Review: Deadly Calm and Cold by Susannah Sandlin + Giveaway

deadly calm and cold by susannah sandlinFormat read: ebook provided by the author via NetGalley
Formats available: ebook, paperback, audiobook
Genre: romantic suspense
Series: The Collectors, #2
Length: 281 pages
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Date Released: December 2, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

How far will ordinary people go to protect their secrets? The Collectors’ games are as much about manipulating lives as finding lost treasure. Everyone is expendable as the ruthless C7 pushes people into gambling with their lives in order to find priceless objects lost to history.

Samantha Crowe’s secrets could ruin her career, while Brody Parker’s could get him killed. They become pawns for two Collectors seeking Bad King John’s crown jewels, which disappeared in rural England back when Robin Hood roamed Nottingham. This time, however, the Collectors—a ruthless dotcom billionaire and a desperate London detective—might not be playing for the same team, leaving Sam and Brody trapped in the middle.

One thing’s for sure: if either hopes to survive, Sam and Brody will have to find a way to overcome their distrust—and their growing attraction—in order to succeed on this winner-take-all treasure hunt.

My Review:

lovely dark and deep by susannah sandlinSo far, the Collectors series is turning out to be the love child of every historical conspiracy treasure hunt series that has ever been written. If the first book in the series, Lovely, Dark and Deep (reviewed here) is a cross between National Treasure and Titanic, then Deadly, Calm and Cold is the product of mixing The DaVinci Code with Indiana Jones. In other words, we have a treasure hunt for a historic artifact with nasty people on the tail (or trail) of our heroes.

The big difference is that all those other fictional treasure hunters are in it for the glory, or the thrill of discovery. At any rate, they volunteered. In the Collectors series, that is far from the case.

The evil baddies in the Collectors series are those collectors. They are a group of very rich and extremely self-indulgent, self-centered private collectors who will stop at nothing to add rare and priceless artifacts to their private collections. They are certainly not above a bit of blackmail, or even outright murder, to coerce experts into finding the prizes they seek. For the C7, it’s all just a big game. They get their thrills by grinding people into dust and beating their competition (the other C7 members) to whatever big prize is in their sights.

In Deadly, Calm and Cold, the big prize is King John’s lost crown jewels. Yes, I mean that King John, the one in the Robin Hood stories. Historically, he was the signer of the Magna Carta, because he was a despotic ruler even for those times. His nobles made him sign the “Great Charter” to protect themselves from his excesses. King John also really did lose his crown jewels in the area portrayed in the book, the east coast of England where Norfolk meets Lincolnshire.

Just as in Lovely, Dark and Deep, our story features a woman who is a technical expert on the subject at hand, and a man who finds himself in the middle of her search, but is hiding somewhere off the beaten path for reasons of his own.

Samantha Crowe is a graduate student in history, on a one-term research fellowship in England to delve into the history of King John’s lost treasure. She is also vulnerable to blackmail for some less-than-noble dealings both before and after college. She has a juvenile record, for stealing to support her addict-mother. While her motives were kind of good and kind of enabling, what happened is understandable. But it isn’t info that she disclosed to her university. Neither is her method of getting that research fellowship – her professor pulled strings to give it to her as a way of getting her out of the country and keeping her quiet about their now-over affair. She thought it might be love, he was just cheating on his unsuspecting wife with his equally unsuspecting grad student.

But sending dirty pictures to the student newspaper will pretty much kill both their careers. Or certainly hers. When the C7 member decides that the treasure she is researching is worth his time, she’s stuck between a rock and a hard place. It doesn’t matter that the pictures are photoshopped – by the time any investigation figures that out, the damage will be done.

Brody Parker gets dragged into hunt because his house is part of the land where John’s treasure might be hidden – and because he has secrets of his own. Brody Parker isn’t even his real name – he’s in witness protection as a whistleblower in a major U.S. racketeering case. He’s spent years being paranoid that the mob really will track him down. C7 thinks he’s the perfect person to blackmail, but the same tech skills that brought down a big piece of organized crime make him the perfect person to help Sam turn the tables on the mysterious C7.

It helps that the C7 is facing a whistleblower of their very own. While the “big boss” is hard to find, the guy who is playing both ends against the middle is forced to the conclusion that helping Sam and Brody get out from under is his best chance of a new life.

In the adrenaline fueled treasure hunt, Sam and Brody discover that their best chance of a new life is with each other – if they survive.

Escape Rating B+: If this series continues to follow the pattern set in the first two books, it’s a winner. The woman is the expert, and while the man is the muscle, he never forgets that they are partners – he doesn’t take over everything including her. Brody, just as Shane did in Lovely, Dark and Deep, has secrets of his own that make him a perfect foil for Sam.

Both Sam and Brody, like Gillian and Shane before them, have a lot of damage that requires the other to help them heal. The way that they start out, equally attracted but equally untrusting, gives them a difficult road to travel towards each other, but makes their love story fit the adventure.

I loved that the treasure was real – there is even a nod to the discovery of Richard III’s body and how medieval treasure can still be found. The nods to actual historical events grounded the story in a way that some of the antecedents like The DaVinci Code are not, fun as they are.

