Let me begin by saying that writing a novel is a terrific achievement. I know, having written one ~ and only one. My hat is off to anyone who can complete a novel.
That said, here is my honest opinion of The Selkie Spell, a contemporary romantic thriller with a paranormal twist by Sophie Moss, which I finished reading last week.
Characters: Our heroine is Tara, a young American woman with a mysterious past who arrives on Seal Island off the shores of Ireland seeking a waitressing job at O’Sullivan’s Pub.
Here’s Tara, seen through the eyes of the ferry skipper bringing her to the island:
He took in her thin frame and threadbare sweater, the raven locks framing a pretty face with wide-set green eyes.
Tara, readers will quickly figure out, is a woman on the run. But from who and what are secrets she keeps desperately close. Sophie does a nice job of mixing tough, determined, vulnerable, scared and grimly determined to keep her secrets, into one sympathetic character.
Sophie surrounds Tara with a cast of nicely drawn supporting characters, including the man of the story, handsome pub owner Dominic O’Sullivan. Here’s Dominic, as seen by Tara at their first meeting:
“I’m here about the job,” she said, setting the ad on the bar and gazing up into eyes the color of liquid silver. Thick black hair, still wet from the shower, swept back from the bartender’s ruggedly handsome face, revealing a scar etched into his left eyebrow. He’d forgotten to shave, and a shadow of stubble darkened the strong line of his jaw.
Sophie’s characters are all tough-minded, but good-hearted — except for the bad guy, of course — and all quite convincing. Sophie makes good use of the character triangle — what they say, what they do and what they look like. Sophie leaves no doubt as to who any of her characters are.
Plot: On the run from a traumatic past, Tara Moore goes to ground off the beaten track in Ireland’s Seal Island. She plans to stay just long enough to save some money and move on again, but friendships, romance and the strange legend of the Selkie conspire to keep her there. All the while, the danger from her past continues to seek her out.
Setting: The action takes place on Seal Island, which is based on Inishbofin Island in the North Atlantic, off the West coast of Ireland. Sophie glories in her location, giving it depths of description that raise it to the level of a main character:
Sunlight slid in slices over the mossy blanket of lime, emerald, and evergreen, changing color every time a cloud passed under the sun. Sheep grazed on the hillsides. Stone walls cut through the fields. The ocean glistened and danced, curling in turquoise waves over the white shoreline.
And note how Sophie relies on verbs for much of her description, rather than adverbs and adjectives. That makes her descriptions vivid rather than “purple.”
What I thought could’ve been done better: Very little to improve on. There were a few typos, but far less than in most indie books, including mine — probably fewer than many professionally published books. But here’s one, where Tara is looking out to sea on the ferry to Seal Island:
Tara eyes scanned the water, widening when more seals slid up to the surface, slicing through the ocean beside the ferry.
Obviously, it should be “Tara’s eyes scanned the water…,” or “Tara scanned the water…” In any case, it’s one of a very few.
I also noted an attribution error in a scene where Dominic and Tara spend a few moments together in private:
“You’re nervous,” he realized.
It should be “You’re nervous,” he said. Or, “Dominic realized Tara was nervous.” Realized is not an attributive verb. I think I found only this one instance in the entire book.
One thing I did think could use some attention — overuse of the verb “fisted.”
I liked it the first time Sophie used it: “Ian fisted his hands to his ears.”
I didn’t mind it the second time: “He fisted his hands in her clothes, yanked her to him.”
But by the sixth time, it distracted from the story – oh, there’s that word again: “She screamed when his hand fisted in her hair.”
If it seems like I’m being picky, I am. No question. These points are as minor as you can get.
What I thought was good: First, as I’ve already mentioned, I loved Sophie’ descriptions of the locations. Here’s a good one:
It was still dark when Tara slipped out of the cottage. A thick fog slid over the ground, dripping over the cliffs like fish spilling out of a net. The ocean surged and retreated, playing its quiet song far below.
That’s just good. And Sophie weaves plenty of it into the story.
Settings aren’t the only places Sophie excels at description. Here, Tara encounters a selkie, an enchanted “woman of the sea:”
The selkie’s eyes turned a deep forest green, and she turned them on Tara. Wet and dark and full of secrets from another world she turned them on the woman who would be her only link back to the home that was stolen from her.
“He is coming.”
“Who—who is coming?”
The selkie’s eyes changed to a color so dark, so menacing and angry, the storm of a thousand seas swirled in them.
“Wet and dark and full of secrets from another world…” love that. And this line: “The air smelled of heartache, tasted of poison.”
Sophie doesn’t forget the humor, either, as in this lovely exchange:
“Are they allowed to drink on the beaches?”
“This is Ireland, dear. They can drink wherever they want.”
Sophie also does a good job of weaving the selkie legend into the action of the story, giving it a nice glimmer of paranormal enchantment.
I liked the novel’s central metaphor of “learning to cook” for learning to trust and creating lasting relationships.
The Selkie Spell is a romance novel after all. Sophie includes at least two sultry sex scenes, handled with all the skill and color she brings to every other facet of her novel.
Overall: Sophie does a great job of mixing danger, romance, sex-appeal, beauty, exotic settings, legend and more, all in appropriate amounts, to create a terrific story. The Selkie Spell goes beyond romance, although it certainly is that, into the realm of simply being a wonderful story. And though Sophie has woven the eerie magic of selkie enchantment throughout her story, she never forgets that the real enchantment, the real magic is love.
Good job, Sophie!
And for a sexy superheroine paranormal sci fi romantic adventure thriller, check out my own novel American Goddesses ~ thanks for visiting Honest Indie!