In this romantic suspense novel, a woman and her ex fight to recover a mysterious relic from a wrecked ship—and maybe salvage their relationship along the way.
The last person Rachel Lyons, marine biologist turned foundation executive, wants to see is her former love interest, Chase Cohen. He was working with her father, Sam, as an ocean salvager until Sam’s death in a diving accident, after which Chase disappeared with no more than a scribbled note. Even when a museum director begs Rachel to help finish the business Sam and Chase started and recover an important relic, she declines. But when her brother is kidnapped by drug dealers and held for ransom, Rachel agrees to lend her father’s boat to the task of exploring a 400-year-old ship. It’s said to contain gold, porcelain and the “Heart of the Dragon”—a gift from an emperor’s beautiful concubine to her illicit lover. According to legend, the concubine’s ghost still protects it. As Rachel and Chase work to bring up treasure from the sunken ship, they must fight off dangers, uncover secrets and confront their mutual rekindled passion. McFarren (Flaherty’s Crossing, 2010) offers an exciting, romantic adventure story that’s anchored by well-researched, authentic technical details of boats, scuba diving, salvage law, Chinese history and underwater archaeology. Watching the characters thoughtfully do their jobs makes them more appealing to the reader and heightens the novel’s boldly erotic love scenes; Chase and Rachel are more than just beautiful bodies. (It’s irksome, though, when Chase treats Rachel like a child, at one point having a crewmember send her to bed and doping her against her knowledge when he wants her to rest.) McFarren’s varied cast—from professors to gangsters to salty dogs—feels well rounded; despite a few ethnic clichés, like the Native American “warrior” and a hard-drinking, lusty Irishman, she toys with expectations more than once. Some odd word choices and unfortunate mistakes show that the book could use an editor’s hand, but with plenty at stake, erotic chemistry, dastardly villains, a lost relic, an unusual setting and a touch of the supernatural, this indie novel could stand on any romance publisher’s shelf.
The full package of thrills and romance.