A Merman's Choice
Sea of Love Book 1
by Alice Renaud Genre: Fantasy Romance
For centuries the shape-shifting mermen of the Morvann Islands have lived incognito among humans. But one of them, Yann, has developed some bad habits. Like rescuing humans, even when doing so risks revealing his true nature. When he fishes Alex out of the sea, he doesn’t expect her to reappear eight months later, and turn his life upside down by asking him to be her guide.
Alex is determined to fulfil a promise to her dying grandmother, by gathering pictures and stories of the Morvanns. But she soon discovers that, on these remote Welsh islands, legends have a habit of becoming true!
Over the course of a few days, Yann and Alex grow close. But some mermen hate humans. Their hostility, and Yann’s secret, threaten to tear the couple apart just as they are discovering that they are soul mates. Can Yann overcome the obstacles in his path and make the right choice?
The girl wasn’t swimming any more. Yann’s sonar gave him a clear picture of her distress. She was flailing. Sinking.
Fear punched him between the ribs. Just a few minutes earlier, she’d been splashing in the shallows, laughing and humming to herself. That music had rippled around him, brightening his journey. Now the sea was snuffing that light out. No! He wouldn’t let it happen. His webbed hands and feet churned the water, and he shot towards her like a torpedo. Not this one, sea. Not this time.
She came in sight, slim and lovely, with long bronzed limbs and hair the colour of sunshine. But her eyes were closed, her movements slow, hesitant, as if she were falling asleep. His fear hardened into cold, sharp dread. He poured all his energy into the last powerful strokes. He’d almost reached her, when his eye caught the shadow, beyond the crystal surface, out there in the dry world. He sent a sound wave. It came back with an image, and the icy blade inside him twisted: two-legged shapes on the beach. Humans!
If they saw him, they’d know him for what he was. His people’s secret, kept for thousands of years, would be out.
The girl’s head vanished under the waves. To hell with that. He couldn’t let her drown.
He grabbed her and dragged her back to the surface. She thrashed in his arms and coughed up seawater. Intense relief swept through him as he hugged her to his chest. He’d sworn he’d never again swim by and let a human drown, and he’d kept his promise. If the young woman’s eyes remained closed, he might even get away with it. He wanted her to breathe, not scream in horror at the sight of his dark grey face.
He looked up. The shapes on the beach had gone. Another miracle, or perhaps he’d only imagined them. What if they came back? A fresh stab of anxiety propelled him through the surf. He lay the girl down on the sand, cushioning her head on his arm. Her round breasts, encased in the turquoise bikini top, rose and fell in a regular rhythm, but her skin felt clammy under his hands. He scanned the beach in vain for something to cover her with, and saw the motorbike. A sleek, sporty number, well camouflaged among the grass-covered dunes. Shit. He retracted the webs between his fingers and toes, but his body would take at least twenty minutes to shift from the aquatic shape to the human form. And even when it did, what would the humans think, if they found him naked next to an unconscious girl?
They’d arrest him for indecent exposure, or worse. He touched the girl’s face with a tentative finger. The thought of leaving her sickened him. But he couldn’t stay.
Her eyelids fluttered and she muttered a name. “Boris?”
As if in answer, a male voice tore through the air, from behind the dunes. “Alex!”
Yann flew towards the waves. Help was coming for the girl. She’d be fine.
He sped into the open sea, leaving the human world and human fears behind. He’d saved her. That knowledge glowed inside him as he plunged into the depths. She was safe, and his people would remain safe too. He sang as he rode the riptide, a song full of triumph and laughter. Far away, the humpback whales heard him and picked up the tune. He’d got away with it.
For now. His euphoria abated. No humans had seen him, but his people had sharper eyes and ears. He shouldn’t even have been hanging around, in full merman shape, so close to an inhabited island, but he’d thought he’d be OK. In late September so few tourists were around, and locals had better things to do than go swimming in cold water. He sniffed the current, tuned his sonar towards the Clans’ Islands. Nothing. With luck, no one would notice that he’d broken the merpeople’s rules.
