The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats

Cecily is a spoiled brat who bats her eyes at Daddy to get her what she wants. So she’s none too pleased when he accepts a job in a bad neighborhood far away from all her best friends. The good news is she’ll have servants to order around. The bad news is they don’t listen very well, especially Gwinny, a local girl with a snotty attitude who’s been hired to sweep the floors and help out in the kitchen. If Cecily has her way, she will teach Gwinny some manners if it’s the last thing she does. But what Cecily doesn’t understand is that she may not have the upper hand for long. Because this is no 90210 high school catfight between Brenda and Kelly. This is 1293 Wales, where the English have seized uneasy control of the Welsh people. Cecily is English. Gwinny is Welsh. Corrupt English businessmen like Cecily’s father are taking advantage of the Welsh’s vulnerable position by taxing them until they are literally starving in the streets. The Welsh people have nothing left to lose, and rebellion is in the air. What will happen to these two young women from opposite sides of the moat if English rule is toppled? There is no love lost between them. But maybe in the midst of chaos they will find a way to show each other a bit of grace. This fabulous hist. fic. showcases a time and place I’ll bet you know very little about, and Cecily and Gwinny’s wonderfully wrought first person voices will no doubt inspire you to dig up more. I was bowled over by the detailed and often humorous writing, and it is the first medieval fiction I’ve read in recent history that could give a little award winner titled Catherine Called Birdy a run for it’s money. A bone-cracking good read with enough blood, battles and hair pulling to intrigue even the biggest hist. fic. haters among you.

Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama

In 1872, a swoony nature boy falls for a winsome water girl–who just happens to have a dolphin’s tail. Though they long to be together, they are separated by their deeply different circumstances and mobility issues. Then the winsome water girl comes up with a particularly gruesome solution to their problem, and for a while they are happy. But nothing’s ever easy when love’s involved and the former mermaid realizes that to live in the naturalist’s world, she must make the greatest sacrifice of all (and no, it’s not the loss of her tail). Flash forward 140 years. Seventeen year old Hester, professional Pilgrim impersonator and all around history geek, meets a gorgeous sad man named Ezra on the beach. She is immediately drawn to him, despite the fact that she has sworn off love forever. Because in Hester’s family, the mothers always die after the birth of their first daughter. Hester is determined that fate won’t be hers, so she avoids all relationships that may lead to romance. But this man is different, and Hester can’t deny the way he makes her feel. She is even able to ignore the fact that he lives in a cave, his old fashioned clothes never change and he can’t seem to leave the beach. Who or what is Ezra? Why does Hester feel like she has known him forever? And how is their instant bond related to the swoony nature boy and winsome water girl of long ago? Once Hester has all the pieces to this historical puzzle, she just might be able to solve the deadly mystery of the dying mothers.

I have to say that I normally bypass anything that smacks of cross species/supernatural kissing. With a few exceptions, I have mostly had it up to here with paranormal romance. But this book not only rocked my little reading boat, it blew me out of the genre water and any other ocean related expression you can think of. By linking together mythology, history and genealogy in a thoroughly entertaining (and wee bit gory) way and inventively reinterpreting The Little Mermaid (this ain’t no redheaded Disney movie, y’all) for a new generation, Elizabeth Fama has successfully escaped the curse of the tired old “girl/boy-falls-for-vampire/werewolf/fallen angel/zombie” formula.