The Story: Following the sudden death of her aunt – the woman who took her in when her mother left her behind, Bailey Craig reluctantly returns to her hometown of Yancey Alaska. It was the one place she never wanted to see again – her self-destructive past is far too painful to relive and she doesn’t think she has it in her to come face to face with the people who know every detail of that sordid past. Most specifically one man…
Cole McKenna is a deep sea diver. As the captain of his crew, he is responsible for seeing that everyone makes it out safe which is why he feels so horrible that he wasn’t able to save Agnes when the small aircraft she was travelling on crashed into the water. The only thing good to come from this is seeing Bailey again. The girl who broke his young heart, Cole is surprised by the emotions that rise to the surface when he sees her again but Bailey is clear: She isn’t staying and she doesn’t want even the most innocent gesture to resemble the past indiscretions of her life. Nothing can resemble her prior life. She has changed.
Suddenly things change when it is ruled that the accident was no accident, and Bailey and Cole will have to work together to find out who murdered her aunt – and the two divers who no one seems to know.
My Thoughts: It has been eons since I read a suspense novel, whether it be Christian or mainstream. There are plenty sitting on my bookshelf awaiting their pages to be cracked but I’ve usually opted for lighter reading. Twenty-twelve has been a phenomenal year (and we are just in July!) for debut authors and no surprise, Dani Pettrey’s is another example of that following what has become an inclination towards fresh new voices in the world of Christian fiction. Specifically, Pettrey is joining the likes of Dee Henderson and Irene Hannon. Submerged is both charming and adventurous. The characters are warm and inviting making this an easy read along with the short, easy chapters (which I loved) that often convinced me to read “just one more” and compelling me to enjoy a longer reading time than I should have. It did surprise me how much this was focused on Cole’s family not just he and Bailey but it wasn’t an unpleasant one. The closeness that these characters share – including Cole’s best friend Landon and their “adopted” brother, Jake seems to be something Dani effortlessly wove together making this first book one of the most humorous and poignant books I’ve read for a while but underneath everything else, its message is really speaking to us about the power of forgiveness.
If one thing resembling a “flaw” could be picked apart about this story it would be the beginning of the book. It reads more confusing than it needed to be but it lasts no more than three chapters and is mainly in relation to the hurried introduction to so many characters – characters who are not well introduced until we realize who they all are and the relation they have to Cole or Bailey while the mysterious nature of the opening is superb. And all that slightly disordered beginning does is heighten our awareness of the mystery in the book. In the end it didn’t matter because I fell in love with each of the characters. Their banter and ease around each other made me believe I was standing in their kitchen, laughing right along with the gang. I loved Cole’s protective nature that isn’t smothering; Bailey’s genuine heart for God and Cole’s younger sister’s are just the cutest. Piper’s exuberance was unmatched while I sympathized with the method by which the tough but tenderhearted Kayden processes things. So many suspense novels are weighed down with the detailing, losing the “salt” of the story – the very heart of the characters. This story was carefully researched – that isn’t to be argued but Dani never buries her characters amidst the twists and turns and I think that takes a talented writer.
In all honesty, I hadn’t much given this book a second glance when its first press releases were made public but I am oh-so-happy that I took a second look. I cannot remember the last time I read a book so quickly without having to “make” myself finish it – this is a story that demands our attention though not in the usual manner. It isn’t dripping with suspense (although those last two chapters are pretty awesome!) as much as a griping story of family, and it was one I easily related to in the outcome. As an avid reader, there are certain books you don’t want to see end no matter how good its ending may be, this is one of those. Considering we are being given Piper’s story early next year I suspect that given how large a role she and the rest of the McKenna siblings played in Cole and Bailey’s story that this wasn’t the last we’ll hear of these two. That alone brings a smile to this reader’s face.
In Summary: Submerged is a beautiful story of forgiveness and the unbreakable bonds of family. Not a book to be missed!
*Many thanks to the publisher providing this copy for reviewing purposes.