In many ways, the villains of the series, those C7 Collectors, come off as a bit too “bwahaha” evil. Providing Sam and Brody with the more mundane double-crosser to negotiate with brought that mysterious band of evildoers down to earth.

For a good time with a heart-pounding adventure that has a rocky romance at its center, add The Collectors to your collection. (Sorry, that pun was irresistible, and so is the series!)


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Susannah is giving away 1 $50 Amazon Gift Card and 3 $15 Amazon Gift Cards to lucky commenters on this tour. To enter, just fill out the Rafflecopter below:

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***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Guest Post by Susannah Sandlin on Pirates and Templars + Giveaway

lovely dark and deep by susannah sandlin

Pirates and Templars are not necessarily a natural combination–but Susannah Sandlin does her usual marvelous job making it work in today’s featured review book, Lovely, Dark and Deep

This isn’t the first time that Susannah has “played Pirate”. Her absolutely fantastic Sentinels of New Orleans series (written as Suzanne Johnson) brings Jean LaFitte back to life in a New Orleans where the living, the dead, and the magical collide. (If you love urban fantasy, start with Royal Street. It is awesome and the series just keeps getting better!)

A French Pirate, a Sunken Treasure and the Knights Templar
by Susannah Sandlin

It’s funny where ideas for books or series originate—for me, it’s usually a progression of thoughts that gradually coalesce rather than a single bolt from the heavens. So when I begin thinking about how the idea behind Lovely, Dark, and Deep came to be, I was able to trace it back to early 18th-century pirate Jean Lafitte, who plied the waters of the Gulf of Mexico and ruled an empire of a thousand piratical types south of New Orleans in the early 1800s.

Royal Street by Suzanne JohnsonThe oh-so-delicious Captain Lafitte is a major character in my urban fantasy series written as Suzanne Johnson, so when I heard last summer about the discovery of the remains of three early shipwrecks in the Gulf of Mexico, I started thinking about what might happen to my undead Jean Lafitte should one of his lost pirate ships be discovered today. (The short answer: he’d want it back, tout de suite.)

Next came research into shipwrecks found off the Americas and what might have been aboard them, which started off as a hunt for Lafitte’s lost ships.

That, in turn, introduced me to the “Death Coast” of the North Atlantic, and I set my pirate aside (sorry, Jean) and got immersed in the coast of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, where hundreds of ships since the fifteenth century have met their death and only a fraction have been discovered and salvaged. Pirate ships, Norse explorers, French settlers, British warships, World War II supply ships—all met their deaths on the rocky coastline, carrying everything from gold to household goods to—maybe, just maybe—some of the missing lost treasure of the Knights Templar.

Nothing stirs a writer’s imagination like Knights Templar and lost treasure, right?

Next, my journey took me to study the Templars, much of whose treasure has, indeed, never been found, and to study what was involved in diving off the coast of Capt Breton, specifically around Scatarie Island.

Finally, I began looking at other lost historical treasures, and the idea for The Collectors series, and the first book, Lovely, Dark, and Deep, was born.

The Collectors is a group of international billionaires, the C7—ruthless, amoral, powerful—who have a secret game: they compete to see who can be first to collect some of the world’s most valuable treasures. In Lovely, Dark, and Deep, a C7 member with ties to the White House stumbles upon a legend that makes him believe the long-lost Ruby Cross of the Knights Templar went down in a seventeenth-century shipwreck off the coast of Cape Breton. He puts the screws to the ancestor of the man who lost it and a washed up, on-the-skids deep-water diver, and gives them thirty days to find and procure it for him—or the people they love will die. For the C7 member it’s a game. For Gillian, a biologist, and Shane, the diver, it’s a break-neck race to save the people they love and find a way to turn the tables on their tormenters. And, yeah, there’s some love amid the danger—of course!

As for Captain Jean Lafitte and his own lost pirate ship? That story’s coming within the year, so stay tuned!

Susannah SandlinAbout Susannah:

Susannah Sandlin writes paranormal romance and romantic thrillers from Auburn, Alabama, on top of a career in educational publishing that has thus far spanned five states and six universities—including both Alabama and Auburn, which makes her bilingual. She grew up in Winfield, Alabama, but was also a longtime resident of New Orleans, so she has a highly refined sense of the absurd and an ingrained love of SEC football, cheap Mardi Gras trinkets, and fried gator on a stick.

She’s the author of the award-winning Penton Legacy paranormal romance series, a spinoff novel, Storm Force, a standalone novelette, Chenoire, and a new romantic thriller series, The Collectors, beginning this month with Lovely, Dark, and Deep. Writing as Suzanne Johnson, she also is the author of the Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series. Her Penton novel, Omega, is currently nominated for a 2013 Reviewer’s Choice Award in Paranormal Romance from RT Book Reviews magazine.

