Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Coming Up for Air by Amanda Meuwissen

It’s not easy being someone’s fairy tale.

Leigh Hurley is making a name for himself among thieves and criminals, even if it isn’t the life he would’ve chosen. He shouldn’t have screwed over the Moretti brothers, though. It landed him in the river with weights on his feet. But somehow he’s escaped certain death. The last thing he remembers before waking on the riverbank is a beautiful face and a soft kiss.

Then, Tolomeo turns up naked at Leigh’s apartment.

Tolly comes from a race of killers—merfolk who drown humans for fun. But Tolly is different, and when he sees a human in trouble, he offers a kiss, granting the man the ability to breathe underwater… and himself the ability to walk on land, at least until the next full moon. The ancient laws state that if he is given a vow of love by the one he kissed, he will be able to keep his legs. If not, he will be put to death when he returns to the water.

But love is not something Leigh offers easily… and Tolly has a secret of his own.

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Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

I’m hesitant to characterize Coming Up for Air as a modern-day fairy tale because that would seem to suggest that it’s a m/m take on The Little Mermaid, which it is so not – at least not the version many of us grew up with. Meuwissen may or may not have been inspired by the fairy tale, but she brings enough twists to the story that no one would ever mistake Tolly for a Disney Princess or Leigh for a Disney Prince.

Meuwissen’s merpeople are the stuff of nightmares – violent and homicidal creatures who kill both humans and their own kind for perceived transgressions, including children. Unlike most of his kind, Tolly prefers not to kill unless necessary and is fascinated by humans, so the lure of a human dumped into his “home” is more than he can resist. Tolly feels compelled to save Leigh and is stunned to discover that the human is his mate. Consistent with the fairy tale, Tolly gives up his tale for legs so that he can try to win the love of his human mate within a specified time or suffer the consequences if he fails in his quest (remember, these merfolk are violent, so the consequences are dire). Unfortunately for Tolly, Leigh’s past is littered with broken promises and hurts that have made him a non-believer when it comes to love. And Leigh’s present is filled with death threats and explosions and mob bosses, oh my. None of which bode well for a future together.

I loved how Meuwissen took the traditional elements of the merperson falling in love with a human theme and combined them with the dueling mafia families to create a far more suspenseful story than I anticipated. I also liked how Leigh’s duties as the building’s unofficial super painted the picture of a young man who was a better person than he pretended to be. I’ll admit I was surprised at just how well the mafia elements worked in the story and even took pleasure when a couple of the bad guys got what was coming to them when Tolly’s instincts to protect Leigh were triggered. It seems weird for me to say about a fantasy romance, but Coming Up for Air felt believable – I mean, I found myself falling into Tolly and Leigh’s world and just nodding and/or shaking my head at the various situations they found themselves in and their subsequent reactions. Even when Tolly had to face down some of the more homicidal of his kind, I was so invested in the story that I had to put my Kindle down for fear of what was going to happen, yet snatched it back up almost immediately because not knowing was more suspense than I could handle. And that ending… so perfect for all involved, especially as the author had me wondering for more than a few pages if I’d misjudged where the story was headed. While I found no indication that this is the first in a series, I would be all over a sequel because I’d love to spend more time with Tolly, Leigh, and their motley crew.

3.5 stars

This is the story of a mermaid who falls in love with the man he rescues from drowning. It’s also a complicated story of rival crime gangs in a crumbling neighbourhood. I have to admit that I requested this book because of the pretty cover and the organised crime element of the mermaid romance was surprising. And while I liked the action in this book, I was more into the mermaid stuff than the crime thriller.

The merfolk in this book owe more to Homer than Disney. At one point, Tolly acknowledges that the mermaids he knows are more like the sirens who lure sailors to their deaths for fun than the beautiful creatures we usually imagine. I like the dark twist on the fairy tale and I love the PNR worldbuilding in this story. Tolly himself is a fascinating mix of light and dark. He’s slight and beautiful until he’s the monster from our nightmares. I really enjoyed the complexity of his character.

Leigh isn’t quite as interesting as Tolly. Trapped in a life of crime, Leigh is desperate to get out, but he can’t see a way to go straight. I liked his careful scheming and planning, but I didn’t feel much of a connection to him.

The romance between Tolly and Leigh doesn’t work very well for me. It feels more convenient than fated at times and I’m really not sure what the two men have in common. There’s also not much romance as these two dodge bullets and try to outsmart the crime lords. There’s a definite sexual connection between them but I don’t feel the romance.

Finally, the writing in this story really made my head spin. Dialogue is choppy and unnatural. Descriptions are unnecessarily flowery and sometimes pointless. Did Leigh really need to point out that his mermaid boyfriend is a good swimmer? I liked the story in this book, but I really didn’t get on with the writing at all. This might be a personal preference, but I’d encourage readers to download a sample before purchasing this book.

AMANDA MEUWISSEN is a primarily gay romance writer, as well as Marketing Operations Manager for the software company Outsell. She has a Bachelor of Arts in a personally designed major from St. Olaf College in Creative Writing, and is an avid consumer of fiction through film, prose, and video games. As author of the paranormal romance trilogy The Incubus Saga, young adult novel Life as a Teenage Vampire, the novelette The Collector, and superhero duology Lovesick Gods and Lovesick Titans, Amanda regularly attends local comic conventions for fun and to meet with fans, where she will often be seen in costume as one of her favorite fictional characters. She lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with her husband, John, and their two cats, Helga and Sasha (no relation to the incubus of the same name).

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Coming Up for Air by Amanda Meuwissen to read and review.

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