A thoughtful, erotic fantasy that asks readers to see the best in one another.

MERMAID STEEL

In Hartlove’s fantasy adventure, a blacksmith falls for a mermaid despite the town’s disapproval.

Sten Holdsmith is a blacksmith who recently moved to coastal Saint Rochel. He’s hoping to start fresh after a troubled past and is aware that the town barely tolerates the Merrow (mer-folk) who live in nearby waters. When Sten tries to teach himself to fish, he ends up overboard and tangled in fishing nets. Luckily, Chielle Mmava has been watching him. She brings Sten ashore, mends his nets, and is more polite than his neighbors would have him believe of the supposedly savage “fins.” She also has large aqua eyes that stir the blacksmith. He teaches her how to shape a metal bracelet without fire, a great favor since there are laws against commerce with the undersea village of Celidan. Merrow men, however, have been using dangerous lava vents to create spearheads. The weapons help defend the aquatic Harper’s Meadow from encroaching Saint Rochel fishermen. As confrontations erupt, Sten petitions the High Lordship Jesery Clune to ensure fairness and peace. This endears Chielle to him. They fall in love, but will their respective cultures force them apart? Hartlove explores unconventional romance and the process of cultural erasure in his fantasy novel. As a transplant to St. Rochel, Sten observes that the brown-skinned Indru—like his 14-year-old apprentice, Jacio—have adopted the clothing of the Whites who worship the deity Atlan. Deeper culture shocks occur when Sten shares wine with Chielle’s brother, Thymon, who offers lionfish venom to the human. The Merrow way of life is fleshed out through their coral homes, which take years to grow, and their worship of Rorra (the ocean). Sten and Chielle’s sex life, and their attempts to find compatibility, is explicitly depicted. Sten’s arc shows that individuals deserve opportunities to start over even if violence or racism taint their past. An intense finale provides both communities the chance to rise above the low roads of xenophobia and revenge.

A thoughtful, erotic fantasy that asks readers to see the best in one another.

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-953469-10-6

Page Count: 222

Publisher: Water Dragon Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2021

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An engaging paranormal romance in which love triumphs over isolation.

STORM ECHO

A Psy and a cat shifter separated by trauma and amnesia reunite and take on an unknown enemy.

The Psy-Changeling series continues with a new pair of lovers whose personal connection might strengthen the links among the human, Psy, and shifter groups just as the Psynet is under attack. In sections that alternate between the recent past and present and between the points of view of the two protagonists and a mysterious villain, we learn about the abruptly ended budding romance of Psy Ivan Mercant and ocelot-shifter Soleil Bijoux Garcia and then see them renew their bond. Ivan has always been self-contained. His in-utero exposure to a drug, followed by a childhood with his troubled single mother, has affected him emotionally as well as cognitively. Though eventually embraced by the powerful Russian Mercant family, despite not having a biological connection to them, he is convinced that the drug’s effects will eventually make him a danger to everyone. A chance meeting with a playful healer briefly gives him hope, but losing her seems part of his inevitable solitary existence. Even when he finds her again, she doesn’t seem to recognize him. Orphaned young when her shifter-human parents died in an accident, French Latinx ocelot Lei is now reeling from the recent massacre of her shifter pack. But her shifter half is drawn to an intense stranger in the midst of a Psy crisis. Once Lei realizes the love they could have, Ivan must contend with her determination that they stay together and his own protective instincts. While an amnesia plot may not be for everyone, the novel deftly balances Ivan’s grief with sweet flashbacks to the couple’s initial dates and then ramps up the electric attraction between them in the present. The author’s signature warm scenes involving new changelings and the changeling families familiar to regular series readers reinforce a tone of communal love and support. While the external threat mounts and Ivan and Lei work with Psy and changeling leaders to combat it, the sexual chemistry between the couple reaches a joyful culmination. Some readers, however, may grumble at how late in the book the scene occurs.

An engaging paranormal romance in which love triumphs over isolation.

Pub Date: July 26, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-44067-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

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A perilous, magic-school adventure that falls short of its potential.

A DEADLY EDUCATION

From the The Scholomance series , Vol. 1

A loosely connected group of young magicians fight horrendous creatures to ensure their own survival.

Galadriel "El" Higgins knows how dangerous the Scholomance is. Her father died during the school's infamous graduation ceremony, in which senior students run through a gauntlet of magic-eating monsters, just to make sure her pregnant mother made it out alive. Now a student herself at the nebulous, ever shifting magic school, which is populated with fearsome creatures, she has made not making friends into an art form. Not that anyone would want to be her friend, anyway. The only time she ever met her father's family, they tried to kill her, claiming she posed an existential threat to every other wizard. And, as a spell-caster with a natural affinity for using other people's life forces to power destructive magic, maybe she does. No one gave Orion Lake that memo, however, so he's spent the better part of the school year trying to save El from every monster that comes along, much to her chagrin. With graduation fast approaching, El hatches a plan to pretend to be Orion's girlfriend in order to secure some allies for the deadly fight that lies ahead, but she can't stop being mean to the people she needs the most. El's bad attitude and her incessant info-dumping make Novik's protagonist hard to like, and the lack of chemistry between the two main characters leaves the central romantic pairing feeling forced. Although the conclusion makes space for a promising sequel, getting there requires readers to give El more grace than they may be willing to part with.

A perilous, magic-school adventure that falls short of its potential.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12848-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Del Rey

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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