Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Mermaid

The title: The Mermaid
The author: Betina Krahn
Publication: Bantam, 1997
Got it from: Sony Reader Store

Before I begin this dolphin, I just have to say dolphins.  As I was reading this dolphin, I thought - wow, dolphin.  There are not enough dolphins in dolphins.  The world just does not dolphin enough dolphins.  Because dolphins.

Seriously, though.  They are adorableAnyone who does not love dolphins should be beaten with dorsal fins and pushed out to sea on a leaky boat.

Betina Krahn is quickly becoming one of my favourite romance writers.  Last year I read and enjoyed a whole bunch of critically-acclaimed romances by critcally-acclaimed authors, but it was Sweet Talking Man I loved and remembered the most.   And I just can't understand why she's not more popular.  She has a knack for writing great historical heroines with fantastic careers and feminist plots.

The Mermaid centres around Celeste Ashton, a young Victorian woman who lives on England's south shore and who has written a book about dolphin behaviour that is waaaayyy ahead of its time.  In it, she purports that dolphins are not only intelligent, they also speak their own language and have complex social interactions that rival those of humans.  Her book becomes a bestseller, not because of its scientific content, but because people are fascinated by dolphin sex and because Celeste is young and beautiful and how dare she write about such shocking subjects?  Celeste becomes the (unwitting) notorious toast of England and earns the nickname The Lady Mermaid.

Of course all the male scientists pooh-pooh her research.  When Celeste tries to defend herself at a lecture, they basically jeer at her and humiliate her.  Enter stick-in-the mud ichthyolgist professor Titus Thorne, who is called upon to discredit her work.  Yes, our hero studies fish guts for a living.  And it's frigging awesome.  Anyway, Titus has to go down to Celeste's home on the coast in order to watch her in action.  A number of problems arise:

1. Titus is deathly afraid of water.
2. Celeste's grandmother is slightly loonie and she and her friends are part of a society who think they can bring back the lost city of Atlantis with mystical chanting and rituals.  They also want to mate Titus and Celeste.
3. There's a nefarious villain who wants to steal Celeste's dolphins.
4.  Celeste keeps stripping down to get in the water with the dolphins, which is totally improper but HOT.

And of course, there's lots of dolphins in this.  And they are ridiculously adorable.

What I love about this book is that there is a lot of triumphing of reason over superstition, and it's led by the heroine.  Titus, as a scientist, has to learn to let go of his skepticism about dolphin behaviour in the face of the evidence in front of him.  And just as the hero in Sweet Talking Man has a feminist epiphany when he comes to respect the heroine's business savvy, Titus also does a complete about-face in his thinking about women by the end of the book.  In one scene, he walks through the streets of London and observes the women around him, admitting that it is unlikely all of them "have defective brains."  It's a nice feminist moment in a book about trusting the evidence of the natural world.  And it's just a sweet story.

Betina Krahn - I must read more of your books.

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