Monday, September 28, 2009

Selkie Island by Jorrie Spencer

TITLE: Selkie Island
AUTHOR: Jorrie Spencer
LENGTH: Novella (roughly 22k)
GENRE: Paranormal romance
COST: $3.50

For too many years, Morag has lived the life of a selkie, but as time passes, she spends less and less time as human. A boat approaching her island encourages her to take human shape and investigate, but when she discovers the injured man it carries is the only man she’s ever loved, she does everything she can to nurse him back to health. Clay has escaped to Selkie Island to hide, because it’s a place he holds dear to his heart, the place he had his first love affair. He doesn’t expect to find Morag again on it, though, and he certainly doesn’t expect her to look the same as she did when he’s nine years older…

NOTE: This is a review originally written for Uniquely Pleasurable.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a fan of water-based shapeshifting stories. Nine times out of ten, I’ll see something aquatic in the blurb and completely pass it on by. But I stopped on this one for two reasons. One, I like this author. I’ve read a number of her stories, both het and gay, and while I might not have loved everything I read, I’ve certainly learned that this is an author that deserves my closer attention. Second, I love this cover. Love it. So, so, so much. I don’t buy books for the cover art – I spend far too much money on books as it is to add those kind of impulse buys to the cart – but good art will make me look twice, even if it’s a subject matter I might not necessarily want to read.

In this case, I’m oh so glad I took the time.

I think this could very well be my favorite work by this author. It is gentle, tender, and evocative, without treading in maudlin territory or destroying character credibility. Morag has spent years in this sort of half-life and though it saved her initially, over time, it has slowly destroyed her in other ways. She’s desperately lonely, something she notices more and more whenever she takes human form. It doesn’t get in the way of her being productive or throwing all her energy into being with Clay when he arrives, though, which is a tribute to her strength of character and the depth of her feelings for the man. Her innocence with the world, since she doesn’t leave the island, is a fascinating juxtaposition to her weariness of it.

Clay has the same effect on me. He’s been shot and is on the run from his boss, so he’s far more worldly than Morag, and yet, when these two are together, he regains an innocence he’s long since lost. His reactions when he starts questioning how it’s possible for Morag to still look the same are grounded in reality as well, without ever sliding into an extreme that would turn the story into melodrama. His feelings for her, and his need for sanctuary, temper what might otherwise be an instinct to run, creating an atmosphere of trust that coaxes the reader to believe as well.

There is some great atmosphere surrounding the island and its isolation, perhaps less so of Clay’s world. The focus on Selkie Island encourages the sense of fantasy prevalent in Morag and Clay’s relationship, giving them a haven to rediscover each other while never truly forgetting the other world that lies beyond. It makes it impossible not to be emotionally invested when the climax comes, and inevitable that this will rate as one of my favorite love stories for a very long time.


9/10 – Gentle and evocative


9/10 – Understandably reticent, but true to the core


9/10 – Her melancholy and loneliness are tangible

Entertainment value

9/10 – Tugs so hard at heart strings that I still get choked up on re-reads

World building

8/10 – Great atmosphere and some lovely history of the island, but Clay’s background is understandably not as detailed



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