Whales were dying mysteriously off the coast of Cape Cod, and marine biologist Shelby Haynes was trying to discover the cause. Which was how she found herself being hauled from the ocean by one brawny Jake Lawson, who soon regretted having reeled her in… Not only was it part of this irate mermaid’s job to monitor his salvage operation, it was also obvious that she had no time for “irresponsible” treasure hunters or pirate ships. But Shelby and Jake were stuck with each other, for better or worse, and soon neither one could imagine being stuck with anyone else
Warnings: Brief joking about suicide
The Midas Touch is a romance novel by Katherine Kendall, who under a different pen name is also the author responsible for the hit 90s teen book series Animorphs. Animorphs is one of my all time favourite series of books, so when I found out that the author had, prior to writing teen lit, written a handful of romance novels, I knew I had to track at least one of them down. This one was a good choice- it contains a lot of the calling cards of the author while also being a fun and engaging storyline with a fair amount of sensuality.
This is a very nice paced, well written formula story that delivers no more or less than what you expect from a romance novel. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, romance readers have every right to like what they like, and the writing is very solid. It’s interesting to note that if you’re familiar with the writing of this author, this isn’t the stylistic kind of children’s prose she is most well known for. Instead it’s a more mature prose with less onomatopoeia and more description, both visual and emotional. It is a product of the 80s, however, and with that comes a whole lot of… dated ideas. Men leer at women, and this is treated not as creepy but as fun and flattering, and there are some rather sexist body shaming moments in Shelby’s inner monologues where she cautions herself not to let herself gain weight. There is a scene involving shiatsu massage where racial language is not great. There are a few throwaway jokes about suicide after a breakup. All of these are things that, considering the time this was written aren’t exactly shocking but are still unfortunate.
Both of the lead characters are archetypes that you’ll be quite familiar with if you’ve read any number of romance novels. Shelby is a career driven woman who, thanks to a failed marriage, doesn’t have time for love. Meanwhile Jake is a dangerous, self assured rouge with a heart of gold. Neither of them get a whole lot of character driven exploration in terms of backstory or personality distinct from their roles, but they do have a lot of great chemistry together. Its fun to see them interact, and Kendall is great at writing dialogue and banter that feels natural and playful. Their flirting is fun, their arguing is fun, and their relationship, once its in full swing, is fun. The midway point where, according to romance novel formula the two have to break up feels a little forced into the narrative and a bit less organic, but overall I really did love watching the two of them together. It’s also worth noting in the larger context of this author’s body of work that if you are familiar with Animorphs, you will immediately recognize both of their personalities as being quite Jake and Cassie… you know, under far less dire circumstances.
Since this is ultimately a very formulaic story clearly meant to fit the product model of a romance novel, there isn’t much worldbuilding creativity demonstrated, but you do see the author’s tastes poking through from the mold. When I say that the calling cards of the author are present, there is a fair bit here that will feel familiar if you’ve read Animorphs. Apart from the aforementioned Jake and Cassie parallels, we also have a large focus on environmental activism and biology, saving the whales, and even the question arising if whales are in fact sentient and if whale song is actually a language of its own. These will be familiar beats for fans, as will the dynamic of the environmental activist whose moral qualms butt up against the goals or methods of the daring hero, and also the blond haired blue eyed bombshell that shows up across many of this author’s work.
The sex in this book is very well written. It is also very, very vanilla. Now I didn’t read this because I thought it would be the kind of sexual content I’m personally into; it isn’t, really. There’s nothing especially spicy about the smut content, it’s all very sweet and tender despite the enemies-to-lovers possibilities of the scenario. It had the room to be a little rougher and a little more of a slow dubcon seduction, but that honestly wouldn’t be what I would expect from this author. This is more or less exactly the kind of thing you’d expect from a romance novel. It’s steamy, it centres the emotional experiences of arousal and connection as experienced by Shelby, and it’s all very romantic. It’s written very well, and if the actual meat of the content was more my thing, I would probably have adored it because the writing is very good. If you want something romantic and focused on women’s pleasure, this is going to hit the spot pretty well. The seduction and the will-they-won’t-they aspects were nice, and I thought the two of the characters had a lot of chemistry.
Altogether I really really loved getting a peak into the author behind Animorphs’s older works, especially given the more adult nature of these steamy romance titles. It’s quite different than the works she is more well known for but it still hits many beats that I appreciated seeing again. I may have headcannoned it as a Jake/Cassie AU, and I really had a lot of fun reading it even if it’s really quite vanilla and fluffy compared to my usual fare.
Have you read The Midas Touch? Let me know what YOU thought by leaving me a comment!