In brief: Harriet Scott is an environmental activist/teacher with a secret – her fear of water. When she meets Commander Per Amundsen in Antarctic waters, little did she know it would set off a change of events that would have her facing her fears.
The good: Excellent characterisation with witty dialogue between Harriet and Per.
The not-so-good: I felt a bit lost at the start as the story jumps straight into the action.
Why I chose it: Looked really fun, thanks Harlequin for the ARC.
Publisher: Harlequin Mira
Setting: Sydney, Australia and waters off the Antarctic
My rating: 8.5 out of 10
I initially found out about In at the Deep End when reading a story about Penelope Janu, the author. I love stories where professionals in another field turn to writing as it means two things for me: an informed, cracking read and hope that one day I’ll bust out a book that’s not a required textbook! I also love the cover of In at the Deep End as it screams wit, fun and something a bit different. I can guarantee you that this book holds all of these things, plus more. It’s a wonderful debut with some of the most crackling wit I’ve found in any books I’ve read.
The opening of the story is original too as we find heroine Harriet in a sinking ship off Antarctica. At first she seems like a courageous captain, ready to go down with her ship but as she is rescued, there’s an inkling that there is more at stake for Harry than the loss of the Scott Foundation’s ship. That becomes more obvious as she loses her cool when she’s splashed by big waves. Watching all this closely is her rescuer, Norwegian army commander Per Amundsen and he’s not happy. His scientific mission to Antarctica has been thwarted thanks to Harry’s rescue, so now he plans to sue. This sets off a relationship that crackles, sizzles and fences its way to love. It’s an honest story that shows both Harry and Per at their best and worst and the fun is in their dialogue and two steps forward, one step back dance as they attempt to resolve Harry’s fear of the water.
The story starts at a cracking pace and doesn’t really let up – if there’s not some action to be had in the water, there’s a lot of verbal action between Harry and Per. I know it sounds like I’m going on about the dialogue, but it really is that good. It’s the kind of rapid fire wit that makes you smile and chuckle. Plus, the dialogue seems so natural, it’s amazing. (Oh, and there’s a bit of Norwegian to be learned thanks to Per). Initially I was a bit confused as to how Harry got to the Antarctic, but after her rescue, everything is becomes clearer. She’s the daughter of environmental adventurers (think Steve Irwin), who have made a number of documentaries but have now passed away. Harry is somewhat of an Australian celebrity, having grown up on TV. She’s now a teacher who infuses her lessons with tales of her childhood, as well as being a quick artist. In her spare time, she continues to assist the family foundation, even though she doesn’t own any of it. Harry’s cruising in an awkward place, and it takes the calm eyes of Per to see it.
Harry immediately decides Per is some sort of action hero, Polarman. It’s easy to see why. He’s well built with piercing eyes, very physically fit and super smart. He sees everything and what he wants is to cure Harry’s water phobia – and do his study in the Antarctic. He’s warm to Harry’s cold skin, yet he can be verbally as cold as ice. He’s an enigma that fascinates Harry (and the reader), which makes for a fantastic romantic hero.
Much of the story is Per helping Harry to learn to be in the water, spiced up by the fascinating conversations you can have on the second step of a swimming pool. Don’t think that it’s boring. It’s not. It’s a lovely exploration of the beginning of a relationship with a heroine who is feisty, a bit clumsy but always passionate. Per is the epitome of the romantic hero (also I’m certain he would say he isn’t, with a few choice words in Norwegian) that will capture your heart. Their story is feisty, messy and simply a great read.