Poseidon’s Kiss by Gail Crease
(Jove Magical Love, $5.99, PG) ISBN 0-515-13416-3
If you like your romances on the traditional side, you’ll enjoy Gail Crease’s sophomore effort, Poseidon’s Kiss. Personally, I was troubled by the inequity of the hero and heroine’s relationship and never quite bought into the fantasy.

Thirty-six year old workaholic Chelsea Porter has recently started to experience disturbing dreams about drowning in the ocean. The nightmares are unexpected because Chelsea is a skilled swimmer and scuba-diver who loves her house overlooking the north Boston shore. But one night during a midnight swim, Chelsea is followed by something large, dark and dangerous. The ensuing panic leads to an inexplicable new fear of the water. Maybe the nightmares signify that she needs a vacation from her time-consuming job as interior decorator for an architectural design firm. Before she can start her leave of absence, she meets handsome Nicholas Demitry at an opening for a new art gallery that she helped design, and is overwhelmed by the mysterious artist’s magnetism. She’s also wary of the attention he pays her. Why would a talented, reclusive artist with the features of a god be interested in her?

Funny you should mention god-like, because Nicholas is actually Nikodemus, immortal son of Poseidon himself. Unlike most water gods, Nikodemus is fond of human beings, which has led to his current predicament. More than a hundred years ago, he rescued a drowning woman, upsetting fate’s natural order. In return, his father has decreed that he must marry the woman’s first female descendent, who just happens to be Chelsea Porter. Somehow Nicholas has to tell Chelsea that she is destined to be his bride without scaring her off. It’s not going to be easy to convince her to relinquish her mortal life so she can be with him undersea, especially when Chelsea is so spooked by her recent scare that she won’t go near the water.

Do you dream of having a strong, powerful man enter your life and completely control the relationship? Maybe that’s some women’s fantasy, but it’s not mine, and thus the novel never hooked me. From start to finish, Nicholas is in charge. He knows all about Chelsea’s history, he can read her mind and send her his thoughts - basically, he holds all of the cards. It’s a good thing he is such an honorable and noble guy, otherwise it would have been very easy for his power to become dominating and abusive. At one point, he has to nurse Chelsea back to health while she lies completely helpless. She even refers to him as “her teacher and her guide,” realizing that she learns from him “the way a child learns from a parent.” There’s something creepy about the fact that Nicholas has been watching Chelsea for 38 years, waiting for her to grow up until she is “ready” for him.

Chelsea is little more than a puppet whose actions are virtually preordained, and it’s hard to believe that an immortal god would wait millennia to meet and then fall in love with her. In fact, the novel’s best female character is Nikodemus’ best friend, Lysia, a Nereid whose disdain for human beings is matched only by her unselfish love for Niko. Fortunately, she never stoops to Bitchy Other Woman behavior, and makes a heroic gesture that saves Chelsea’s life. I wouldn’t mind reading more about Lysia in a sequel to Poseidon’s Kiss; she was more intriguing than the story’s nominal heroine.

Crease’s prose is flowery and romantic, occasionally bordering on obscure, but the novel moves along quickly, faltering only during the middle section when it falls victim to one of my least favorite clichés, the amnesia plot. All in all, an acceptable but not remarkable read. Next time I want a good fantasy involving mortal and sea creature, I think I’ll rent Splash instead.

--Susan Scribner

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