I was born and brought up in Brittany, Western France, my father was French and my mother British (from Wales). I moved to London, UK, in 1997, where I now live with my husband and son. I have been writing since I was 14. I got quite a few short stories published in UK magazines, before moving to longer fiction. I wrote three contemporary romance books, but didn't find a publisher for them. I then realized that mermen, sea witches and water demons were a lot more fun than sheikhs and billionaires! My first two paranormal romances did not find a publisher either, then I wrote A Merman's Choice, which was accepted for publication this year by Black Velvet Seductions. It is the first book in a fantasy romance trilogy inspired by the landscapes and legends of Brittany and Wales. I love reading and writing stories, and sharing them with anyone who's interested!
Where were you born/grew up at?
I was born and grew up in one of the most beautiful places in the world (no, seriously, people come from far away just to see it). On the northern coast of Brittany, in Western France, near a town called St-Malo, famous for its pirates and privateers. The seascape, the cliffs, coves, beaches and stone houses inspired my fantasy romance trilogy “Sea of Love”. I feel that landscape has seeped inside me. When I die, if they do an autopsy, they’ll find seashells and sand in my heart.
Do you have a favorite movie?
Casablanca. The romance! The noble sacrifice! The two men walking away into the desert, bereft of love but with their new, beautiful friendship! AAAaaaaah.
What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
I visited the area, near the UK city of Birmingham, where JRR Tolkien grew up. He spent his early childhood in an idyllic rural village, and we saw an old mill, by a river, which clearly inspired the descriptions of the Shire. Later Tolkien moved to an industrialized area of the city, and when we saw the two tall towers that once belched out black fumes, we understood straight away where the idea for the Two Towers came from. It was fascinating to see how landscapes and buildings can find their way into a book, transformed into wonderful, evocative locations.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal? A blue tit. They’re lively, colourful, smart, and they can eat upside down, which I think would be a really cool thing to do.
What inspired you to write this book? Years ago, when I was still living with my parents in Brittany, I saw a group of men come out of the sea. They’d been swimming, and they were wearing full-body wetsuits, with palms on their feet. It made me imagine shape-shifting mermen who could switch between an aquatic shape (with legs but webbed hands and feet) and the human form.
What can we expect from you in the future? A Merman’s Choice is the first book in a trilogy about shape-shifting mermen. I am currently editing the second book in the series, “Music for a Merman”, and have just started writing the third book, “Mermaids Marry in Green”. I have also written the outline for a Christmas novella, “Santa and the Mermaid”, to complete the series.
I also have an idea for another series after that, about sea witches. There’s plenty more of that stuff where it came from!
Do you have any “side stories” about the characters? I had a dream about the heroine, Alex, being attacked by an aquatic vampire. Only, it turned out he was actually rescuing her! This gave me the idea for the beginning of the book, where Yann saves Alex from drowning. I couldn’t make the aquatic vampire thing work in this series, but I’m sure I can fit them in in another series!
How long have you been writing? Since I was 14, which is a long time ago. I got short stories published in magazines, but A Merman’s Choice is my first published book.
What kind of research do you do before you begin writing a book? I research the characters’ names, as the first two books in the series are set in Wales, I look up Welsh names and their meaning. I also research the stuff that the characters do, that I’m not familiar with. In “A Merman’s Choice”, the characters spend a lot of time on boats, so I did some research on the web on how to sail a small boat. My father used to take me out on his boat, Gwilan, when I was young, but I never learnt to sail, so I had to make sure that the characters looked like they knew what they were doing.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want? I started off by trying to write what I thought would sell – contemporary romance, Harlequin style. However it didn’t work, I produced three contemporary novellas and didn’t manage to find a publisher for any of them. So one day I thought, what the heck, I’m going to write what I’ve always wanted to write, fantasy. Now my first fantasy romance novella is coming out with Black Velvet Seductions. I genuinely don’t want to write anything other than paranormal/fantasy at the moment, it’s where my heart is. Now I don’t try to be original, and I don’t try to deliver what readers might want either. I have these stories in my head, and I try to make them as good as possible when I write them down, in the hope that someone other than me will enjoy them!
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
For goodness’ sake, woman, take some writing classes. And find some critique partners. You’ve got good ideas, but your writing skills need an upgrade!
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