by Melanie Jackson, historical/paranormal (2003)
LoveSpell, $5.99, ISBN 0-505-52531-3
Melanie Jackson's The Selkie is an enjoyable read but I do have some misgivings about it. But first, the story.
It is 1929 and we're with the heroine Hesiod "Hexy" Garrow in Scotland. She's actually an American who came here because her employer Jillian Foxworthy came down here to oversee the renovation of the old Castle Fintry. True to romance heroine tradition, Hexy is mourning about everything from the death of her brother Rory to the death of her almost-marriage to a British upper-class guy and then some more. Once day Miz Jillian asks her to retrieve a missing fur coat and Hexy gets sidetracked at the beach to perform some traditional ritual to summon a selkie. The task requires her to shed seven drops of tears among other things. Thanks to her allergies, she has no problems shedding them. She then grabs the coat and goes back home.
Ruairidh "Call Me Rory" O'Ursuig is investigating the case of scumbags who are murdering poor lil' baby seals and he is outraged when he realizes that some woman has stolen his seal skin. Ooh, now he cannot go home! Who is that horny woman who dares stoop so low to get a selkie boyfriend? (Here, I have to wonder: won't it be easier to at least just hire a stripper that won't smell of fish?) He tracks down the summoner to Hexy, but soon he realizes that it's all an innocent mistake. But then another problem crops out: the seal coat is now with Miz Jillian who's probably halfway already in her travel to Italy. Oh dear.
One problem with this story is that it doesn't seem to follow through with its set-up. Rory is ignorant when it comes to the technologies of the 1920s (think telephone and cars), so I am led to believe that I will be treated with a road trip where Hexy will lead the seal out of water - literally - through some series of adventures as they head off to Italy. Instead, The Selkie treats me with a sedately-paced series of idyllic scenery through Scotland as our two characters muddle around only to culminate in some Mythical Grand Adventure involving Rory, a villain, and lots of melodramatic dreams and discoveries about Hexy's true nature. The Grand Adventure comes out of nowhere and leaves me blinking for a few seconds in bewilderment.
Hexy starts off a dull character but she becomes more interesting as the story progresses because she's finding herself and develop a little throughout the story. The author fails to put her 1929 setting to good use. Apart from some references to the situations of that time early in the book, soon the story is all about the fancy magic thingies that it can take place anywhere from 1500s to present day Scotland. I also have my doubts about settling down with a man who spends his free time cavorting with baby seals - that's just below "A man who has six bottles of Vaseline, eight tubes of KY-Jelly, and a few boxes of enema in his shopping cart" in my list of men who are suspect when it comes to being a woman's life partner. But that's probably just me though.
Rory is my biggest problem. There are several scenes in this book where he just assumes that he knows best and acts on Hexy's behalf without consulting her. Since this involves casting spells on her without her knowledge or even drugging her without consulting her first, his actions don't sit easy with me at all. Hexy never gives him enough grief for his actions, which makes me sigh as much as Rory irritates me to the extreme.
Nonetheless, one thing the author succeeds very well in this story is to bring to life the legend of the selkies in a hammy and enjoyable fantasy adventure style. Apart from her spine-mush where Rory is concerned, Hexy's coming to terms with her nature and her strengths is an enjoyable read. If the pacing has been smoothened out and Rory's behavior doesn't remind me of a control freak's who goes too far too often for my liking, The Selkie will be a totally enjoyable romantic fantasy adventure. I have a great time reading it despite my reservations, so this book does have something going for it.
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