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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The perfect blend of sweet, sexy romance and a riveting, high-stakes survival story.

ICE PLANET BARBARIANS

From the Ice Planet Barbarians series , Vol. 1

A woman stolen by aliens crash-lands on an ice planet and finds love.

Dixon’s wildly popular series—it’s a fan favorite on TikTok and has a podcast dedicated to deconstructing each episode—is finally coming to print. In this first installment of the series, Georgie and at least a dozen other 22-year-old women are stolen from their homes on Earth by green aliens. Something goes wrong, and the aliens abandon their human cargo on an icy planet the women dub Not-Hoth. After engineering an escape plan, Georgie becomes their de facto leader. She bundles up and trudges out to find help and meets Vektal, a 7-foot blue alien and the leader of his tribe, the Sakh. His people have developed a symbiotic relationship with an organism called the khui, which allows the Sakh to survive the brutally cold temperatures of their home planet. Vektal’s people mate for life, but since there are very few women left, he has resigned himself to life without a partner. When he sees Georgie and his khui resonates, a physical response akin to purring, he knows she is destined to be his mate. Explorations of coercion, consent, and free will are woven throughout the story. Vektal’s unorthodox greeting shows that consent might operate differently in his world; but in the end, he learns that humans trapped in the worst of circumstances will still fight to control their own destinies. The book is fast-paced and sexy, but the major appeal might be Vektal. He is a romance main character stripped down to the core: desperate to find his partner and willing to do anything to keep her happy.

The perfect blend of sweet, sexy romance and a riveting, high-stakes survival story.

Pub Date: Nov. 30, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-54602-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2021

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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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