Magic & Mechanicals, Book #2
Heat Factor: Not as cold as the North Atlantic waters Calla likes swimming in, but not high heat by any means
Character Chemistry: She gets all shivery when he touches her scales
Plot: Writer and mermaid hang out in a maybe-haunted house with very rude neighbors
Overall: This book feels very “social justice-y”
Let’s start with my overall comment, that this book feels “social justice-y.” In the past, I would have referred to this book as “polite” (as I did Flesh and Stone in my overview of the monster romances I glutted on last fall), but what I’m trying to get at here is that the characters seem very concerned with issues of justice writ large, but not in a way that’s actually integrated into the story in a meaningful way. For example, Lucien makes an offhand comment about being an anti-monarchist. This was very weird to me, because he notes more than once that his mother was French, and, in fact, had an ancestor who was beheaded during the French Revolution. Is he pro-revolution, and thinks his great-great-whatever had it coming, or is he just like, “BOO VICTORIA” and that’s as far as he’s gotten? Either way, neither position has any impact on the plot or his character as he interacts with Calla, so I just don’t know why it was included. It’s not like this is an anti-monarchist text in any other way. It just feels like pandering to a left-wing audience.
I could talk about this issue all day, but this is a romance blog. So, setting aside the political undertones of the text, how does this work as a romance? Well. It’s ok. Lucien and Calla have a pretty good meet-cute—he thinks he sees a woman drowning and goes out to rescue her, but she ends up having to rescue him—and then they spend some quality time together in the creepy old house Lucien is renting to try and get over his writer’s block. It’s cute, but there isn’t that one moment that really makes it clear that they’re really connecting.
I think the challenge for me was that the writing is a little choppy, both in terms of sentence construction and in terms of plot. Things would happen, and I wasn’t sure why; take, for example, the question of why everyone in the village was so rude to Lucien. It made no sense, seemed to happen very suddenly, and didn’t serve the plot in any meaningful way. What this means in terms of the romance is that I didn’t understand what the external conflict was; I think I was supposed to be experiencing a foreboding sense of impending danger, but I never did. (There is a clear Evil Bad Guy who kept Calla in captivity and did terrible things to her in the name of science, but the distraction of the house and the villagers lessened his impact on the story.) I was constantly being pulled out of the story by the nonsequitors.
Please note, however, that the obsession with bowling, though odd, is historically accurate.
In our discussion of the mermaid archetype, I talked a little bit about how in the books I read, the mermaids were distanced from mermaid society writ large, so I had a hard time pinning down what makes mermaid society tick. In this book, Calla is very much distanced from mermaid society, which makes me think that the mermaid archetype is intrinsically about someone who is alienated from her own people, which is precisely why she finds love with a human.
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