Shelf Control #143: Secrets of the Sea House by Elisabeth Gifford

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Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

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Title: Secrets of the Sea House
Author: Elisabeth Gifford
Published: 2013
Length: 303 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

In 1860, Alexander Ferguson, a newly ordained vicar and amateur evolutionary scientist, takes up his new parish, a poor, isolated patch on the remote Scottish island of Harris. He hopes to uncover the truth behind the legend of the selkies—mermaids or seal people who have been sighted off the north of Scotland for centuries. He has a more personal motive, too; family legend states that Alexander is descended from seal men. As he struggles to be the good pastor he was called to be, his maid Moira faces the terrible eviction of her family by Lord Marstone, whose family owns the island. Their time on the island will irrevocably change the course of both their lives, but the white house on the edge of the dunes keeps its silence long after they are gone.

It will be more than a century before the Sea House reluctantly gives up its secrets. Ruth and Michael buy the grand but dilapidated building and begin to turn it into a home for the family they hope to have. Their dreams are marred by a shocking discovery. The tiny bones of a baby are buried beneath the house; the child’s fragile legs are fused together—a mermaid child. Who buried the bones? And why? To heal her own demons, Ruth feels she must discover the secrets of her new home—but the answers to her questions may lie in her own traumatic past. The Sea House by Elisabeth Gifford is a sweeping tale of hope and redemption and a study of how we heal ourselves by discovering our histories.

How and when I got it:

I bought a copy several years ago, after hearing recommendations from book group friends.

Why I want to read it:

Okay, a) Scotland! But b) it just sounds like a good story, with a dual timeline, the myth of the selkies, and family secrets. I’ve heard really good things about this author, but haven’t read any of her work. Have you?

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  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
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Take a Peek Review: Ocean’s Edge by Denise Townsend

I don’t usually review erotica… and I tend to avoid like the plague book covers featuring chiseled male chests or artfully draped semi-clad torsos. You know the ones I’m talking about.

But I’m willing to make an exception for the works of Denise Townsend — Denise Townsend being the erotica-writing alter ego of one of my very favorite urban fantasy authors (whose more mainstream works still feature scorching hot sexytimes).

So when I saw NetGalley featuring an ARC of Ocean’s Edge by Denise Townsend, I jumped on it.

Here’s  what you need to know about her Ocean stories — Ocean’s Touch, Ocean’s Surrender, and now Ocean’s Edge:

Each features a strong woman, recovering from pain or trauma in her past. Each also features a selkie, a super sexy magical being from the sea who appears on the beach as a smoking hot male who wants nothing more in life than to help the main character find her way back to health and happiness. And each involves some majorly hot and heavy action.

In Ocean’s Edge, the main character Rachel is a rape survivor who’s retreated into a shell, but is slowly regaining her confidence through her devotion to martial arts training. When she meets the selkie Conleth, she learns to reclaim her own sexuality, and with Con’s loving guidance, is able to turn to Jake, who runs the dojo where she trains. Between (and I mean literally between) Con and Jake, Rachel is given the support she needs to move past her attack, work with the police to track down her assailant, and start building a future that includes a healthy self-image and the love of a good man.

What I enjoy so much about these books is the strength of the women. Rachel is not a victim. She’s been through a terrible ordeal, but it’s her own inner core of strength and determination that enables her to survive and thrive. Denise Townsend’s main characters are not damsels in distress; they’re women who save themselves. The love interests are there for them when they triumph, but not to triumph on their behalf. These are women who fight their own battles, and also know what it takes to pursue the passion and pleasure that they deserve.

Plus, okay, these books are hot. And explicit. And steamy. And… yeah, hot. And hey: Selkies. If all of this appeals to you, then definitely check out Denise Townsend’s books. You can thank me later.

Book Review: Ocean’s Surrender by Denise Townsend

Book Review: Ocean’s Surrender by Denise Townsend

Is it hot in here?

Or could it be the hot and heavy Ocean’s Surrender that’s generating enough steam to curl my hair?

Following up on her first selkie/human erotic love story, Ocean’s Touch, Denise Townsend gives us another story of love, sexual awakening, female empowerment… and plenty of selkie sexy times.

In Ocean’s Surrender, main character River is damaged, hurting, and afraid to open her heart. After suffering horrific abuse at the hands of a former boyfriend, River shuts herself off from the possibility of loving again, focusing all her energy on caring for her sweet, developmentally disabled brother Jason. Fen is a selkie – a magical creature of the sea who can assume human form (gorgeous human form, I might add) — whose empathic powers hear the call of River’s suffering and draw him toward her. Fen’s mission is to open River’s heart again by helping her past the pain, guilt, and self-blame that have been tormenting her.

With Fen’s guidance, River comes to realize that she’s not at fault for the terrible events in her past, and learns to trust herself enough to start trusting others, including the very hot and sexy paramedic who has been in love with her for the past year.

Denise Townsend, in Ocean’s Surrender and its predecessor, has created a story that is compelling and well-told, with pathos and humor. At the same time, she includes very graphic sex scenes that not only make sense in terms of the overall plot, but are in fact key to crucial elements of the plot development.

It’s through River’s sexual experiences with Fen that she begins to heal, and from that healing arrives at a place where she can reclaim her own sexuality and ability to love. Those encounters and the resulting changes in River are what allow her, finally, to reach out to the man who loves her and to start rebuilding a full and complete life again.

And those sex scenes! You know how in old Hollywood movies, whenever the romance would start getting a little hot, the camera would pan away to a candle, a curtain, or some other inanimate object? That definitely doesn’t happen here. No pans, no slow-fades. The sex scenes are honest and raw, body parts are named (“c-words” galore!), and the action is explicit without ever being gross. There’s a joy here in the characters’ sexual discovery and exploration; yes, it’s steamy, but it’s also quite lovely.

Overall, I’d describe Ocean’s Surrender as a beautifully written erotic love story, with just the right mix of a meaningful storyline, magical fantasy elements, and really terrific erotic scenes. Creative, sexy, and fun, this one is a winner.

Note: With grateful appreciation to the author for providing me with an ARC to review.