Friday, July 22, 2016

Dual #Review of Devil and the Deep by Julie Ann Walker

25503036Title: DEVIL AND THE DEEP
Series: Deep Six #2
Author: Julie Ann Walker
Format: Kindle, 384 Pages
Published: Sourcebooks Casablanca (July 5, 2016)
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | B&N
Reviewers: Linda & Kimberly
Source: NetGalley
Cocktail parties, political fundraisers, and charity events are Maddy Powers' way of life. But the daring man who appropriated her father's yacht a couple of months ago is still out there, somewhere, and she wants to pay him back for the scorching kiss they shared.

Behind his suave smile and ladykiller eyes, Bran Palladino carries a dark secret that keeps him from pursuing Maddy… even though he can't get her out of his head. But when Maddy is kidnapped as part of a grand scheme, it's time to put up or shut up… because Bran can't live without Maddy now. 

Linda's Thoughts:
"Where's the fun in that?"

Six retired Navy SEALS. One sunken Spanish galleon. Millions in gold and silver coins lying on the ocean floor. And a past that refuses to let the guys of Deep Six Salvage forget the Navy SEAL motto: "'The only easy day was yesterday…"

DEVIL AND THE DEEP by Julie Ann Walker is an addictive romantic thriller! Both leads shined along with a second couple who I sincerely hope will be featured in a future book. Besides the present day action, the author incorporates an intriguing search for pirate's booty via snippets from the past. After reading through to the end, I went to sleep dreaming about the book's yummy, extremely satisfying HEA and the hunt for the lost treasure of the Santa Cristina. This is the first book I've read by Julie Ann Walker, but certainly not the last, as I already have the first two books from this series on my reader ready to go!

This is the story of retired ex-Navy SEAL-turned-treasure-hunter Brandon 'Bran' Pallidino and southern oil heiress and philanthropist Madison 'Maddy' Powers. Bran is a dreamy 'handsome as a hatchet' tortured alpha hero who is extremely adverse to any long-term romantic relationship because of his past. He has reconciled to himself that he doesn't really have a relationship with Maddy as things stand now. They share a mad love of the cinema and are comfortable talking about almost anything. They exchange an extraordinary amount of emails daily and they have the occasional three-hour satellite phone conversation, but the distance between them maintains an inherent casualness that he remains comfortable with.

But, to Maddy, their extensive communications and the ease they have with each other are harbingers of a hotter relationship to come. She craves more of Bran, so she has planned an outing with three young female proteges to Fort Jefferson on Tortuga Island which is located very close to Wayfarer Island where Bran is. Because of communication difficulties, it is at the last minute that a threesome consisting of Bran, Mason, another retired SEAL, and Alexandra Merriweather, the treasure hunters' historian, sail to Tortuga from Wayfarer to meet up with Maddy. As they near Tortuga, they hear gunshots and Bran goes ballistic with worry for Maddy.

First of all, you should know that Bran and Maddy share a previous history. It is mentioned in this book, but I believe it is detailed in a prior book(s). I don't know all the specifics, but Maddy had been previously kidnapped and Bran had heroically rescued her. After rescuing her, they had shared a kiss... and Bran has been fighting his feelings for Maddy ever since. I will admit that it took me a few chapters to vest in Bran’s & Maddy’s story. I'm sure that, if I had already read the previous books, I would have been vested from the get-go.

Even so, and even though DEVIL AND THE DEEP is the second book in the series, it can be enjoyed as a stand-alone if that is your preference. I certainly did! There are interconnected characters and I will warn you that reading this book, will make you want to read the previous books!

Bran and Maddy were really good together. They had a fiery chemistry and I can't imagine either of them being with anyone else.  I just hoped that Bran would give their relationship a chance and that they lived to enjoy it!

Following please find a few of my favorite quotes from this read:

"I'd rather put on a lifejacket lined with razor blades and jump into a pool of rubbing alcohol," she said.
"I'd rather jab sharpened pencils into my eyes."
"But --"
"Id' rather eat three-day-old road kill."
"I get it," Mason grumbled.. "You're not trading places."
Bran grinned. "What was your first clue?"

"I can't see," she whispered. "You're blockin' my view."
And because he didn't want her to know how shaken he was by her nearness, by her touch, he decided to play it cool. Play it smart. Give her exactly what she'd come to expect from him. "Babe" - he turned and flashed her an exaggerated wink - "I am the view."

