Dear Ms. Kantra:
Sea Witch is a departure from the paranormals that I prefer. It’s the real world with a paranormal aspect instead of fully developed alternate reality. This type of paranormal is usually not my favorite but really worked in this situation. I’ve not read a lot of Kantra books. I think the last one I read was Mad Dog and Annie, a Silhouette Intimate Moments. I’m certainly on board for more Kantra’s, though, after reading this one.
The heroine, Margred, is a selkie whose love for the sea is greater than all else. Her husband was taken from her years ago; but while she misses him selkies, by their nature, are very solitary. Her only need is one of physical companionship and this drives her from the water to a small island community. “Your island is between the Arctic current and the Gulf Stream, like . . . a convenient resting place for anyone making the ocean crossing.” Margred informs the hero, Caleb, at one point in the story.
Caleb Hunter is the police chief of World’s End. He’s taken the job to gain a measure of peace after a miserable tour of duty in Iraq and a number of years serving on the Major Crime Division in Portland. He grew up in World’s End and isn’t sorry to have returned. His life seems to take an uptick when he spots the beautiful and barely clad Margred on the beach after he finished rousting some underaged drinkers.
Margred has come to the island for one thing — physical release. Caleb resists initially but her open invitation “I walk on the beach in the evening. . . Come find me sometime when you are not on duty” is a siren call that he can’t ignore. They pleasure each other for hours and Caleb watches her walk off believing that they’ll meet again only she doesn’t return. Frustrated, embarrassed, a little angry, he tries to forget the encounter but finds himself back at the beach looking for her.
But Margred is a selkie. She does not need, nor want, constant companionship. However, memories of Caleb and their time together draw her back but once she returns, a demon is waiting for her to steal her pelt and destroy her. Caleb finds her in the midst of the assault and rescues her. Because Margred’s pelt is taken away from her, she cannot return to the sea. Caleb finds a job for her at a local restaurant and tries to investigate the assault.
Margred begins to find pleasure in the human trappings and eventually must face the choice of going back to the sea or staying with Caleb.
If I were to characterize this book, it would be the subtlety of the writing. The characterizations, the backstories, the worldbuilding are deftly intertwined with the story. The reader is allowed the pleasure of discovery by the unwrapping of the details. I found the descriptions to be vivid.
A cloud of scent and steam rolled from the bathroom and enveloped him. Cucumber, melon, apricot, strawberry, mixed and mingled together.
His head swam. Like a fricking bomb had gone off at a farmers’ market.
He cleared his throat. “Maggie?”
“In here.” Her throaty voice purred through the open bathroom door.
Hell, he knew she was in there. Wet. Naked.
Vulnerable, he reminded himself.
“Do you, uh, need anything?”
He related his breath. Okay. He’d seen her naked before. Recently. Just because she sounded like a wet dream and smelled like a whole roll of Lifesavers was no reason to lose his mind or his cool.
Caleb is a great hero. As evidenced by the scene above, he is both human in his desires but principled in his actions. He strives hard to always do the right thing. He’s a man who deserves some pleasure and happiness in his life.
Margred is more prickly but I liked her characterization. It would not have been natural for her to be warm and cuddly and responsive to Caleb’s emotional overtures. Her instinct is toward solitude. Her desire for the water is great. It makes the story more tender, more romantic that Margred would fall in love with Caleb, something a selkie would ordinarily never do. Her initial indifference fits the worldbuilding and it made her emotional transition from viewing Caleb as something inconsenquential to something necessary powerful.
Both sacrifice to be together. Caleb and Margred find that in giving in, allowing yourself to be changed, yields miraculous results. Margred’s changes are greater than Caleb’s but he must learn to trust and have a bit less control. B