Sunday, July 5, 2015

ARC Review: Hell or High Water

Hell or High Water (Deep Six #1)

by Julie Ann Walker


 In a world on the brink...
Six men. 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...
There's more than one kind of treasure...
The nation's security has always been CIA agent Olivia Mortier's top priority. But a mission-gone-wrong has begun to make her wonder if there's more to life than risking hers.
And more than one secret at the bottom of the sea...
Only two things could make Leo Anderson abandon his hunt for the legendary lost ship, La Santa Christina, and return to the world of weapons and warfare he swore to leave behind: a capsule of enriched uranium, lost on the ocean floor, and a plea for assistance from the one woman he can't seem to forget...
Themes: contemporary
Rating:  4,25 stars
Heat Rating: 
 An all new group of badasses has set sail on the high seas for adventure, romance, and the dangers that follow these retired SEALs wherever they go. This series revolves around a group of men that have decided they've paid their dues to their country and it is time to embrace civilian life with as much gusto as they once embraced their lives as Special Ops operators.  The tragic loss of one of their brothers-in-arms led them all to make the promise that they would live life to the fullest, and the best way they know how to do that is to give the life of treasure hunters a shot, but they refuse to break up their family.  The series actually began with a short prequel during the guys’ last mission, where one of their team found the love of his life, so the remaining six bachelors are on their own in the treasure hunt, living the life on their private island off the Florida Keys.  But their leader, Leo Anderson, isn’t enjoying his life as much as he should be, mainly because he cannot forget the woman from his past that haunts him.  Walker takes us on a journey through a crazy twenty-four hours with these folks as they work to stop terrorists, reclaim a stolen chemical weapon, and unearth a traitor in the CIA.  I have read a lot of books, but all the drama, danger, and plot twists that happen during the short time of this book is so packed my head was spinning and I felt seriously bad for the characters.  I cannot wait to see where this story will go now that we have met all the guys and a few female side characters, one that I’m really hoping will find their mates with the Deep Six team. 
This story begins when Leo and the team’s small island is invaded by the least likely visitor—Olivia, the CIA agent that captured Leo’s interest a year earlier—and she isn‘t there for a beach vacation.  Instead she comes with a mission for the team, lucrative but dangerous, to help her and her boss uncover a mole in the agency.  Leo looks at this as an opportunity for him to finally exercise his desire for Olivia from his system, but as the rather long and action packed day passes, both Leo and Olivia begin to understand that there is way more between them than simple lust.  However when a secret Olivia has kept buried for a year comes out, Olivia fears that Leo will never be able to forgive or forget her mistakes.  If they can live through the danger surrounding them can they find a way to be together and share their lives, despite the obstacles between them?
Leo and Olivia are interesting characters and we do get to know them a lot in this book, but really there was just not enough time to touch on all the aspects of what makes a character truly great.  So I will say they were promising characters with interesting backstories and their interactions and discussions more than made up for some of the emotional depth that was lacking for me.   Olivia and Leo became friendly when they worked together the previous year, but when they meet back up they are unable to resist the magnetic pull between them.  Leo is a sensual man, used to being in charge of his world and definitely a leader in every sense of the world, so when Olivia challenges his control of situations again and again, it’s awesome to see him blowing a gasket and then slowly accepting that there is just no gaining control with her.  He is obviously brave and a man of honor, as most SEALs are, but being a team leader leaves him even more determined to lead his men out of danger, even though he knows they are just as determined to meddle in his relationship with Olivia.  As he faces the fear of losing Olivia—again and again—he begins to understand that his attraction to her has become something more very quickly and he must come to terms with that before he can get her to give them a real chance at a future. 
Olivia is a real enigma.  A CIA agent that gets sick when she sees death, a smartass operator that keeps tripping up her own team, and a woman that has kept a secret from the man she loves.  I found myself fluctuating on liking Olivia and wanting to slap some sense in to her.  It is obvious to me she’s not cut out to be a field agent anymore and she should just give up on that ridiculous plan.  Allowing Leo into her heart and finding a place in his for her would make for a much better goal than working for the CIA until she’s either dead or forced into retirement.  She has real moments of clarity and bravery, but for the most part she was too wishy washy for me.  And really why would you ever WANT to push away a former SEAL that has decided to claim you for himself.  In the end she finally accepts how important Leo is to her and that any chance for them to be together is better than no chance.  I think she finally discovered that her true abilities weren’t to be found in her skills as an agent, but in the way she supports Leo and the Team and keeps them grounded. 
Packed full of action ranging from gun battles with terrorists, exploding boats, kidnappings and rescues and even the uncovering of a life-long CIA mole, you will find it hard pressed to remember that all but the last chapter happened in the space of TWENTY-FOUR HOURS! (or less). Honestly I was just exhausted reading all of the danger they dealt with, but the team didn’t seem to blink an eye even when some new catastrophe swept through their lives.  Leo is the best of an alpha male, a great leader, a sweet lover, a deadly protector and the type of guy that forgives if he has the right incentive, the most important of course being love.  Olivia slowly begins to become a more likeable character, seeming less like a mercenary and more like a woman that has found herself in an untenable situation.  It is obvious as she faces the chance she might cause more deaths that she cannot continue to live her life the same way any longer, and Leo is just the man to show her an alternate option.  The passion between Leo and Olivia was undeniable, even when she was trying to, and Leo is obviously a very sensual guy, especially after a 16 month dry spell. ;)  If you enjoy military dramas or spy thrillers, Julie Ann Walker’s new Deep Six series is for you, and did I forget to mention that during the majority of the book the SEAL hotties were usually wearing swim trunks, JUST swim trunks, and were usually wet.  ‘Nuff said I think.  I am really looking forward to this departure from her Black Knights Inc. series which I love as well, but fans of that series should give Deep Six a try for sure, you might even get a couple of BKI surprises.  *wink, wink.  Nudge Nudge* Another hit, Julie Ann, though that surprises me not at all.
*eARC provided by publisher (via netgalley) for the purpose of an honest and unbiased review.  No compensation was provided. 

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