I enjoyed the novel setting, interesting characters, and fresh twist on urban fantasy in Gena Showalter’s The Nymph King, but found the feelings a bit shallow for this underwater tale.
Valerian is King of the Nymphs, and lives in a castle in Atlantis, the underwater kingdom. A leader committed to bettering the life of his race, he has only recently acquired the castle from its previous dragon owners, and the threat that they will take it back is still very possible. As a result, his men are kept ready for the brink of war, and he has chosen to leave the female nymphs behind, out of danger.
Problem is, nymphs need to have sex in order to keep up their strength. They need it like other races need food. Valerian, as King, has a trio of humans who accidentally stumbled through the portal between our world and Atlantis to keep him primed, but his men are literally starving for sex, growing weaker by the day. The nymph females have gone missing, and every day that passes is one more likely that the dragons will simply be able to walk into the castle to take it back.
Valerian decides to go through the portal to the human world and kidnap some women from above the sea to aid his men. Though, really, kidnapping is too strong a word. Nymphs radiate sexual energy to the nth degree – any woman who sees them is immediately drawn in, unable to resist their allure. However, once a nymph meets his mate, he knows her immediately and will never want another.
Oh, groan! This is a little plot device that originally was very sexy – after all, what can possibly be more captivating than a very handsome, very sexy man who only wants one woman for the rest of his life? But what with the vampires and the werewolves and every other paranormal creature out there, it’s also one that has lost its potency to overuse.
To continue with the plot summary: Valerian goes to the surface and meets Shaye, a woman who comes from possibly the most dysfunctional family on Earth and thus distrusts men and love and has shut herself away from both.
Oh, double groan! Yet another plot device that we’ve seen again and again from historicals right through to contemporaries.
While the story is predictable, the setting is unique, and watching Valerian and Shaye spar is quite entertaining. Shaye does fight Valerian’s allure, but only lasts a couple of days. Showalter does an excellent job of creating sexual tension and delaying gratification in a very creditable way, even with a nymph-omaniac <g> hero.
I always find this a hard plot line to swallow, especially with the reluctant woman. He says she’s his mate; she puts up a token protest, then decides to trust him. Yeah, okay, but really, the only thing she has to trust in is the great sex. Words are all very well and good, but with someone who’s been burned, actions speak louder. I would have found The Nymph King more creditable if it had taken place over longer than three or four days.
That being said, Showalter has a gentle, accomplished touch, but this story recycles too many stereotypes to truly shine. I look forward to seeing something truly original from this author.
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