On a windswept British coastline the tide bestows an unexpected gift…
It was the cry that she first noticed, the plaintive wail that called to her over the crash of winter waves. Wrapped only in a sealskin, the baby girl looks up at Effie and instantly captures her heart.
Effie has always been an outcast in her village, the only granddaughter of a woman people whisper is a witch, so she’s used to a solitary existence. But when Midsummer arrives so too does a man claiming to be the child’s father. Effie is surprised when he asks her to continue looking after his daughter, mysteriously refusing to explain why. When he returns six months hence she pushes him for answers. And Lachlan tells a story she never anticipated … one of selkies, legend, and the power of the sea…
I’ll be honest up front and say I don’t often read romance novels. I enjoy novels that look at relationships or contain a love story, but I often find novels categorised as ‘romance’ to be far too light or saccharin for my taste. However, this wonderfully romantic story drew me in thanks to the interesting female characters, historical detail and Scottish folklore. For those who do not know their Celtic and Nordic mythology, a Selkie is a seal which when it sheds its skin transforms into a human. For some reason, it’s a piece of folklore that’s always caught my attention, rather like mermaids. I love to imagine the freedom of the endless ocean and having a body that can swim gracefully and effortlessly through the waves. I’ve also thought of the two legs we see as essential for day to day life, being such a restriction to someone used to a powerful, streamlined tail.
I really loved how independent Effie is and the strength she has to stick to her principles, even when they go against those of the rest of her village. She’s very independent and modern in her thinking. She rejects the local church and only goes at Christmas. Her grandmother Alice provides herbal remedies for the people of the village, and this has kept Effie separate from others who think of Alice as a ‘wise woman’. In fact some of the most respectable women in the village rely on Alice for remedies that help with menopause or other hormonal symptoms, but only in private. In public they would deny all knowledge. Effie’s marriage to John, her son Jack’s father, seemed to happen rather quickly and caused gossip in the village too. Her friendship with Walter, who is from a very respectable family, raises the odd eyebrow, but has also helped her in many ways. Without him she might not have gained parish financial support for Morna – the child she finds floating in a wicker basket. It’s possible he expects more than friendship, but would he tolerate Effie’s wilder ways and allow her the freedom she craves? In a world that’s very restrictive for women, Effie’s widowhood and ability to support her children without a man leaves her in quite a lowly place in society, but free to live her own life, at least in the short term.
I was absorbed into this woman’s relationship with her children. Widowed on the same night she finds a baby girl floating in the sea, Effie raises the girl with Jack. She can’t find a name to suit her, but doesn’t worry about that. Jack is not the easiest child, with symptoms that in more modern times might have labelled him with an autistic spectrum disorder. The children get along well and seem to find ways of communicating together, despite Jack’s difficulties with speech. Effie loves both of them fiercely and is haunted by the worry that one day she may have to give up the little girl she rescued as a baby. So, when a mysterious man turns up and claims her, Effie is wary, but finds it hard to deny their likeness especially when they have exactly the same eyes. Lachlan calls his girl Morna and explains something that most women would find hard to accept. He and Morna carry seal skins, but they’re not just to keep them warm. The skin is as much a part of them as their dark, impenetrable eyes. Morna and her father Lachlan are Selkies. They are part human and part seal, from a tribe in Scotland. Effie is relieved to find he isn’t there to take Morna, because he recognises that she and Effie have a bond, but he leaves a perfect pearl to pay for her upkeep and promises to return in six months. However, can this arrangement continue indefinitely?
Even more complicated, is the fascination that Effie starts to feel about this dark eyed, handsome man. As for Lachlan, every time Effie touches seal skin, he feels a corresponding pull in his human body. I must admit I was rather enchanted by this wild, but noble and honourable man. I felt he would accept Effie as she was, rather than try to mould her into a respectability that would leave her so unhappy. To strengthen this romantic tale and give it historical context, there were other strong female characters such as Alice and Effie’s friend Mary. Alice is wise, funny and open to the more magical side of life. Effie is shocked that the very respectable Mary would have her as a friend. In fact she asks if Effie will help her set up a school for some of the poorer girls in the village. She gives Effie solid advice, based on the sensibilities of the time which gives us a contrast to Effie’s life choices – some of which would be seen as scandalous! It’s interesting to think that both Effie’s friends, Walter and Mary, are progressives in their time, whereas now their ideas can seem patronising or even horrifying. I felt that Mary shows us what Effie’s life could be should she decide to choose the life Walter might offer her.
The setting is exceptionally well drawn, capturing a rugged Yorkshire coastline so perfectly that I could imagine standing on a windswept cliff watching Lachlan and Morna slipping through the waves. I found myself browsing for holiday cottages as soon as I’d finished reading, because the author’s description of the sea was so evocative. Her romantic descriptions of eating freshly caught and fried mackerel on the beach, or sailing to a private cove in the sunset enchanted me just as much as any of the relationships. I was hankering after a sunshine stroll through the waves and I would look up from my book and be surprised to find myself in my bedroom looking out at Christmas lights. If you enjoy historical fiction, I highly recommend this book and it’s definitely worth a read if you have an interest in folklore or magic realism. I found myself taking long baths or having a lie-in so I could shut the world out and really relax into the story. I would definitely look at this author’s other work on the basis of this novel and it’s made me have a rethink about the romance genre as a whole. Thank you so much to HarperCollins UK-One More Chapter and Rachel’s Random Resources for giving me the chance to read the book. It’s been a pleasure.
Purchase Link – https://getbook.at/DaughteroftheSea
Meet The Author
Author Bio – Elisabeth’s writing career began when she finished in third place in Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write contest in 2013. She was offered a two-book contract and consequently had to admit secret writing was why the house was such a tip. She is the author of numerous historical romances with Harlequin Mills & Boon covering the Medieval period to Victorian England, and a Second World War romantic historical with One More Chapter. She lives in Cheshire because the car broke down there in 1999 and she never left.
Daughter of the Sea Giveaway
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