she’s really blowing up her past indiscretions for the sake of angst and dragging out the proposal for the last page. It’s probably quite realistic, since baggage is harder to let go of than it should be, but stretched both the plot and my patience.

Bailey’s soul-mate Cole was the one boyfriend who treated her with dignity (and chastity), and since finding Jesus himself has become a pillar of the community, running an “outdoor adventures” shop with his siblings and helping the local authorities with search and rescue due to his scuba-diving skills.

When the two meet, the only thing keeping them apart is their inhibitions: she thinks he can’t forgive her (even though God has) and he thinks there’s no future with her because she’s dead set on kiting out of town as soon as she’s settled her aunt’s affairs.

Despite the fact that they’re both falling hard for each other’s smells…Smells? What are these people, werewolves? Oh my cotton socks!

Then the last chapter comes, and they have their “conversation”, which so awkward I could have written something better. But it’s Christian fiction, so at least they get a proposal out of it all.

Why I Kept Reading

The body count kept climbing as a villain on loan from some Bond film searched for proof about heirs of the Romanovs. While his motivation verged on the unbelievable (a couple revolutions later, Putin’s got bigger fish than Romanovs to fry), the character himself came across as unhinged enough to ignore these little KGB details (and I’ve been too lazy to verify my questions about the real Romanov descendants). The villain’s point-of-view scenes don’t add much to the book, though, except tipping the author’s hand that the protags are heading into a trap.

The mystery part of the story is actually featured, complete with police councils-of-war, autopsy reports, analyzing digital evidence, and interviewing suspects. Despite a tendency to fade to black right before a conversation about the Russian history evidence, the story contained actual clues – elevating it above the “paper of vague evidence that will motivate the characters to move the plot forward” breed of mystery.

It was fun to read a couple scenes about scuba-diving – something that would terrify me in real life. I have not bothered to verify the other reviewer’s factual complaints.

Cole’s family was enjoyably stable — though their parents have died, the four or five of them live in symbiotic closeness, running their scuba shop together and adopting almost everyone they come in contact with. While apparently not all the siblings are Christians, they behave exactly the way Christians should.

(Lastly, I was too obsessive-compulsive to write a review before I’d actually finished the book.)

Another Review You Should Probably Ignore

Even though I started skimming after the 39%-mark, it was a decent story that managed to jolt my stogy heart into emotion (I especially resonated with Cole’s righteous indignation over how the two above-mentioned juveniles treated Bailey).

The mystery is tied up tightly, but the supporting couple (whom I preferred to the leads) end with love undeclared, one heart torn and the other oblivious. This is presumably the “hook” to get the reader into the next book in the series.

Can’t say I was blown away by the Christian elements of the book. As discussed above, Bailey’s unwillingness to surrender her past is kinda realistic, as is the Christian characters pleading with God in prayer through their darkest moments. However, something just didn’t seem to sing.

Even for its own genre, Submerged doesn’t blow anything out of the water, but if you’re the type who enjoys “Romantic Suspense”, you’ll get both romance and suspense in this title.

(And if you’re big into Russian-heirs intrigue, Have His Carcase explores it with the critical eye of a novelist, the thrill of an alibi-heavy mystery, and a couple truly original twists.)


Disclaimer: I got a FREE ebook copy during an Amazon promotion. I was not required to write a review, positive or otherwise.

The book can be found in ebook and paperback on Amazon, at Barnes and Noble, and on the Book Depository (free delivery worldwide).

The author’s official website is DaniPettrey.com.

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