Dear Ms. Hamilton:
I specifically requested this book despite the fact that I have not read the Anita series since Obsidian Butterfly. I am somewhat of an apologist for the Merry Gentry series. I actually had to create my own mythology regarding the characters in this series in order for me to continue enjoying the series. My frame is that – Merry Gentry has been picked to be the goddess incarnate to bring life back to the Sidhe. The whys and wherefors haven’t really been worked out in my mind (and I haven’t had alot of help from you on this either), but it is the one way I could get over the Mary Sue-ish issues and enjoy the fantasy aspects.
I think its also important that I began reading the Merry Gentry series at a time that there wasn’t alot of mix between fantasy and romance. You’ve really been a genre leader in some respects.
The star in the Merry Gentry series is the first book, followed closely behind by the second. The next two books began to show some wear in the story and while Lick of Frost has more substantial plot and less reliance on group sex scenes, it still lacks the power and verve of the introductory books in the series.
Merry Gentry and several guards (too many to count at this point) are housed in the residence of former Sidhe goddess and current movie star, Maeve Reed (I always read Maeve Binchy but I doubt she’d like the idea I was placing Binchy in your books although Reed is the wickedly awesome and beautiful movie star in the books and there are far less flattering creatures I could append to the name Maeve). Maeve has gone off to Ireland on an extended vacation while Merry and her band of men make free with the estate. Despite the fact that Merry has dozens of men, they are all holed up in a tiny cottage, sleeping sometimes many to a room. If the men are as you describe them, I can only imagine the state of that tiny little house.
The story opens with Merry and Doyle and Frost in a conference room to discuss the allegations of rape against three of Merry’s men: Rhys, Galen, and Abe. While it is pointedly clear that Merry and her followers are there simply as a courtesy since they have diplomatic immunity, the scene goes on and on for no other reason but to set up the basic plot conflict and that is Taranis, the King of the Seelie Sidhe, is using his powerful glamour to induce Merry to come to his side. He is desperate to have a child and believes Merry, with her fertility lineage, will bring him what he needs for if King Taranis is infertile, it means infertility to all the Seelie Sidhe.
As a plot, this is a compelling storyline and provides ample reason for some of the Seelie Sidhe to align themselves with Merry (the need for procreation is apparently universal) despite their disdian for Merry’s half human blood which continues to be a barrier between acceptance and rejection for other Seelie Sidhe.
Ultimately the problem is that most of the story is tell and no show. Merry and her followers engage in several conversations with each other to debate the purpose of King Taranis misuse of his power. It is through these “As you know, Bob” conversations, that we readers find out more about the world and the internal conflicts between the Sidhe and the political ramifications of a future with King Taranis.
There is little to be learned that the reader doesn’t already know unless the reader is a new one. But for new readers, the past relationships are so complex that I suspect one would be lost within a few pages despite the amount of info dumping that occurs to bring everyone up to speed.
Further, this book goes almost nowhere. For example, a quarter of the book (first 7 chapters) are essentially the scene in the conference room with one entire chapter where Merry goes all Ayn Rand on us and tries to teach us how those who don’t believe in free sex, sex several times a day with several parties, are narrowed minded humans.
The story stalled in alot of parts as there was little action until the last couple of chapters. I know that in the past I haven’t loved the books, but I’ve always found them readable. This one, though, was a struggle to finish. In some ways, though, I am glad to have read it. There is sufficient resolution in this story for the Frost and Doyle fans, fans who are wondering about Merry’s pregnancy and so forth, to read this entry in the series and not need to go forward. C-