Recommended Read, Review

Review: The Last Mermaid by Shana Abé (2008)

Heat Factor: It’s pretty fraught and steamy

Character Chemistry: There are four pairs in this generational story, and all of them have this desperate, meant-to-be energy

Plot: This is a romance that spans centuries and revolves around the sirens of the Island of Kell. It’s very gothic and desperate and sexy.

Overall: It was a tad slow for me in the beginning but then I got really into it and ended up loving it.

This threw me way, way back to the early days of my romance binges, when the only acceptable kind of romance was a THICK book with a nice tartan plaid and a heavy amount of angst. Tiny little content warning, this book has a fair amount of light dubious consent if that kind of thing bothers you. 

Basically, there’s this island called Kell and no ships can go there because it’s where the siren is. The siren’s job is to sing drowning sailors to a peaceful death when ships come too close to the island and crash. The book consists of three sections and three main romances, but is tied together with the initial romance between Kell and his siren love. Essentially, there’s a curse—the siren will fall in love with a fated mate, but they’ll be kind of sealed both together and on the island. Fighting that fate will result in the death of them both.

The first romance involves an ancient Scottish king, who is kidnapped and left for dead near Kell, only to be rescued and saved by the Siren’s descendant, Ione. Aedan, the king, is desperate to get back to his kingdom to save his people and be with his dying father and learn the fate of his sister, Callese. But Ione is positive that if Aedan leaves, they’ll both die. He does end up leaving—with her help—and ends up having to fight for his life and his kingdom with Ione at his side and no guarantee of success or future happiness.

The second romance is set in the early 1700’s and involves a male descendant—Ronan—and a Spanish woman with the sight named Leila. Leila has been hired with her associate, Che, to assassinate Ronan. But Leila desperately wants to get away from Che and live a different life. This last job, killing Ronan, is supposed to set her up with the life she’s dreamed of, but she’s inexplicably drawn to him and can’t seem to get the job done. With Che in the shadows everywhere, it seems impossible for Leila and Ronan to ever be happy together.

The last romance is between Ruriko and Iain—Ruriko is of modern times, and has no idea she’s a mermaid. Iain has bought the keep but the island of Kell still belongs to Ruriko’s family. Iain gently convinces Ruriko to come to Scotland and accept her heritage and fate—but neither know if the curse’s power has lessened or if they’ll ever be free of the island.

Essentially, the tension in these books comes not only from the heavy and intense love stories but also from the curse of the island—the early couples make it work by staying on or near the island, but by the time we get to Ruri and Iain, it’s clear that staying on the island won’t work any longer. It was an interesting and moving realization in such a desperate, gothic-type book with lots of love scenes with dubious consent and resentment—that ultimately, the couples can’t be free to love each other if they’re being forced to stay together. They need to be able to freely make that choice. 

I did read a bunch of reviews when I was writing this, and I got a big kick out of a lot of the negative ones—I think this book crossed over into a lot of other genres and some readers were turned off by the romance. But if you’re looking for a sweeping “I just can’t help myself and I’ll never be the same without you” romance, you’ll love this one.

Buy Now: Amazon | Bookshop

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