Ocean Girl

A Fairy Tale with Benefits

by Jane Buehler

This is the second book I’ve gotten from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program. It was really outside of my usual comfort zone, but I sometimes like to try something new! I think I’d classify this as a fantasy chick-lit romance, though I don’t know if that’s really a thing. It’s very light-hearted in tone, though the subject matter turns a bit more serious.

The story is about a young mermaid who is on a mission to find the missing merking, but gets tangled in a fisherman’s net and looses her magic shell (it lets her communicate with a friend back in the mermaid kingdom). Determined to get it back, she goes to the island village where the fisherman must live, and starts to find out that everything she’d been told about humans was a lie. At first she’s afraid to be among them, confused by their customs and baffled by their need for clothing. She’s even more frightened to find that there are fairies among them, who recognize her for what she is (the mermaids’ tails turn to legs when they dry, so they can appear human for a while). Within just a day she’s begun to loose her fear and made a few friends. Then she falls in love with a handsome fisherman (who doesn’t know she’s a mermaid), finds the merking- who isn’t at all the fearsome proud ruler she expected to encounter- and starts to realize that the society she grew up in is full of oppression and brutality. She only recognizes this when she starts to see how kind and understanding the humans can be, and how they work together.

Of course a huge part of this story is the romance- so even though I was surprised that on her first day of knowing somebody (one of the fairies), the mermaid was discussing “human courtship rituals” and not long after she was having her first kiss with the hunky fisherman, and that led to more. But in between the steamy scenes (which thankfully didn’t have too much profuse flowery language or ridiculous euphemisms for things) there’s a strong storyline about the mermaid learning to stand up for herself, confronting the desposed merking, finding out some secrets, and returning to her kingdom to see if she can instigate some changes. Which comes with a hefty dose of danger she has to face alongside her new lover. And there’s also a serious bump in their relationship when he finds out her true identity- the shock, fear (humans have misconceptions about merfolk too) and sense of betrayal. However it all turns out well in the end. It was kind of sweet, although the constant refrain of mermaids getting manhandled by the mermen, and her having to learn to fight, and what would happen with the friction over the sea kingdom throne, and how would they set up the new merfolk society, got a bit tiresome. I did really like how some botany and understanding of weather patterns (which the fisherman figured out for himself) were woven into the story. But the writing style is not really to my taste- it was just a bit too much told, not shown. It was a nice story, and I’m a little curious about one of the precursors in the series which looks like a beauty and the beast retelling, but not quite curious enough to go seeking it out. That all said, for someone who enjoys this kind of genre already, I’m sure this book is a good read. It’s very much a romance, and very much about women finding equality.

Rating: 2/5
294 pages, 2023

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