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Book Review + Author Interview: Undertow

Title: Undertow
Author: K. R. Conway
Published: October 11, 2013
Publisher: Conway
Reviewer: Lyanna
Rating: 4 stars


Seventeen-year-old Eila Walker’s new home has defied the brutal Atlantic for over 160 years. Abandoned since her 4th great grandmother Elizabeth vanished, the town legend declares that she drowned . . . or was struck by lightning.

Unbeknownst to the town and Eila, however, is that someone does know what really happened to Elizabeth, and he has returned, determined to protect the last surviving Walker from a history of violence. 

But what starts out as a quest for redemption, evolves into something more and soon young guardian, Raef, is forced to reveal the truth to Eila. As hidden secrets about their warring families come to light, Eila begins to realize that she may be their best shot at survival, even if it means following in her grandmother’s fearless footsteps to save her killer bodyguard. 

Everyone's heard of the saying "Don't judge a book by its cover,"  right? Well guess what, Undertow can attest to that!

I pick books by their covers (I'm a terrible person, bite me), but not to the point that I don't read because of its unfortunate design or anything as ridiculous. 

Aside from covers, I also pay attention to summaries (yeah, I'm not a total book monster, I'm a book beastie ahahahah get it? okay, I'll stop now). So while I was a bit iffy from Undertow's cover I was even more iffy after reading its synopsis, because let's face it: both of them suck.

Thankfully, I still picked it up because boy was my intuition wrong!

Undertow is a thrilling romance that will pull you in so fast you wouldn't have seen it coming. 

Eila is a snarky, witty and downright hilarious character who knows how to hold her own. She's tough without being arrogant and humble without becoming insecure. She's got a strong morality and never deviates from it, but when called for, she does what she needs to. 

No, she's not perfect, but her flawed character makes her even more relatable because we know that the better parts of her personality are true and not just woven from the same perfect character thread that authors now seem to be obsessed with.

Raef and Eila's relationship is quite… unconventional, so to speak. Despite everything else, I still found myself squealing in all the swoon-worthy scenes. They're an adorable pair and even with their given situation, Raef and Eila are quite the team. I commend Conway for being able to bring out the best in their relationship and not just throw in mindless drama for the sake of "spicing things up." 

Another point I really liked was that the book didn't centre entirely on Eila and Raef, or Eila alone. There's familial history involved, an ancient war and of course, the couple I'm insane over; the endearing duo -- Kian and Ana.

The romance, thankfully, did not overwhelm the book. We still get enough thrill, mystery and adventure off of the story which contrasts well with the romance. 

The plot construction was clever and adventurous. It kept me turning page after page, keeping me hooked.

I am very excited to see what the author has in-store for the characters and readers for the next book, which I will definitely be picking up, regardless of its cover and synopsis! You guys should take a shot at it too!

Received a copy from the publisher, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

About Kate

I have been a journalist for 15 years and serve on the Board of Directors for the Cape Cod Writers Center. I also drive a 16-ton school bus because I am ENTIRELY NUTS.

In addition to working jobs that should come with a warning label , I hold a BA in Psychos (Forensic Psych), torment the tourists about Jaws, and occasionally jump from the Town Neck bridge in an attempt to reclaim my youth.

I live on Cape Cod with two smallish humans who apparently are my kids, my fishing-obsessed husband, two canines (adept at both flatulence and snoring), and a cage-defiant lovebird that sleeps in a miniature tent. Nope - that's not a type-o. The bird is quite the indoor camper. 

(source: Kate's goodreads)

Contact Ms. K.R. Conway: Website / Twitter / Goodreads

Are your books pure fiction or are some aspects inspired by your own life or someone close to you?

The series is based on a REAL version of Cape Cod. In fact, one of the characters owns an ice cream shop named The Milk Way. While “The Milk Way” is fictitious, it is 100% based on Four Seas Ice Cream in Centerville (a REAL town, were fictional Eila lives). Four Seas knows they are in the book and they host book signings. Other things in the book that are real to Cape Cod (so you can basically visit here and do all the things that Eila and her crew do) are:

1.    Eila’s house – The home the main character inherits, and thus sets off the chain of events for UNDERTOW, does exist in the historic area of Centerville, not far from Four Seas Ice Cream. It used to be owned by a friend of mine and we hung out in it all the time when we were young. She now resides in Hong Kong as a pilot, so we catch up on Facebook and she gives me more secrets about how the house was built. FYI – don’t go knocking on the door, because someone else owns the house now.

2.    Barnstable High School – Totally real and totally cool public high school that does some crazy thing. The students and faculty know they are in the novels (and even decided to begin building their own book trailer based on the series), so they allow me to come in and walk the halls as needed to make sure I stay true to the story. And yes – it is so huge that I need a GPS to find my way out. 2000+ students go there. Their award winning theater department became part of a major TV network series known as High Drama a few years ago. American Idol contestant Siobhan Magnus was a student there.

3.   The Jeep Subculture – Again, totally real. On Cape Cod, Wranglers are the most beloved vehicles of all. Most families have one, and if you drive one, other Wrangler drivers will wave to you when you pass each other – like Harley riders do. And yes – you can drive them out onto some of the beaches (MAKE SURE YOU KNOW WHICH ONES!)

