I wanted very badly for Sea Spell to cast a spell over me because I love selkie stories, romance or otherwise. And while the story of this selkie and his lady love was sweet music to my ears, there were so many other instruments blaring that the resultant cacaphony was deafening. By the time all the little mysteriously suspenseful subplots came together, the melody was little more than a whisper, overwhelmed by the discordant sharps and flats the author added.
Beth Caxton nearly drowned as a youngster, and she is convinced a selkie saved her life. When she meets up with mysteriously wealthy and handsome Gordon, his intensity frightens her, as does her reaction to him. She retreats for the summer from her San Francisco city life to the cottage she lived in as a youngster, even if that means living in a town convinced she’s a bit of a loon for that childhood episode.
Gordon mysteriously arrives at her cottage soon thereafter, and she just can’t put her finger on what makes him so different. Is he interested or not, and is he stalking her? Why does he give her expensive gifts, stare at her with hunger in his eyes, and then retreat?
Gordon was a young selkie when he rescued Beth from drowning those many years ago, and he has felt connected to her ever since. As the lone selkie in a herd of seals, he is their leader, royalty of sorts, and though he has rutted with seals, he has never loved before. He senses Beth is the one for him, and sets about to woo and win her.
There is the making of a fine romance here, and Gordon was a terrific hero – arrogant and masculine to be sure, but not terribly in tune with human ways, and that lack of finesse made him lovingly vulnerable. When he took human form as a child, he ate PB&J’s and watched Sesame Street; the name Gordon is one he appropriated for himself after watching the kindly Gordon on PBS. When the author revealed his thoughts, and luckily she did that often during the book, I fell in love.
There was plenty of music to be made by Beth and Gordon without all the added drama. Beth was raised by a father who loved his writing more than anything – how can she love Gordon? Not only will she have to compete with the sea, but she would never do to any possible children what was done to her by giving them a father who isn’t there for them.
Unfortunately, the author squandered this wonderful potential. It seemed as though fully half of the book had little to do with Gordon and Beth – between the actors Beth and her friend bring in for a local Faire, a villain who is a danger to Gordon and all the seals, bad boys with swastika tattoos, a couple convinced the other is up to mayhem, a teenager with a ring through her navel, a cat being poisoned with antifreeze. . . well, you get the idea. By the time all the pieces fit together, this reviewer no longer cared what the true goal of the villain was, or that one of the probable bad guys was really a good guy after all.
Not only was all this distracting music being made, but the main melody was broken continually. Whenever there was any momentum to their relationship, something intervened to keep Gordon and Beth apart – for an hour, for a day, whatever. I just wanted to scream at everyone but them to go away so they could get on with it, discover their love, consummate it, and find their happy ending.
If you are looking for a selkie story to warm your heart, don’t read Sea Spell, rent the heartwarming John Sayles’ video The Secret of Roan Inishe instead, or try Anne Stuart’s Dark and Stormy Night or The Storm Prince by Teri Lynn Wilhelm; while I can’t personally vouch for these books, I hear they are terrific. Well, at any rate, better than this one.