Inciting Event: Sub commander Mark reconnects with Gina, the brilliant younger sister of one of his buddies. He is the first person to whom she tells her latest idea: about a ping submariners can use that enemies will be unable to hear.

As in most romances, the Inciting Event is where the two romantic leads officially meet for the first time. Even though, in this instance, Mark and Gina already knew each other, this is obviously the first moment that puts them on a collision course with romance.

This also neatly incites the suspense aspect of the plot, regarding sub warfare and Gina’s important ideas about sonar.

First Plot Point: Gina and Mark go out on sea trials together to test Gina’s new idea about the ping. This is both a dramatic change in setting and a decided point of progression in Mark and Gina’s relationship: it will be during this trip that Mark decides he wants to pursue a relationship with Gina.

As a whole, this book is extremely well structured, but it’s greatest weakness is easily the fact that Gina’s important earlier sonar discoveries, such as the one they’re exploring here about the ping, don’t actually have any direct importance to the plot later on. As such, what could have been a dramatic plot point for the suspense as well turns out to be a fizzle.

First Pinch Point: After the sea trials, Mark realizes his earlier decision not to date Gina, because she is considerably younger than him, was a mistake. Since she’s now dating someone else, he fears he’s missed his chance with her.

This is a really nice pinch point. Sometimes pinch points can be tough to figure out in stories that don’t have a blatant antagonistic force. But this is a perfect emphasis of the romantic stakes—and a turning point that moves Mark toward his more active role in the Midpoint.

Midpoint: On the heels of a disturbing (but, again, unused in the plot) new sonar discovery by Gina, Mark makes his move and asks her on a date. He finally admits he wants a chance to win her before she agrees to marry the other man she is dating. This is an excellent Midpoint that is perfectly timed at the 50% mark. It completely shakes up the story and moves Mark from a reactive to active role in the relationship.

Second Pinch Point: After Gina breaks up with the other man, Mark returns from a three-month sub patrol and proposes to her. Although she likes him as a friend, she tells him she doesn’t love him. This is another excellent reinforcement of the stakes, and Mark’s proposal definitely turns the plot once more.

Third Plot Point: This is arguably the weakest structural moment in the book. Mark returns from another patrol to discover that Gina is distraught over having figured out a way to pinpoint the location of every sub in the ocean. The bulk of the story’s emotional drive in this scene comes from Gina’s fear that her discovery will ultimately endanger both her submariner brother and Mark. It’s a legitimate worry, but it doesn’t drive either Gina or Mark to a personal low moment.

It does eventually lead to their courtship, Gina’s falling in love with Mark, and their getting married—but because of the timing and pacing, it relegates the much more important turning point of the marriage to a middle-of-the-road spot that doesn’t give it enough weight within the plot.

Climax: While Mark is out on patrol, a state of emergency is created when a North Korean sub fires upon an American sub. The story finally brings Gina’s third discovery full circle by allowing her to use the new technology to peacefully resolve the situation.

Often, romantic suspense stories have a hard time seamlessly coalescing their two plots into a Climax that serves them both. This is a beautiful example of how to do it. It flows smoothly and puts checks in all the plot boxes.

Resolution: Mark returns home and reunites with Gina.

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