Friday, January 23, 2009

Swimming Without a Net, by MaryJanice Davidson

(pb; 2007: second book in The Mermaid Series)

From the back cover:

"It's not normal for a mermaid to hate being in open water, but Fred never claimed to be normal. To visit the undersea realm of Artur, the High Prince, and the rest of the royal merfamily, she has to fin it to the Cayman Islands. Luckily, hunky marine biologist Thomas is along for the swim -- in his custom-made underwater RV. he'll be able to explore where no 'outlander' has gone before and give Fred a place to escape to when the Undersea Folk start getting on her nerves.

"But as Fred tries to fit in with her own kind, she finds herself hooked on both Artur and Thomas, and caught between two factions of merrfolks: those happy with swimming under the radar -- and those who want to bring their existence to the surface. . ."


A year after the screwball shennigans that comprised Sleeping with the Fishes, Frederika Bimm (aka, "Fred") and her friends and family are back. Her best, metropolitan friend Jonas Carrey and her boss, Dr. Barbara Robinson (aka, "Dr. Barb") are still dating and cooing over each other. Prince Artur of the Undersea Folk, hunky and overconfident, as well as Thomas Pearson, also-hunky marine biologist, have been off elsewhere, presumably pursuing their destinies: past-rivals for Fred's affections, they haven't contacted her at all -- something that greatly irritates Fred.

Then two of the Undersea Folk visit Fred, who's also considered a subject of Prince Artur, and tell her she must come to the Cayman Islands, power-base of the royal merfamily...

This second "Fred the Mermaid" novel is more serious in tone; the stakes, plot- and character-wise, are higher this time out. Little of Sleeping's humor is lost, though, as the humor in Net is simply more plot-centric and situational.

The questions (and realities) to be pondered by Fred and the rest of Net's characters: Should the merfolk reveal themselves to humans (aka, "bipeds"), who, in the past, have proven themselves genocidal and earth-destructive? The Air Breathers, younger merfolk, think so. Or should they remain hidden in the sea, relatively safe, as the Tradionalists, merfolk favoring secrecy, wish to do?

Fred has an additional dilemma. With both Thomas Peason and Prince Arturo resuming their wooing of her -- both are love-worthy, in their distinctive ways -- who should she choose? Or should she choose neither of them?

It's less frivolous than it sounds. Davidson has a way with words that makes the story and its characters crackle and pop with depth, banter-worthy lines and natural good-humor. Like any author worth reading, her writing is seamless (even within its genre-boundaries), and she makes it look easy, almost effortless.

Check this out. But read Sleeping with the Fishes first -- you won't be lost in this second book if you don't, but you won't appreciate the characters and story as much.

Followed by Fish Out of Water.

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