Today’s book review is from team member Barb, she blogs at http://barbtaub.com/
Barb chose to read and review A Cry From The Deep by Diana Stevan
The south of France’s Provence region, New York City, and Ireland’s beautiful Donegal Bay are some of my favorite places on earth. So when I realized they were the settings for Diana Stevan’s debut novel, A Cry from the Deep, I was excited to receive a review copy.
Margaret is a young woman in late nineteenth century Ireland praying that her sailor lover James returns before she needs to wed another man. When his boat is spotted, she joyously prepares for their wedding and joins him on his ship, the ill-fated Alice O’Meary. In our time, Catherine is a young underwater photographer and mother attempting to recover from the traumatic dive that destroyed both her career and her marriage. When she’s lured away from her lavender farm in the south of France by the chance to document the hunt for a historically significant treasure-laden shipwreck off the Irish coast, she joins the unethical treasure hunter Kurt Henessy and handsome nautical archeologist Daniel Costello. Returning to New York with her young daughter Alex, Catherine’s flea-market purchase of an old gold ring unites the two women from across the centuries as Catherine begins to experience Margaret’s story.
Some of the first romance novels I read—Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, Daphne du Maurier—had a slightly removed quality, as if they were reporting on feelings or events instead of experiencing them. Diana Stevan’s debut novel reminds me of them. Of course, writing from different point of views is hard enough. Integrating those alternating POVs across centuries is especially daunting. Dialog and action have to be believable, and characters need a voice that’s individual and memorable enough to immediately identify them for readers. If the main characters’ voices in A Cry From The Deep had been more individual, or displayed more diversity in terms of dialog and personality, it would have been easier to overcome that feeling of distance and connect with them.
For me, this book was three separate stories that didn’t fully integrate. First there was a ghost story, where the connection with Margaret was intriguing, but only hinted at the reasons behind it. Were Catherine and Daniel resurrected versions of the earlier lovers? If not, what did Margaret want them to do? Next, the treasure hunt with pirate-like Henessey was interesting but somewhat repetitive when it came to the dives. Finally, the love triangle with Daniel and ex-husband Richard took the form of Catherine’s internal speculation. For the book to be successful in any of its triple incarnations, I would have liked to see the pivotal Big Moment, where blood, bodies, or at least sex is overwhelming and life changing.
Stevan’s command of grammar and structure is impressive, and her technical descriptions of the dive process were interesting. But her descriptions of the locations I love were bare bones. I felt that the story could have happened anywhere without any particular impact. Because it was well-written, a strong attempt, and an interesting premise, I would give A Cry From The Deep three and a half stars. I think Stevans is a talented writer and this is an impressive debut. I’d love to see another book from her, especially if she lets her characters take some risks.