Website and blog


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Susannah is very generously giving away the following prizes to lucky commenters on this tour:

1 $50 Amazon gift card
2 $10 Amazon gift cards
2 Author swag packs (books, swag)

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Review: Lovely Dark and Deep by Susannah Sandlin

lovely dark and deep by susannah sandlinFormat read: ebook provided by the author
Formats available: ebook, paperback
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series: The Collectors #1
Length: 200 pages
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Date Released: December 30, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon

When biologist Gillian Campbell makes an offhand comment about a family curse during a TV interview, she has no idea what her words will set in motion. Within days, Gillian finds herself at the mercy of a member of the C7, a secretive international group of power brokers with a dangerous game: competing to find the world’s most elusive treasures, no matter the cost, in money or in lives. To save her family, Gillian teams up with Shane Burke, a former elite diver who’s lost his way, navigating the brutal “death coast” of the North Atlantic to find what the collector seeks: the legendary Ruby Cross of the Knights Templar, stolen by Gillian’s ancestor and lost at sea four hundred years ago.

My Review:

Usually a series is named for the hero, or the heroine. Or maybe a place. Something positive, at least.

The Collectors series by Susannah Sandlin is named after the villains. Those collectors are a group of rich and ruthless men who are playing a high-stakes game together, in secret. They chase after rare, or possibly unique, prizes of great value and significance. They race each other to win.

But there seem to be rules, and while those rules make the game more interested for these competitive, overachieving power-brokers, they are deadly for anyone who is unwittingly involved.

That’s what happens to Gillian Campbell, Shane Burke, and every single one of their friends. The “C7” have set their sights on a Ruby Templar Cross that was stolen by one of Gillian’s ancestors, and they’ve figured out that Gillian and Shane can be manipulated into helping them find it.

One of the rules of the “game” seems to be that the C7 members can’t act directly, the contest is more entertaining for them if innocent bystanders can be forced into doing their dirty work.

In the case of Gillian Campbell, the collector who is after that old Templar Cross starts out by sending her creepy pictures that make it clear they are stalking her pre-school-aged niece, and can snatch the little girl at any time if Gillian doesn’t do what they want.

They also temporarily cut off all of Gillian’s bank and credit card access until she agrees to their terms. Which are: figure out where her many times great-grandfather’s ship, with the cross on board, sank. It’s not just that the location of his shipwreck is unknown, but that she needs to find a qualified cold-water diver and get the cross, in 30 days. In September. In Nova Scotia. Where it is not only damn cold, but where she’ll be breaking the law to get the salvage back to the U.S.

The C7 already has a diver for her. Shane Burke needs the money that she is offering in order to keep his beloved boat from foreclosure. A foreclosure that is, of course, being partially created by the C7. Not that Shane isn’t overdue on the bank note, but he’s always managed to squeak by until now. The manipulators behind the C7 won’t allow any squeaking, or squawking. by anyone.

Shane might be initially intrigued by the money, but when Gillian tells him the whole truth, he’s forced into the fold by a firebombing at his favorite watering hole. If he doesn’t get on board, people near him will start dying.

As much of a burn-out case as Shane is at the beginning of the story, he just can’t let anyone else die if he can prevent it.

Which has nothing to do with how very much he’s attracted to Gillian. Because he’s not ready to let anyone into his life, and these are the worst of circumstances.

Gillian doesn’t want anyone in her life, either. She’s every bit as wary of relationships as Shane, but for different, and equally tragic, reasons of her own.

But as they get caught up in the chase for the missing cross, the threats to their lives, and the lives of everyone they bring into this crazy quest, create a bond that is impossible to ignore.

Only if they can figure out who their mysterious manipulator is will any of the people who helped them have a chance to survive. And only by exposing “Mr. Big” will they have any hope of a future.

Escape Rating B+: Lovely, Dark and Deep is what you get if you mix something like National Treasure with Titanic. You have all the elements of an opposites attract romance mixed with the treasure hunt and the conspiracy-theory plot twists.

Or maybe a better example would be Romancing the Stone, with an underwater treasure hunt instead of searching through jungles.

This is romantic suspense of the “breakneck pace” school of suspense–there’s a plot twist and a new nefarious scheme around every corner. No matter how much progress Gillian and Shane make in the quest for the Cross, the faceless evil collectors seem to be always a step ahead; with another plot up the sleeves for making our heroes stick with the plan and not think too much about how they can possibly get out of this alive.

Even as they fall in love with each other, Gillian and Shane think of their relationship as “foxhole love” and wonder if the bond they’ve forged has a chance of surviving when they are not running for their lives every second. But of course it does.

This is also a type of “road story” as they enlist friends and allies on the trip that takes them from Cedar Key, Florida to Scatarie Island in Nova Scotia. The danger ramps up with each day that passes, because each person they recruit is just one more hostage to fortune.

They recruit a terrific, and quite colorful, bunch of helpers. Each new character adds to the danger without distracting a beat away from the romance.

Their nameless and faceless enemy is a pitiless taskmaster, eliminating all loose ends as collateral damage. The author has done a terrific job of conveying the breathlessness of fear that the protagonists face, so when they finally manage to turn the tables, cheering them on is a treat.

Once you’ve gotten your heart out of your throat.

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***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.