REVIEW: The Merman’s Kiss by Tamsin Ley

Zantu has evaded the mate-bond for thirty-five years, dodging promiscuous mermaids with vile intents. Unlike mermaids, mermen bond for life, and Zantu refuses to accept the heartbreak most mermen die of. That is, until the glint of gold catches his eye, and a simple salvage mission turns to passion. Now he’s bonded to a human.

Briana thinks her life is over after the loss of her child. Instead, she falls into the arms of a merman who is anything but cold-blooded. He’s wild, seductive, and sets her blood on fire every time he touches her, and soon she begins to need him for more than his magic to breathe underwater. He might just give her a new purpose. But as dangers encroach from every side, Zantu must choose; keep his new mate at his side or keep her safe.

Warnings: suicide, mentions of sexual assault, miscarriage/stillbirth, pregnancy, cheating

Category: M/F, F/M

The Merman’s Kiss is the first book in the Mates for Monsters series of romance novellas. It follows a human woman and her mate-bonding to a merman from the depths of the ocean, and is a steamy and sweet little romance story. If you’re looking for supernatural fairy tale content with a feel good ending, this was a lovely piece! While it may be mostly silly melodrama, it is a fun and engaging read if you’re in the mood for some good under the sea smut.

Right off the bat I must caution the reader that this book contains a lot of highly triggering subject matter, and a lot of it right within the first few chapters. Both of our leads are dealing with a lot of trauma and baggage, and that is very apparent in their stories and the frank way in which the author tackles incredibly heavy topics. I’m not sure that these topics were dealt with as sensitively as they could have been, especially given this is a very short, cheesy romance novella, and some of this content can come across like it’s being used as devices for drama and not given the weight it deserves. Miscarriage for instance is a highly sensitive topic for a lot of women. However, the author is very good at developing a compelling relationship between the two leads, and the story, as cheesy as it can be, is very fun. The prose is good, moves along at a clipped pace, and there’s none of that obnoxious internal dialog that often hampers stories like this.

I loved both of our leads, and felt that their connection was very lovingly explored. Although it’s a very typical ‘we’ve known each other for a few days but it’s obviously fated love’ kind of silly affair, it’s an engaging one to follow. I truly loved how Zantu’s devotion to Brianna was a devotion that he had to wrestle with, that he didn’t trust, and how they each had to overcome their expectations about each other to see the person they were underneath all of their cultural understandings. Being that this book gives us a very matriarchal society for the mer-people, there is a lot of the exploration of sexual trauma and one sided relationships on the part of Zantu, role reversing what a lot of women have experienced and creating a sense of pity for Zantu that is both relatable and safely behind a barrier for the book’s target audience. While the short length of the book means that we never really find out much about Zantu or Brianna’s characters outside of these events and this relationship, the connection between them felt very lovely.

I really enjoyed the efforts at worldbuilding that went into this. I’ve always liked stories that focus on mermaids being vicious and violent, and this book put a twist on that by imagining them as a matriarchal society where the women seduce and abuse the men by forcibly mate-bonding them to themselves, abandoning the males with their children to raise. It’s an interesting role-reversal role that allows the reader to engage more comfortably with these topics as well as providing an interesting cultural backdrop for the merfolk. Magic could have been a little more explored, as it seems to be based within those bonds of romance, and I would have liked to see how it works a little more explained especially given the part whales play in keeping the lost knowledge of the arcane. I liked the fact that mer-children are gender neutral until they come of age. Props to the author for really bringing to life a fantasy world in the span of a rather short little story!

Now we come to the sex. Now, I personally prefer much much kinkier, rougher content. I loved the initial mating that takes place at the beginning, the fear and the uncertain nature of the carnal connection, the near-death experience leading into a visceral sexual encounter with the unknown. This isn’t the bulk of the sex content here of course, and most of it is much softer and sweeter, as Brianna experiences sexual satisfaction and agency for perhaps the first time in her life with Zantu. I can understand this as very liberating in nature, but it doesn’t honestly do a lot for me, since I have much rougher tastes in my smut. It’s also worth noting that Brianna is still married while all this occurs so if infidelity is a squick for you do be warned. I liked this book’s approach to the ways merman and human woman learn each other’s bodies but I could certainly have gone for a lot more danger.

I really enjoyed this book a lot for what it was. It’s a very cheesy little escapism piece, and satisfies the tropes and structures of its genre very well. Its a great little steamy fairy tale and will be sure to titillate if you’re looking for a different kind of supernatural romance that doesn’t tread on the same old vampire/werewolf/shapeshifter ground as everything else.

Have you read The Merman’s Kiss? Let me know what you thought by leaving me a comment!

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