Warning: This review contains what some might consider spoilers.
Undetected has a great premise. A sonar-mapping prodigy is on the rebound from yet another break up with a serious boyfriend. Her brilliant mind is her greatest curse, both in over-thinking her relationships and in scaring potential suitors away. Meanwhile, one of her brother’s best friends, a commander of a nuclear submarine, is tired of being a widower. Perfect timing. Perfect compatibility. But over ten years difference in their ages.
This story has such promise. My tension mounted in the first chapter simply because it’s setting on a submarine tweaked my claustrophobic reactions. I braced myself for the disaster at the end that I knew would come. Add to that a juicy set up on the heroine’s side. She had to have 24 hour bodyguards because the data in her head could undermine the security of the entire US Navy. Oh my gosh! Throw in a dozen or more nuclear warheads and four or five other submarines roaming around the fish tank. I settled in for what I thought would be a wild, intense-driven ride.
I was mistaken. Aside from some military tension in the last 20-ish pages, all of which required a lot of waiting and no action, I saw no suspense whatsoever. Oh I wish this book could have a do-over. It could have been incredible! But Dee Henderson’s own website lists this as a military romance. I should have caught that ahead of time.
What I did see was amazing creativity of Dee Henderson. I didn’t mind the technical jargon or even the extensive details of life aboard a submarine, though that section might be construed as unnecessarily long to some. And I loved the main character’s “what if” scenarios. My jaw dropped at the simplistic enormity of the girl’s ideas. Not joking. Each time she built up to another reveal, I’d have to stop reading and just absorb the magnitude of such a concept. And the author was the true genius behind those juices.
Those reveals almost felt like the wow that I get from a good romance. Which is good, because even though the story deals with the relationship between the genius and the commander, calling it a romance is a stretch. Clinical in nature, the “romance” consists of a series of candid, detached, philosophical dialogues with little emotion – if any at all. The discussions sounded preachy, about what makes a good marriage, how God made each person special, embracing the things that make us different. Not intimate by any means. It missed the excitement of possibility that even older people will have in a budding relationship.
And it missed tension. No secrets. No internal thoughts at all except those that were shared immediately. I craved uncertainty, the visceral reactions to a word or a glance, internal thoughts not revealed. There was even a romantic triangle, but the second guy was super-human nice. Not even a slight disagreement. No conflict at all.
That’s it! That’s what this story lacked. Conflict. Everyone was agreeable, all the time. No red-tape in the military. No issues with difficult minor characters. No tension between suitors. Just everyday activity of people with fairly interesting jobs.
While I think the terms general fiction, military fiction, and women’s fiction might work for this story, I can’t recommend it to readers of suspense, romantic suspense, or romance. I know I don’t usually give bad reviews. I guess I consider this one more thoughtful than bad. I did like the book okay. It just wasn’t at all what I expected.
I do thank Bethany House for sending me a copy, seeking my honest opinion. I wish that opinion could be more positive.
Your turn: What does a story have to have to qualify as a suspense to you?