I discovered the delightful writing voice of Ellis Drake when she sent me a beta read for The Lonely Hipster (which is not yet published, but hopefully soon). It was a quirky, funny, unexpected mystery.
As soon as I finished it, I purchased The Fornarina Affair, a mystery set in Rome that combined a bunch of my favorite topics...Italy, art history, and romance. I am a sucker for books that create a lush, inviting setting and make it part of the fabric of the story itself. Drake clearly has a love of all things Italian, and that came shining through in this novella.
Her latest work, The Sea Queen's Daughter, is another charming novella. This time she has taken "The Little Mermaid" and given it a fascinating twist. This version of the well-known tale is set in Venice, and is a colorful romantic fantasy. The opening chapter is magical, a scene from a masked Carnevale party set on a boat in Venice.
"The woman looked over her shoulder and turned to him, almost as if he willed it. Her mask was unlike anything he'd ever seen, sparkling blue in the candlelight, with an archaic smile and dark blue eyes. Her alabaster neck and shoulders were exposed, baring a necklace that looked like it had been taken from the sea: bits of rounded glass, shell, coral, and tiny fins attached to a slim, barnacle-covered rope."
This first chapter sets the mood for the rest of the piece. There are humorous secondary characters with witty dialogue, there is a beautiful and mysterious woman wearing a glass mask, there is a charming hero instantly smitten, and there are lush, fantastical details of life in Venice and of the sea. This is a very quick, fast-paced story, but it still manages to include some wonderful world-building details. I love how Serena can transform into different types of sea creatures, including a shark, an octopus, and a heroic dolphin. The violent Sea Queen, the horrifying ritual that ties poor Serena to an underwater prison, and the threat of Venice sinking forever into the ocean, create a nice suspenseful storyline.
Drake somehow manages to mix a contemporary feel for dialogue and humor with an apprecation for antiquities, tradition, and history. It's a cool combination, and I am really digging her voice.
To celebrate the release of this story, I am giving away a gorgeous set of Venetian glass earrings (from Etsy of course!) to one lucky commenter, as well as a copy of The Sea Queen's Daughter.
Comment for a chance to win!
ETA: GIVEAWAY OPEN UNTIL OCT 1st!