[...] 'it's the truth.' I glared at him. 'You wanted to kiss me just as much as I wanted to kiss you.' His eyes dropped back to my mouth and I felt the fire in my stomach rekindle. 'That's not the point.' My words were breathless and I frowned, realizing that I had agreed to what he said. Half a conversation later he hopped onto the bottom rung of the ladder so he was pressed against my back. [...] His long, hard body pressed against mine was giving me ideas I didn't need.
**** If you read this review, you will encounter spoilers ****
Apart from a few things that could have been improved by thorough proof-reading or an impartial editor - see, for example the repetition in the quote at the beginning - the two stars above mainly reflect a picture-book case of It isn't the book. It's me. I say this with conviction because I can actually think of a proper handful of friends I would recommend the self-published new adult - I would rather say young adult, but it will be discussed later on - mermaid romance to without hesitation. (Tina, Jess, Jessica, Crystal, Alexa, Arlene, Amber and Nic: I am looking at you.)
'Flukes' is a modern teenage mermaid fairytale that is mainly focused on sexual encounters. After outlining shortly what I did like about it, I will try to elaborate on the things that unfortunately clashed with my peculiar expectations of a paranormal romance, a new adult/young adult love story or a story which is worth to spend time reading in general. Hopefully you can decide afterwards if your taste leans towards being hard to please by the current outcrop of easy-to-consume-romantic-fiction in the same degree as mine or if you should reconsider your probable earlier idea to give 'Flukes' a miss.
Although 'Flukes' takes place at a aqua zoo in the Caribbean with a private beach attached to it, the beginning had a strongly fairytale-like flavor, which I appealed to me: Ben and Marion, who run an aquatic refuge center, which is later to become 'Flukes', sort through the debris flung about by a huge coastal storm and discover a mermaid baby protected by a couple of hurt dolphins. Because they had - like the king and queen of ancient myths - tragically not given birth to a child of their own, they fall in love with the helpless creature and keep her. Marion and Ben are nice parents, which is pretty unusual in YA - probably to balance this out the hero has an extra-cold piece of shit as a dad - and quite refreshing. Apart from the strange trust they have in Blake, one of the boys who are convicted to do community-service hours at their facility There was something honorable about Blake, even if he was a bad boy. [...] 'Why did you beat up that guy?' 'You don't need to know.' His eyes grew hard the way the last time I asked., they are a pretty normal set indeed.
In contrast to all those YA mermaid novels in which the teenaged heroine, who has been forcefully kept ignorant / out of the water / away from the ocean all her life, is suddenly surprised by her own behavior or her scaly lower body, Meena knows what she is and is more or less comfortable with her tail. Certainly there is the fear to be caught as well as a general unease, because no other species members are around to talk her through the specifics of mermaid biology and culture. She has been raised like a human, but she thinks she cannot leave her home or indulge in a normal relationship, because she gets physically ill, if she doesn't immerse herself in oceanic water about once a day. The solution is so ridiculously easy, though, that one cannot fail to wonder why Meena and her parents did not at least consider trying it out before two mermaids passing the town during their traditional 'swim-about' (Established to facilitate finding the mate for life a mermaid is meant to bond to - should you wonder) suggest it.
All in all I liked Meena, who is able to telepathically converse with sea mammals. She has strange taste in men, obviously, but she is not completely speechless or demure and she manages to have the upper hand now and then. Her being different as an excuse for her chaste youth sounded pretty set up to me, though. Her relationship to her best friend Violet- who is about to depart to the college she wants to attend on Hawaii - was rather sweet. The scenes involving the dolphins Mitch and Jallia held a certain cuteness, too.
Well, these were all the aspects responsible for the additional star in my enjoyment-based rating. Let us by and by focus on what the book had to offer on top of that but what I failed to appreciate in a proper way:
It is not the book's fault that I do not like reformed bad boys and slimy jerks who taunt inexperienced, shy girls and cross lines in the holy name of sexiness. Boys who won't take a No for a No, because they 'read' the female body language, which infallibly broadcasts to them that she secretly wants the advances / the fumbling / the excitement / the unknown in spite of her feeble or furious protests. Other readers love them.
It's not the book's fault that a minor who reached his praised state of sexual finesse and cocky self-confidence by being literally whored out by his financially successful dad to his clients' daughters or female associates creeps me rather out instead of turning me on. Other readers feel the hotness.
It's not the book's fault that a french mother and some randomly whispered sweet nothings about dreams and lips and beauty in French What is the reason for speaking in a foreign language to someone who does not understand it, huh?! do not activate my wobbly-knees-mode as required. Other readers melt.
It's not the book's fault that I just cannot take another young hero who accidentally swims in his own money, can promise his present arm candy to show her the world and more, shove diamonds on her fingers and buy for her crumbling family business a better corporate design / building / website without noticing the dent in his purse and is able to interrupt his plans for his education in order to accommodate his newly found bliss with his geographically-challenged love. Other readers know 'Solvent is sexy'.
It's not the book's fault that I abhor books that include magically evoked shackles that lead to eternal 'love' a.k.a. the need to stay next to each other forever, unbreakable co-dependence and an excuse for teenage couples to play house, talk of marriage and kids. I criticized a comparable concept in the also self-published mermaid novel 'Everblue' and I felt sick seeing it used in 'Flukes' - although I should mention that the heroine does fret and apologize for unknowingly having reduced the hero to permanently craving her and her only. Other readers wish those tattoos swirled around their own wrists.
It's not the book's fault that I still expect the heroines and heroes of a New Adult Romance to have started a phase that is different from their former lives at their parents' houses. That I want them to be at least at college - preferably not just entering it - or even better trying to survive their first real job, their first real flatmate or their first real attempt at shacking in with a boyfriend. Meena has just finished High School and plans to stay at home to work at her parents' zoo. Her experience and her frame of mind could also be those of a cute and naive freshman. I do not understand why 'Flukes' is not being marketed as what is is: A paranormal YA romance 'enhanced' with cotton-candy-flavored sex that has the heroine reaching her 'finish-line' right along her lover's during her very first time and that requires a condom only before the couple knows that they are mated for life. If the cover had said 'Proud to Present Teenagers as Sexual Beings" I would have applauded and ordered a bumper sticker, honestly. Other readers want their Young Adult literature 'clean'.
It is not the book's fault that the piece of evil evil that eventually befalls the heroine in and out of the water did not convince me as fitting the storyline smoothly. Picky me just cannot accept a fine chunk of dangerous action as it it, but has to poke and prod and complain and roll her eyes before nibbling at the crust. Other readers need to see there are bad boys and really, really bad boys in this world.
I close this perusal with a quote that made me gag but others swoon: And that kiss ... it had made me think about skipping the beach and taking her straight back to my bed. But she wasn't the kind of girl you screw real quick. Meena was meant to be savored [...] Have you decided on which side of the fence you sit? Gag or swoon? Everything is possible. Take your time and consider.