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No Ocean Deep.

No Ocean Deep

Cate Swannell

Yellow Rose Books

PMB 210, 8691 9TH Avenue, Port Arthur, TX 77642-8025

ISBN: 1932300368; $18.95; 305 pages

No Ocean Deep is the much anticipated sequel to Cate Swannell's outstanding freshman novel, Heart's Passage. As Cadie Jones gazes at her sleeping lover, Jo Madison, she thinks, "We have so many loose ends to tidy up before life settles down for us" (p.5). Little does Cadie realize that the previous six weeks, which she and Jo have shared, will pale in comparison to what lies ahead for the attractive couple. Set in the Australian tropics where Jo operates a pricey yacht-for-charter business, the women soon find their path to happiness and a stable future will take them far from their spectacularly idyllic Great Barrier Reef to the clamorous activity of Chicago, the home of Senator Naomi Silverberg, Cadie's former lover, who does not take kindly to rejection. When Cadie decides to unconditionally settle things with Naomi and Jo opts to reveal her lurid past to her estranged family, the course of events far exceeds their wildest imaginings. The Senator from Illinois has had a difficult time in the political arena, and more significantly, her precariously tenuous hold on her sanity has transformed her into an even more treacherous enemy. For Josie, it has been fifteen years since she left her family in Coonyabby. Secrets furtively kept too long, love twisted into obsession, and horrifying violence ultimately coalesce to create for Jo and Cadie a perilous journey which could alter their lives forever.

Writing a successful sequel for a popular book can be a daunting task. However, Swannell has managed to do so quite effectively. The beginning of the sequel provides just enough information for the reader which makes having had to have read the first book irrelevant. No Ocean Deep could very well be a stand-alone novel. For those who have read Heart's Passage, they will find the segue between the books to be seamlessly credible. The opening scene has an easy natural flow to it that immediately immerses the reader in the action. The main characters' personalities are rapidly established, and quickly the reader finds Jo and Cadie to be a most congenial, amusing, and committed couple, two women anyone would desire to know better. They are realistic, round, three-dimensional characters, and the dialogue between these two women has that special quality of familiarity and intimacy. The playful give and take and the endearing repartee show the reader that they are indeed intelligent, witty, and caring individuals who belong together.

There is a tranquil, comfortably languid sense to various portions of the book. Swannell manages to capture that laid-back tropical feeling in her setting. "The sun blazed out of a cloudless blue sky and the yacht bobbed gently on a calm jewel-green ocean" (p. 9). She is equally adept at creating a vivid picture of the Australian outback, "Its harsh lines and dry colors shimmered in the oppressive heat" (p. 89). The place descriptions along with the occasional Aussie slang envelope the reader; one easily becomes part of Jo's and Cadie's environment. Swannell is equally adept at creating the tone and atmosphere of Chicago. From the bureaucratic tedium of O'Hare airport to the congenial banter of a taxi driver, the author creates a distinct departure from the first half of the novel.

There is no hidden symbolism here, no profound philosophical commentary. What is here is simply good, old-fashioned, straightforward romantic storytelling. When Cadie and the Senator meet again, the story assumes a much darker and more malevolent tone and mood. Masterful use of foreshadowing enables the suspense to build incrementally, and then the reader is squarely in the midst of this terrifying confrontation. Swannell has created one of lesbian fiction's more perverse antagonists in the figure of Naomi Silverberg. For her, charming and rational are only a stone's throw away from diabolical and psychotic. The good senator is indeed someone the reader loves to hate.

Swannell's secondary characters are first-rate additions to the storyline. Jo's father, David, reticently displays all of the emotional pain, ambivalence, and bewilderment of a parent whose child has inexplicably disappeared and then has re-emerged after fifteen years of no contact. Conversely, Maggie, Jo's more demonstrative mother, reacts as the reader would hope, "Don't you worry about that. If you're happy, that's all I care about" (p. 94).

No Ocean Deep is a genuine delight to read. It is capably written in a prose style which swiftly carries the reader from page to page. The sexual scenes are sensual and satisfying, the action scenes are energetic and suspenseful, the characters are appealing and unpretentious, and the conflicts are resolved in a satisfying and logical scheme. Cate Swannell's No Ocean Deep is unquestionably worth reading. It is that type of novel that captivates the reader with its first few pages and maintains that focused interest throughout the totally compelling journey.
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Publication:Reviewer's Bookwatch
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Apr 1, 2005
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