Dear Ms Cach,
While this isn’t one of my favorites, I still enjoyed it. I remember it being a departure from the other books you had published then by virtue of it having no paranormal elements, despite the title. However, as several reviews stated, a reader does need to suspend a little belief in order to completely buy into the story.
Konstanza Bugg fled to the coast of Cornwall after two years of marriage to a much older man her dying mother had begged her to marry. John Bugg has turned out to be a thoroughly vile and disgusting man with perverted tastes who’s latest sexual trick to try is tying Konstanza up and using his riding crop on her. Well, enough is enough and Konstanza flees with her maid Hilde to a recently inherited cottage in distant Cornwall. There she tries to live simply and keep a low profile.
Unfortunately, Konstanza is seen one day while taking a swim and exercising the lovely voice she inherited from her opera singing mother. The local excise man, portrayed as more than a little gullible, has seen what he thinks is a real mermaid and begins to boast of it in the local pub. Tom Trewella, in league with the local smugglers who depend on not getting caught bringing in their illegal cargo, hatches a plan. He’ll pay Konstanza to dress and sing as a mermaid, thus diverting the customs agents and allowing the smuggling upon which the entire area depends, to continue. Needing the money, Konstanza reluctantly agrees.
And so begins the village’s effort to hoodwink the customs men, Tom and Konstanza’s romance and Hilde’s pursuit of a husband. But Konstanza’s past is about to catch up with her in the person of John Bugg’s equally vile son who has discovered that Konstanza stands to inherit all his father’s money.
This is a fun book up til the last few chapters then we get a lovely view of the early 19th C British justice system at work. Blech. I thougth the funniest part was the heroine’s lusty Austrian maid, Hilde, who set out to catch herself a husband and bagged him like a hunted animal. I loved this conversation between the hunted man, Matt, and his friend the hero, Tom.
Matt: “Why do you think she makes me so nervous? It’s not the giving in that is so troubling as what might happen afterward. I am somehow certain that should I give her what she wants, I shall never be free of her. I can see myself an old man, still being shaken awake in the middle of the night so that she might have her way with me. She is the type of creature whose hunger is never sated, who will drain a man dry til he is nothing but an empty shell, devoid of ambition or energy. She is an animal.”
Tom: “You say that with a little too much enthusiasm.”
Matt rubbed his forehead and sighed, “I know.”