Merfolk trading is a lucrative, but illegal business. After Brandon, a hunter, spends a few days tracking Vez, he gets second thoughts about imprisoning the golden tail merman who’s immediately put up for auction. Brandon decides to break Vez out of his enclosure and bring him home.
But with the merman in his bathtub, Brandon has no idea what to do. Things become even stranger when Brandon returns to his house only to find Vez is no longer waiting for him in the bathtub, but in his bed.
Warnings: slight dubcon
Scales of Gold is a novella about a mer hunter who falls in love with his merman prey. It’s very sweet, romantic, and a lovely bit of inter-species erotica. It takes place in a world where merfolk are captured and sold as fancy aquarium fish for the rich and elite, and Brandon is a hunter that procures these rare specimens. He doesn’t count on falling for one though, and is soon finding himself engaged in a plot to free his prey instead of capture him. Since it is a relatively short little piece, it’s not overly involved but it is very sweet and fluffy.
The writing is well crafted, keeping the plot moving at a brisk pace, and interspersed with the smut scenes. The only trouble is that due to the novella’s length, the story doesn’t feel as well explored as it could have been. A lot of plot points could easily have been drawn out around multiple chapters. Brandon’s job, his relationship with his boss, the time he spends hunting, the gradual coming to have feelings for the merman he’s been following, all of it could have been explored in much more depth and detail to give a richer story. How does someone who’s presumably spent their entire lives not questioning the nature of the merfolk-slavery business come to change their entire moral perspective? He’s barely given any incentive to stop thinking of mers as merchandise aside from “this one’s pretty” and I would have enjoyed seeing the author take a bit more time fleshing out his change in perspective. That said, the story is absolutely charming, and I very much enjoyed the unfurling romance.
On the same note as the previous, the characters never quite end up feeling as organic as they could have if the book had been longer. Vez is a very innocent, naive character and Brandon is a worldly working class hunter sort of guy, and there is plenty there that is very interesting. Unfortunately the reader never gets to know much else about them, what their pasts were like or what brought them to their fated meeting. They do, however, have a charming amount of chemistry that makes up for their relative anonymity, and I grew to be rather fond of both of them over the course of the story. Again, it’s a flaw that is mostly due to the length of the book, and as such there’s a certain amount of leeway for what is, after all, only a three part story.
The setting is a very interesting world! At the risk of repeating myself, the only real issue with the worldbuilding is the short length of the book curtailing the authors ability to truly explore it. I would have liked to know more about a lot of things; what the mer capturing industry is like, the kinds of rich upper crust people that purchase the merfolk, and what their luxury aquarium displays are like. Are there mers in captivity in public aquariums as well? Are there activist groups rallying for merfolk rights? For that matter, what is life like for the free merfolk in the wild? Vez makes mention that he hasn’t seen any of his own kind in some time, do they typically live solitary lives? Where they always so rare, or did humans hunt them to rarity? Mers apparently are known for having magic powers but little is said about that. And if Vez can transform into a human, why would any mer ever even be captured? Many, many questions about the setting could have been well answered if the book had been a full length novel. However, for a short novella I was very much engrossed in the questions of the setting.
The smut content of the book is quite satisfying, if sweet fluffy inter-species erotica is your speed. The two of them learning about each other’s bodies and anatomies is very well done and I thoroughly enjoyed the way that they gradually came to trust each other. It’s a slow burn at first but it’s very tender and romantic. Vez is shy to show more of himself, and the reader really feels Brandon’s sense of wonder at discovering his lover bit by bit. Again, it’s sweet romance, not exactly hard kinks, but I really have a soft spot for mer content myself. I would have not complained at all if Brandon had been a little more forceful of course but that’s just me.
All in all, a very sweet little story that, while could have benefited from being a full length novel, was very engaging and fun as what it was. I am interested to read more from this author, as I think that with the span of an entire novel they could really write something quite memorable and compelling, if this is any indication of their skill.