The Secret of Mermaid Cove
Reasons for Inclusion: Lesbian and bi characters. Mermaids are mute on land and so use sign language.
After she is caught behaving obscenely with another woman, Sophia is left abandoned. Her friends pretend not to know her, her family is trying to decide the best place to banish her, and Sophia wishes that running away was as easy in fact as it was in theory.
She is saved from scandal, if not her suffocating life, by way of an unexpected marriage proposal from Lord Everett Dobson, the most coveted bachelor in the city. Not in a position to refuse, Sophia accepts his offer and agrees to visit his home at Mermaid Cove for three weeks.
Mermaid Cove proves to be as beautiful as promised, complete with endless beaches, glittering waters, a castle that looks like it was made of sand… family curses and local legends… and two beautiful, mysterious women who cannot talk, but seem to have secrets they want to share…
This story took a while to get going, but all of it was beautiful. I loved Sophia’s emotional journey from despair to hope to doubt to joy. She feels trapped by society, which makes her hopes all the more poignant and her fears of it all being a trick far more bitter. The setting was very nicely done, with all the chatter of wealthy elites punctuated by glimpses at something mysterious.
And then the mermaids show up. I especially loved the fact that they used sign language. The Little Mermaid losing her voice is traditional, and this story takes it seriously by having most of the people on the island use the mermaids’ sign language.
I really enjoyed this sweet, magical, and romantic tale.
Witches and Wolves
Reasons: F/F romance
Life in the woods is usually fairly quiet, which suits Tory perfectly. She can focus on her witchcraft without the noise of the city or nosy neighbors, and the only visitor she gets is her ex-boyfriend—until late one night when she opens the door to find an unfamiliar wolf who promptly curls up in Tory’s bed and falls fast asleep.
Long used to wolves, Tory lets her be, and has no complaints at all when the morning reveals the wolf to be a beautiful woman. New to being a wolf, out in the woods to learn control and get more comfortable with her new life, Gee eagerly accepts when Tory offers to help her—and she doesn’t seem opposed to any other offers Tory might make.
But not everyone approves of werewolves, and Gee isn’t the only new visitor to the woods…
Witch Tory welcomes a werewolf into her forest house, and very soon afterward, she has to defend her new girlfriend from hunters.
I really loved the idea of a romance between a friendly witch and a werewolf girl, but this story ended up feeling a lot more ordinary than that. There was magic used in the fight with the hunters, and in Gee’s transformations, but otherwise the story just felt like a contemporary romance. That might have been the intended effect, but to me it seemed plain.
Even so, it was a happy story, and I liked watching the two girls grow close and protect each other.
In The Hours of Darkness
Reasons: M/M relationship
On the frontier planet No Man’s Land, Sheriff Charlie Colcord upholds the law and protects the people of Deadwood Gulch. His job is difficult and often dangerous due to the vicious native creatures which inhabit the plains and mountains of Noman, but Charlie and his riders have one advantage: dragons.
But the dragons come with their own difficulties in the way of a secret known only to a few. Charlie is a man used to keeping secrets, and it’s not the dragons’ secret that keeps him up at night. His secret is known to only one other, and keeping it makes their lives complicated enough that hunting monsters on the plains of Noman is almost relaxing.
Noman is a planet where cowboys on dragons fight monsters, yet only a few know the dragons’ secret. As an introduction to a series, this story worked well to introduce the world and the characters. We get to see Charlie’s daily life: riding out to fight nasty creatures, wrangling the town’s young troublemaker, and his nights with his secret lover. Not much happened, but that’s probably not going to be the case in future installments. I’m looking forward to seeing where the stories take Charlie and Zorevan next!
(ARC received through Netgalley)