MERMAID STEEL

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

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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

THAT TIME I GOT DRUNK AND SAVED A DEMON

A quirky, steamy fantasy that’s just what the romance genre needs.

A trader is swept up into an epic adventure after she inadvertently saves a demon’s life.

Cinnamon Hotpepper has only ever known a quiet, unassuming life on her family’s spice farm, and she doesn’t expect that to change. When it comes time for their village’s deity—the goddess Myva—to choose her new patrons, Cinnamon’s plan is to keep her head down and avoid getting involved with anything too far outside her comfort zone. Staggering home after one too many mugs of wine that same night, though, she inadvertently crosses paths with a demon, someone who should terrify her, and narrowly escapes with her life. The next morning, who should knock on the farm’s front door but the demon himself? Something about Cinnamon has given Fallon Ozul the ability to break out of the spell that has kept him in a monstrous frame of mind. Now he wants her help in seeking out the witch responsible for keeping his kind enslaved and telling everyone they’re evil, putting an end to her once and for all. And who is that witch? None other than Myva, who isn’t actually a goddess. Cinnamon knows she’s not cut out for an adventure like this, but she can’t deny her growing attraction to Fallon, so maybe she won’t try that hard to resist his efforts to persuade her to join him. In the process of destroying Myva’s hold on the demons, they might succeed at changing their world for the better. While the contemporary-feeling dialogue and characterization might clash with the setting and worldbuilding for some readers, and the book’s evolving romance could have benefited from more room to spread out, the story is a charming addition to the fantasy-romance realm.

A quirky, steamy fantasy that’s just what the romance genre needs.

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2024

ISBN: 9780316570275

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Orbit

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2024

THRONE OF THE FALLEN

Maniscalco fans will enjoy, but it will be hard for new readers to find their footing.

An artist with a secret and a Lord of Hell must work together to solve a puzzle in this romantic fantasy adventure.

Miss Camilla Antonius has a lot on her plate. She’s a talented artist, but is barely keeping her late father’s gallery afloat while being blackmailed by a local lord who knows a potentially ruinous secret about her. Envy, one of the seven princes of hell, is also trying to keep up appearances while a terrible malady slowly decimates his court. When he’s invited to play a dangerous magical game with a prize that could save his people, he goes all in. When one of his clues involves Camilla, the two must work together, becoming partners as they cross realms, dealing with human, demons, and Fae in order for both to win what they most covet—all while doing their best not to fall in love. Though this is a standalone novel, it’s set in the same universe as Maniscalco’s Kingdom of the Wicked trilogy, and certain elements, character dynamics, and plot points will be harder to follow for readers unfamiliar with the earlier books. This is also Maniscalco’s adult debut, and it shows: Steamy scene follows steamy scene as characters use extremely coarse language, like a teenager at last gleefully free of parental supervision. The story itself, an adventure filled with riddles to be solved and problems to be overcome, is fun and interesting but overshadowed by the need to push every boundary. Despite its length, the book reads quickly, switching back and forth between the two leads’ points of view, though the voices aren’t distinct enough to be clear. It’s all quite jumbled.

Maniscalco fans will enjoy, but it will be hard for new readers to find their footing.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2023

ISBN: 9780316557290

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2023

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