Book review: One Saved to the Sea, by Catt Kingsgrave

I have no recollection of how this book ended up on my Kindle wish list, so I have to assume it was God. I believe in a benevolent God. One who sneaks paranormal lesbian erotica into my reading list.

This was a nice read. Regrettably, I don’t read as much lesbian fiction as I’d like to — I need more recommendations. But I like the fantasy/paranormal aspects of this one, especially selkies, which I don’t recall encountering before.

It wasn’t just the selkies that were unfamiliar. It took me a while to realize the story was set in Scotland during WWII, as the first few names were so wholly unfamiliar. But the story is steeped in that small-town, early-twentieth-century culture, which alone would make it a good read.

I liked how fierce and determined Mairead is (as the story starts off with her beating up a poacher with an oar), and yet it wasn’t unrealistic, as she’s later caught off her guard and rendered terribly helpless for hours. I liked all the minor characters too, especially Aunt Jenn.

One of my favorite parts was Mairead’s conversation with the young priest, Father Brian, who — like the rest of the town — knows what her deal is, and gently tries to persuade her to join a convent.

“You will have to think of a future for yourself soon, Mairead, and the one I suggested is not so very bad, as futures go.”

…”But,” she managed at last, “a convent? Me?” She shook her head. “I mean no disrespect, Father, it’s just I’ve always thought that Sisters had to be more…well…” She struggled in vain for the word she wanted. “I’ve never felt the draw to a convent life. Not even once. And wouldn’t God only want the most faithful sorts of women for His brides?”

He was silent for a long moment, his face calm and sad as they waltzed a square again and again. “The Almighty knows this world of ours is not perfect,” he said at last, with the air of a potent truth that wanted careful saying. “And likewise, He knows there’s some of His children who have no other place to fit into it than underneath His wing.

“Now it’s true, He demands a greater measure of love and devotion from His chosen daughters and sons than from those who take easier roads,” and here, he tipped a nod to Emily Willet, who’d taken advantage of the slower song to command her bridegroom’s arm on the dance floor. “But for some of His children, the Church provides the best measure of peace and security they can hope for in this flawed world. Sanctuary, if you will,” he smiled at her, “only for a lifetime.”

See, he’s not trying to punish her — he’s offering her a man-free zone to spend the rest of her life, without needing to worry about room or board. It’s sweet.

As for the actual romance/erotica: quite good! I’ve talked before about how I don’t actually read romance novels for the erotica, because I have trouble caring about strangers speedily having sex. I need a long-term investment in characters.

But as far as erotica scenes go, these scenes were very well done — heavy and intense without being sentimental. I liked the twists of it — how they ventured outdoors, played in the sea, and the more serious turn as Mairead realized what had happened to her father, learned the truth of her own parentage, and accepted the selkie’s challenge. It made sense for her to leave everything behind, since there was so little left for her on land, in human society.

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