4.    Witch Balls, The Crimson Moon, and Eila’s Bracelet – All real. Witch Balls are made at any one of our beautiful, glass-blowing shops (and yes – you can watch them actually blow glass, which is so cool). The Crimson Moon was based on The Lavender Moon, which is no longer in business. It was owned by a real coven of witches and when you would go in there, you could buy healing stones, herbs, crystals, oils, etc. Don’t worry – Dalca didn’t work at the real version! Eila’s bracelet is a staple of Cape Cod and there are several variations, though the original is simply called a Cape Cod Bracelet. They come in various sizes, so having a two-year-old with one is not unusual. The ball screws the bangle together, which means that sucker ain’t coming off, so don’t get it caught on anything or your arm may go with it.

5.    Town Neck, the Bonfire party, and the infamous bridge – All real, though I did take a few creative liberties. So, Town Neck beach is part of the town of Sandwich. It has the boardwalk, just as described, and the long beach at the end, AND, yes, the river. Kids can jump from the bridge (yup, I’ve done it too, and IT IS FREEZING). However, you cannot drive a car out on Town Neck and you are not supposed to bonfire there – all those things can be done on SANDY NECK or NAUSET (where Raef hunts), so I kinda sorta blended the two beaches.

6.   Barnstable Harbor and the Ferry – Totally true and yes, you can sit and people watch. You can also catch a Cape Cod Baseball League game in the nearby field. The Cape Cod League is famous because so many players get called up to the Majors.

If you could be any character in your book (and receive their powers as well, if they have any), which would you be and what would you do?

Oh dang . . . Ummm. I’d be Ana Lane I guess – car fanatic, surfer girl, and basically an emotional psychic on crack who is pursued by a gorgeous and devoted guy named Kian. But I am lucky enough to have a real crew of teenaged models who I get to see on a regular basis. I found Cape Cod teenagers from the real Barnstable High School on Facebook that looked like the characters (at least, in my mind) and they were brave enough to become the models in a fancy-shmancy studio we use. So yeah – Raef, Kian, MJ, Ana, and Kian text me all the time – LOL. The entire “cast” will be at Stormfront’s book launch on August 3rd here on Cape Cod (yup – you can get an early copy on Cape Cod that night, otherwise it is August 13th).

Do you incorporate yourself into your characters' personalities? If so, which character are you most like?

I think all authors pull from what they “know” so yeah, I’d say Eila’s dry humor is me, the craziness of MJ is me, and Ana’s take-no-crap attitude is me. Of course, all those personality traits help in my other job: driving a school bus.

What do you aim to teach your readers through your books?

Strength, perseverance, and devotion. I want my female readers to be bold and strong, and my male readers to understand that being protective does not equal being controlling. I want teenagers to see relationships painted in a positive light and that every relationship must be a balance of one another.

Where did you get the inspiration for your characters' names? 

Kian, Raef, and Christian were all on my list of boy names for my son (he ended up as “Finn”). Jesse was a dear friend in high school as was MJ. Nikki is my niece’s name, and Mae is my daughter’s middle name. Ana, Eila, Rillin, and Collette were all just made up, though they seemed to fit the characters.

Have you always known that you wanted to become a writer?

HAHAHAHAHA – NO. I have a degree in Forensic Psychology from Mount Holyoke College (Criminal Minds type-thing), but while I was in college professors would say I had a “knack” for writing (I figured they were all high on something). Then I came out of college and was asked to interview an artist. From there other magazines and newspapers began approaching me. That was 16 years ago and the rest is history. I now teach fiction craft to teenagers at libraries and high schools. Truth =  no one is born a writer, but you CAN be born a storyteller. Learning HOW to tell the story – that’s what I teach.

Do you have any routines before writing to get the creative juices flowing? 

Walking and driving actually allow my mind to wander and thus, begin writing in my head (I occasionally have missed a bus stop or two, LOL). I am a rocker-girl at heart, so I listen to music non-stop while I write and blog. I just saw Paramore, Fall Out Boy, and New Politics in Mansfield. AWESOME!

Which scene(s) did you enjoy writing the most? -- in Undertow or Stormfront, or both. 

Oh man . . .  The bonfire scene in UNDERTOW I enjoyed writing because I had just been at the boardwalk the night before with my daughter. It is also that crazy turning point in the book when readers suddenly realize I am a seriously deranged writer. I had a lot of fun writing STORMFRONT, but I laughed myself silly writing the scene where MJ convinces Eila to become a criminal. I also spent a great deal of time writing a certain scene between Eila and Raef on the yacht. I think I rewrote it 10 times. Because I write so large, I had to leave STORMFRONT as a cliffhanger (which I don’t like doing) but it would be the size OF A DICTIONARY if I kept going. The entire series is plotted and I am so excited about how the series ends (there are two more full novels plus a novella). Only two people know what I am up to and they are sworn to secrecy.  The next book I hope to have out is Kian and Ana’s story known as CRUEL SUMMER.

If you could give one advice to every human on earth, what would it be?

Never judge someone if you have never walked in their shoes. So much hate is based on ignorance of the other person, race, or country. All it takes is a moment to step back and realize you may not know where the other person is coming from and that your hate is unwarranted.

Huge thank you to Ms. K.R. Conway for letting us interview her! WEEE! Lots of love from the BookBeasties family!

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