"You sure you can do this?" he asked.
"Does the Tin Man have a sheet-metal dick?"

I had many favorite scenes, but one of my top funny favorites occurred when Bran and Maddy were sharing their sexual histories. To Maddy's dismay, Bran had an extensive one. Following is just a short snippet from that hilarious scene:

She shook her head. "I guess... that begs the question: just how many people have you slept with?"...
"All I can say for sure is the number is more than you can count on your fingers and toes. But less than the population of Miami."

DEVIL AND THE DEEP is well-plotted and well-written. It positively thrums with danger and the romance is steamy!!!! After the first few chapters, it kept me on the edge of my seat until the end. I was utterly captivated by the background story of the search for the pirate loot on Wayfarer Isle and how the legend of men who lived long ago interweaves into the present day. Yo Ho, Yo Ho... I do love a good pirate tale! I would recommend DEVIL AND THE DEEP to anyone who loves romantic thrillers set in exotic locales liberally spiced with sexy banter! Now, I can't wait for Mason's and Alexandra's story! I hope we don't have long to wait!

Rating: 4 out of 5 Wine Glasses

Kimberly’s Thoughts:
Maddy first met Bran when he rescued her and ever since then they have been emailing and calling each other. Their relationship started off as friendly but their connection has grown deeper. With a chance to meet up in person, Maddy is excited but Bran fears getting too close. A kidnapping attempt though might just force Bran's hand. It's life and death and while Bran has the physical courage, he's going to have to decide if he has the emotional as well.

Second in the Deep Six series about a group of veteran Navy Seals searching for sunken treasure, this could be read as a standalone as the only part you would be missing information on is the continuing tale of the Spanish captain and his treasure in the 1600s. The first in the series had amazing action scenes, an area I think this author excels in, but this one, unfortunately, fell short in that regard. Our villains seem very inept and besides two of them, come off feeling very paper thin. The two that were given more background, well, their motivation and explanation for why they wanted to kidnap Maddy was a bit murky; we don't get the full explanation until the very end. The action plot was severely lacking in credibility, understanding, and excitement.

With the action plot failing me, I tried to focus more on our main couple and romance. While Maddy and Bran met, briefly, in the book before this one, the meat of their relationship should have been here in their own book. Again, unfortunately, this fell short for me too. There was talk of how they grew close over their emails and phone conversations; we aren't shown any of them, just told about them. What we do get shown is how much they have the hots for each other, physically wise, although any bedroom payoffs are left to the very end, during extremely awkward life and death situations. Maddy is in charge of the welfare of three teenage girls who are captured by the kidnappers, Bran has been shot in the leg, and they’re running for their lives but oh hey, look how smooth and muscular Bran's back is. There wasn't much depth to this couple and this awkward lusting during fight and evade scenes gave a pretty corny feel overall.

The over exaggerated speech stereotypes of the characters, southernisms, and very prevalent pop culture add-ins added to the hokey feel. Example:

"I might be bluffing, you miserable, vomitous mass!" Bran yelled. 
Oh, for heaven's sake. Really? He's quotin' The Princess Bride? 
"But if you wanna test me," he added, "I'm your huckleberry!"
And now he's quotin' Tombstone.

This, of course, being said during a bullets are flying action scene; a bit eye-rolling. I never felt like I knew our heroine Maddy as her background consisted of rich girl, has brothers, and a short blonde haircut. Bran had a little more to him but even his deeper abusive father background felt completely overdone and with lack of emotional depth to it, a gimmick to have him try to keep Maddy at arm’s length. As the resolution for his feelings on this came at, literally, the end of the story, 96% or so, it felt brushed over and insulting to use such a heavy topic like this.

The first book fascinated me with its descriptions of a new fun locale and intense action scenes. Sadly, this one fell way short with no building of the main couple's relationship, paper doll secondary characters, lacking action plot, and awkward dialogue. Like I said, this author can write amazing action scenes, but she needs to leave home the gimmicks and awkwardly placed lusting next time.

Rating:  1.5 out of 5 Wine Glasses

Suggested Reading Order: 
Hot As Hell (prequel novella) - Free!
Hell or High Water (Book #1)
Devil and the Deep (Book #2)

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