Title: In At The Deep End
Author: Penelope Janu
Published: January 23rd 2017
Publisher: Harlequin Books Australia
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Australian, Romance
Rating: 4 stars
A quick-witted, contemporary romance about losing your cool.
What woman doesn’t love a real-life hero? Harriet Scott, for one. The fiercely independent daughter of famous adventurers, she grew up travelling the world on the environmental flagship The Watch. So when Harriet’s ship sinks in Antarctica and she has to be rescued by Commander Per Amundsen, an infuriatingly capable Norwegian naval officer and living breathing action hero, her world is turned upside down.
Like their namesakes, the original Scott and Amundsen who competed to reach the South Pole first, Per and Harriet have different ways of doing things. Per thinks Harriet is an accident waiting to happen; Harriet thinks Per is a control freak. But when Harriet realises that Per is the only one who can help her fund the new ship she desperately wants, she is forced to cooperate with him.
Per refuses to assist unless Harriet allows him to teach her to swim. But there is more to Harriet’s terrible fear of water than meets the eye. Can Harriet face her fears and come to terms with the trauma and loss of her past? And will she begin to appreciate that some risks are well worth taking—and that polar opposites can, in fact, attract?
In At The Deep End, written by Australian lawyer come novelist Penelope Janu, is a refreshing contemporary romance, featuring underlying themes of the environment and emotional loss. At the book’s heart are two leads who are so very different, yet they manage come together in their mutual respect for the environment and their undeniable attraction for one another.
In At The Deep End opens with a hooking and dramatic start. Harriet Scott is both a geography teacher and dedicated volunteer on her parent’s environmental vessel. Determined to continue her parent’s legacy, Harriet finds herself with her team on the vessel The Watch, conducting vital research in Antarctic waters. When the ship goes into distress, Harriet and her crew are saved from their sinking vessel by a Norwegian naval officer, named Commander Per Amundsen. Per and his crew are also in the area conducting scientific research. Saving Harriet and her team from a sinking ship has major implications for Commander Amundsen, as the rescue effectively ends Per’s research. Per is incensed and consequently threatens legal action over Harriet. Following legal negotiations, Harriet agrees to find a new vessel to enable them both to combine their research in Antarctica. Harriet also agrees to learn how to swim, with the help of Per, as this caused a major hiccup in Harriet’s rescue. Forcing these two polar opposites together in a situation of forced cooperation, results in personal battles being fought, dreams being achieved and it sparks a passionate love affair.
It is always a great pleasure to be introduced to a new voice on the Australian women’s writing scene and an opportunity to review In At The Deep End, enabled me to discover a great new writer. In At The Deep End was a novel that had me completely engaged, as well as entertained. It is the sort of novel that offers escapism from everyday life and had me furiously reading late last night. I desperately wanted to know if the two main characters would get their happily ever after. And for the record – after a bumpy, as well as sensual road to eventual happiness, I was completely satisfied with the close of the novel.
What really worked for me were the great combination of themes in this novel. From the subtle history of polar explorers, to the awareness raising of vital environmental issues, to the chalk and cheese style romance between the leads and the background of main character Harriet, each adds a perfect layer to this compelling story.
Janu’s characterisation is great. This extends both to Janu’s main protagonists and her supporting characters. Harriet is a likeable lead protagonist, who has many traits that the reader is able to connect to. For me, I loved her bossy nature in particular, as well as her passion and her vulnerable side. There was a rawness, as well as sense of realism about her character, which made her authentic in the eyes of this reader. Per, the main male protagonist in Janu’s story, is an entirely different matter. Initially, I was unsure of what to make of this man. However, the situations Janu places him in, along with his interactions with Harriet and the gradual reveal of his back story, enabled me to warm to him by the end. In fact, I thought he was a more than worthy hero, guaranteed to make many a reader swoon! In reference to the swoon factor, if you enjoy a touch of heat to your contemporary romance novels, In At The Deep End will more than satisfy your needs. Although I am not one for steamy love scenes, this one transferred well to the page and fitted in snugly with the storyline. What I loved about the romance side of this novel was witty style of banter exchanged between the lead couple. The dialogue that runs back and forth between the two protagonists was highly enjoyable and definitely exuded a good dose of unresolved tension.
My final word on In At The Deep End concerns the setting. Setting is always a big drawcard for me and this novel succeeded in providing me with an appealing, as well as different setting. I have not read any novels set in Antarctica involving rescue missions and scientific exploration before this one came along. As a result, I enjoyed being taken on an Antarctic adventure with Harriet, Per and their crew. Likewise, the scenes set around the northern beaches of Sydney were depicted nicely by Janu.
In At The Deep End is a clever tale of accidental love that I enjoyed immensely. It is well worth the effort to dive in deep and take a chance on this refreshing novel, by a debut Australian novelist who shows great promise. I for one will be on the lookout for Penelope Janu’s next novel.
In At The Deep End by Penelope Janu was published in January 2017 by Harlequin Books Australia, details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
*Please note that a free copy of this book was provided to me for review purposes through Beauty and Lace. To read the original review on the Beauty and Lace website please visit here.