REVIEW: Below Deck by Dorien Kelly
Dear Ms. Kelly,
Our multicultural post got me digging into the older ebooks on offer at Harlequin. Readers searching for different settings and nationalities ought to look at this series (Mediterranean Nights). Our heroine is Chinese, our hero is from Israel, the ship travels across the Mediterranean and has Irish, Somali, Russian and Greek crew members. Though in all honesty, we get to see few of these people beyond brief glimpses, it’s nice to even see them at all.
When Mei Lin Wang met young radical social activist Wei Chan she knew it was fate. She didn’t know that less than three years later she would be left widowed with a newborn son after a suspicious illness claimed Wei’s life. Now, still convinced of their shared destiny, Lin is determined to avenge Wei and continue his work, but she must also protect her son from those responsible for her husband’s death.
For months Lin has secreted her son below deck on the cruise ship Alexandra’s Dream, under cover of her job. It’s turned into a game of hide-and-seek with the ship’s security officer, Gideon Dayan, whose interest is piqued by the mystery that surrounds her. But through his attraction, Gideon sees his own haunted past when he looks at Lin-and she can’t let her past go. Will they finally be able to face the future-together?
I do have a question. Would Gideon, a current member of Mossad, be on leave and working as security director of a cruise ship? My mind is boggling a bit here. Several references are made to how attentive Gideon is to small details and how thoroughly he follows up on things yet when any reference is made to the missing Ariana (whose book follows this) he almost seems to shrug it off as if to say “oh well, we can’t follow up on everything.” It struck me as odd.
It’s a pleasant surprise that at first Lin is not attracted to Gideon. I’m not made to endure drool sessions while she moons over how gorgeous and ripped his is. Gideon is attracted to Lin but tries to maintain his professional boundaries. I like that he knows a little about Lin’s culture including Ng Mui. But hey, they both love books. I have to love that!
Lin might not be a trained Mossad agent but Gideon finds strength in her through her ability to endure for herself and later for her son. And what is the deal with Lin’s shipmate, Dima? Did he have any reason from Lin’s actions in a previous book to expect more from her than friendship? He certainly turns into a supercharged asshole in a hurry.
The conflict between Gideon and Lin is real and heartfelt. Gideon has spent a professional lifetime working to contain martyrs and people inflamed by causes while on the other side of the world Lin fell in love with a man devoted to them to the point of death at the hands of authorities. By the end of the book, Lin has changed her POV of what is expected of her for her dead husband’s cause but I’m not sure that, for me, her change of heart works. It seems too sudden given that she’s spent over a year grieving for her husband and planning her future actions and that only a week before, she still wanted to carry out this course. She and Gideon discuss this at length and Lin raises some important points. Can Gideon apply his experiences to those of another country fighting another fight? Can he impose his views on someone else? I guess love is supposed to be what opens her eyes and finally changes her mind.
On the other hand, I could totally believe in Gideon’s feelings. He’s a man exhausted by his 15 years of work – mentally, physically and emotionally. I appreciate that you show us this and don’t make him a superman. It’s not just the loss of his lover that has drawn on the last of his resources, it’s the whole scenario. Now he wants to relax some, enjoy life without constantly being on edge and alert.
When the attraction hits Lin and Gideon, it isn’t just physical – which I like. They are attracted to each other’s minds and intellect as well. Yet the sexual heat between them is hot. Lin is bold enough to act on this and makes the first move. Brava. Gideon declines to just be a sex toy though and demands more than just bodies banging together. Good for him.
Lin did take her son and flee China but when threatened by her past and her present, in the form of Dima, she takes control as much as she can and stands up for herself. She has the intelligence to go to a man she trusts and who she knows can help her. No foolish heroics or TSTL moves from her. And Gideon, when presented with the situation, acts as I would expect. First he’s honorable enough to go to the captain and confess his own failure – to have detected a baby being brought on board ship and for the child to have been secreted on the Alexandra’s Dream for so long. Secondly, he uses his intelligence contacts to gain some leverage against those threatening Lin. I wouldn’t expect him to go in with guns literally blazing and he doesn’t. He uses smarts instead.
Obviously this book is part of a series but there wasn’t that much from a previous book and only bits and pieces of the one to come. Still, I’m not invested enough to want to seek out the book which follows this one as the heroine is the type who I think would drive me nuts. But overall, given how tightly this series seems to be linked, a good job was done to focus on Lin and Gideon.