by Elizabeth Lowell
After a family tragedy, Kate Donnelly left the Caribbean behind forever. But a series of bad management decisions has left her family's diving and treasure-hunting business drowning in red ink. Now her brother pleads with her to come back to the island of St. Vincent and offer her financial expertise.
Holden Cameron was addicted to the adrenaline rush of active duty—including narrowly surviving an underwater explosives accident. The last thing the former British military diver wants is to babysit a family of thieves on a tropical island—even if they are the world-famous Diving Donnellys.
When equipment, treasure, and even divers begin to disappear, Kate and Holden form an uneasy alliance to uncover the truth. But the deeper they plummet into the mystery, the closer they come to one another. Soon they are sharing their deepest fears and darkest secrets—and a combustible chemistry too hot to ignore.
I'm not sure what I found less agreeable: the characters and their frustrating actions and personalities; or the dragging story line that took fifty percent of the book to finally pick up a little bit.
On the one hand, the book does boast a rather interesting premise, and Elizabeth Lowell's serviceable writing with some of the humor I'm used to from previous books. On the other hand, the characters spent more time pissing me off, the plot dragged on, and Kate's doormat personality didn't do much to help. And neither were the men in this book much to write home about either.
Holden is the standard, broody male, who starts off his character as a jackass, but then does a one-eighty about 20% into the book and turns into a different person. Kate's grandfather and brother start off as jerks, continue to be jerks, and I kind of wrote them off pretty quickly after that.
It got on my nerves that the men would get into this male posturing, drag Kate into it, have their own problems, and then somehow Kate would feel obligated to both, be the peacekeeper, and apologize for whatever it is she feels she needs to apologize for, even though she wasn't even part of the problem in the first place.
Her relationship with her brother and her grandfather was exactly like she'd described about a childhood incident: About how her brother used to pull her pigtails all the time, and not lightly. She would ignore it until he pulled too hard and hurt her, then she'd turn around and get angry at him, demanding consolation. But somehow, he managed to manipulate the situation wherein he turned into the wronged party, and she would apologize... just because.
Scenes like the above happen more than once, even as Kate and Larry are now adults. He manipulates and then pisses her off, then when she calls him out on it, he turns the situation around, acts like the wounded party, and Kate feels the need to apologize and comfort his crybaby ass instead.
It got frustrating.
Kate had a rather tragic memory of the family's diving days, having been the only one on board the diving ship, at the age of eighteen, when her parents died. According to back story, her parents went night diving, something happened to her mother's diving gear, and trying to save her mother her father had sped towards the surface without proper decompression with his ascent. In the end, her mother ended up lost to the sea while her father surfaced into the diving ship with the bends, convulsing into death right in Kate's arms.
At the time, she was the only one on board since her grandfather and her brother were ashore. She watched her mother disappear into the sea, watched her father die in her arms, tried to find her mother without success, then had to navigate the ship back to land, with no one there for support.
She ended up running away from the family business until her brother manages to manipulate her into returning years later, with no regard to her feelings. He tells her that she need only show up and try to fix the financials, that she wouldn't have to get in the water--then when she arrives, he leaves her a note to pick up the British consultant and bring him out to the diving ship. He tells her that she wouldn't have to set foot on the diving ship, that she can just do her part from the little house on shore--but when she reaches the diving ship with the consultant, her brother all but drags her on board.
The only thing that she stands strong about was that she refused to put on a diving suit and get in the water.
Instead of acknowledging the ordeal Kate had gone through during her parents' tragic deaths, both her grandfather and brother would throw into her face: "Did it never occur to you that I lost someone I love that night as well?" whenever she refused to take part in diving, or got tense by being on the ship that held tragic memories for her.
And while I'm not one to belittle or diminish one's grief over another's... well, I'd say that Kate's haunting memories of watching her father die and her mother lost at sea without being able to do a thing to help them deserves more sympathy than, "I'm grieving too, but I'm still in the game, so you need to get yourself together."
This conflict, as well as the "Who's stealing from the treasure hunt?" conflict, and the "This dive expedition is cursed" conflict, and how everything just keeps going wrong... all of these conflicts just kept circling each other for most of the book, with no forward progress. In fact, when Kate and Holden finally hunker down and do some investigating after most of the divers quit, and one disappears under mysterious circumstances, I was wondering why none of that investigation had been done in the first place.
Instead, Kate and Holden spend most of the book lusting after each other, going from insta-lust to insta-love at breakneck speed, spend some time playing house, spend more time arguing with Kate's brother and grandfather... and then finally decide to do some solid investigating mere hours before a Category One is about to hit. This entire time, I was wondering if, in the middle of an impending tropical storm was the best time to decide to finally look at the dive logs, and search the crew's quarters... while in the middle of the sea in the diving ship.
Night Diver was not an enjoyable book, and the only reason it gets stars at all is because the last half got exciting (finally), and Elizabeth Lowell's writing is easy to read. I just couldn't stand the characters, the dragging plot... And then the romance itself was unspectacular. In fact, somehow, without actually being a dated romance, it still felt like a dated romance. I'm not even sure how that's possible.
Fourth of July Optional BL Challenge:
The author of this book was born pre-1955.
Page Count: 388
Cash Award: +$6.00
Updated Bank Balance: $165.00