by Amber Garr

A staple of romance fiction is the “arranged marriage”  – often set up without the consent of at least one of the parties – and usually involves the female being forced/required to marry:

  • Her mortal enemy
  • A much older man who is usually quite well off, financially
  • The village idiot
  • All of the above

The female responds to her impending doom by running off with:

  • Her one true love
  • A boy from the wrong side of the tracks
  • The village idiot
  • None of the above

In Amber Garr’s romance thriller, Promises, we meet Eviana, a 17 – going on 18 – year old mermaid who has been put in this predicament . . . but with a twist. In Eviana’s case,

  • Kain, the man to whom she has been promised since childhood is close to her age
  • He is quite attractive and quite the catch
  • His family is very well off  but then, so is Eviana’s
  • He genuinely loves Eviana though she thinks that he deserves someone much better
  • Eviana is in love with a Selkie named Brendan who is about three years older and works as a bartender

There are a few more facts upon which this tale – and indeed the whole series – revolves around:

  • Both Eviana and Kain are next in line to be the leaders of their respective families, a fate that does not appeal to Eviana
  • Arranged marriages are common within their species as the number of merfolk in the world is quite small
  • Eviana and Kain are expected to both lead and breed
  • Selkies, on the other hand, can only mate with humans and then they hang around only long enough for the pup to be born. The child is then kidnapped by the Selkie parent and raised on their own until the age of 16 when the now adolescent Selkie is shown the door.
  • Eviana – as well as Kain – is catapulted in to the adult world of merfolk without quite all the information that necessary to function in this new environment

 Promises deals with the consequences of such actions made both for and by the characters. Eviana has been promised to Kain for years and while Kain is looking forward to becoming her husband and mate, she only has eyes for Brendan. Kain will bend over backwards for Eviana and though the thought pains him, he promises her that she can still see Brendan after they tie the knot. Brendan has promised Eviana that he will take her away from all this and Eviana has promised Brendan that she will go with him.

And so it goes. Kain is left at the alter in California when Brendan and Eviana flee to the East Coast the night before the wedding where they hope to start a life together. Of course, things don’t go quite as planned for the runaway couple. In fact, things go seriously wrong for them several weeks into the venture and rapidly go downhill from there, shifting from romantic intrigue to action,terror and danger. Along the way, Eviana discovers that there are other beings in the water besides merfolk and selkies; Beings that will impact her future.

Promises is a book that cannot be compartmentalized. In other words, it is not a stand-alone novel in the way that the books of a number of other series are.  It relies on the subsequent books in the series to give it meaning; Not that this is a bad thing. Instead, it leaves the reader wanting to know what comes next as the opening book in any series should do.

In books like Promises, there is always a certain amount of magic. Indeed you can’t have mermaids without a bit of magic, but how much there may be after crossing that threshold is up for grabs. Magic should be used to expand the story and make it both interesting and exciting. All too often, the magic is used as a crutch to aid a limping plot line. Fortunately, Ms Garr has not done this in Promises. The story line of this novel would not exist at all without some judicious doses of magic along the way. Magic is what makes Promises believable . . . or as believable as any Young Adult fantasy novel can be.

While there is nothing  in the story that is unfriendly to young adult readers, the action scenes can be a bit intense and violent. For that reason, this reviewer feels that Promises is more suited to older YA’s. The only concrete criticism that this reviewer has is that the Kindle edition of this YA novel wants for a bit of proof-reading. While I have run across other examples of YA fiction whose grammatical and syntactical sins are beyond measure, the fact that there are mis-used words at all  detracts from the experience and pleasure of reading. Despite this short-coming, Amber Garr has created a real thriller that leaves the reader eager for the next installment.

My Rating:

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