You’ve seen romance with sparkling vampires. You’ve seen romance with shirtless werewolves. What other supernatural monsters are there left to fall in love with? How about… oh, let’s say, mermaids. Murderous, emotion-draining mermaids with electrical superpowers. Yeah, that sounds reasonable. Time to dive into Lies Beneath, Deep Betrayal, and Promise Bound by Anne Greenwood Brown.
Calder White lives in the cold, clear waters of Lake Superior, the only brother in a family of murderous mermaids. To survive, Calder and his sisters prey on humans and absorb their positive energy. Usually, they select their victims at random, but this time around, the underwater clan chooses its target for a reason: revenge. They want to kill Jason Hancock, the man they blame for their mother’s death.
It’s going to take a concerted effort to lure the aquaphobic Hancock onto the water. Calder’s job is to gain Hancock’s trust by getting close to his family. Relying on his irresistible good looks and charm, Calder sets out to seduce Hancock’s daughter Lily. Easy enough, but Calder screws everything up by falling in love – just as Lily starts to suspect there’s more to the monster-in-the-lake legends than she ever imagined, and just as the mermaids threaten to take matters into their own hands, forcing Calder to choose between them and the girl he loves.
One thing’s for sure: whatever Calder decides, the outcome won’t be pretty.
The way the first book, Lies Beneath, is set up is very interesting. Usually, these young adult paranormal romances with a human girl and a “monster” boy are told from girl’s perspective. This book, however, is told from Calder’s perspective rather than Lily’s. What’s more, it’s set up like a murder thriller rather than a romance: Calder and his sisters are plotting to kill Lily’s father in revenge for his role in the death of their mother, and Calder approaches Lily merely as a way of getting close to her father. Of course, given the genre, it’s inevitable that Calder falls in love with her and ends up trying to protect her family instead; but this still means that there is a suspenseful plotline involving the murder attempt, which I consider much better motivation to keep reading than another tired old will-they-or-won’t-they romance.
There’s also some much-needed edge added to the story by the fact that the mermaids actually are dangerous. Unlike certain other paranormal romance books I could name, where the vampires only drink animal blood and the werewolves retain control in their animal form and neither ever even think of killing humans, these monsters haven’t had their fangs filed down. It contributes to the drama – though, unfortunately, it is not addressed as much on the romance side as you would expect. Having a murderer as a boyfriend should be a pretty big deal, but it’s mostly glossed over by Lily. That’s fine in this first book, because she starts off ignorant of Calder’s nature, but it spells trouble for my opinion of her character in the sequels.
Final Rating (Lies Beneath): 3/5
The main problem with the second book, Deep Betrayal, is that it feels directionless. In the first book, there was an overarching driving plot: the mermaid plot to murder Lily’s father. But since that was more or less resolved at the end of the first book, the second book needs to come up with a new conflict. It stumbles, however, in making this a murder mystery involving drownings at the lake.
Trying to get invested in this storyline makes one realize things are seriously off-kilter, morality wise. Someone or something is murdering swimmers in the lake, like the mermaids usually do, but it’s not Calder’s mermaid family this time. Because this person or thing is murdering people, the increased attention is preventing the mermaids from murdering people, which is bad. So Lily and Calder have to stop this murderer, in order to allow the mermaids to go back to murdering people like they usually do… which is apparently okay? At least, Lily doesn’t seem to care about trying to stop them from murdering; only the new murderer.
And this is where I start having problems with Lily being way too okay with the fact that her boyfriend is a creature which must regularly kill humans to survive. You might expect that this string of murders might drive home to her the fact that mermaids are predators which take human lives, and cause her to think seriously about whether she should be on their side; but no, Lily seems perfectly content to stick by Calder’s side no matter what. Apparently, she has no problem with them going off to murder people elsewhere so long as they aren’t responsible for these particular murders.
Final Rating (Deep Betrayal) :2/5
You knew it was coming. Every romance series looking to drag out the will-they-or-won’t-they as long as possible in order to wring out every last drop of melodrama eventually falls back on this horrible cliche. It’s the “I have to break up with you for you own good; and rather than tell you this outright, I will invent some lie to make you think I don’t love you any more” plot. I would be perfectly happy if I never again had to read a romance story which relied on this stupid, worn-out crutch of a trope.
This book also has a very weird narrative choice. Up until now, the series has entirely been told from the first-person perspectives of Calder and Lily. As the final novel approaches its climax, however, there are suddenly short chapters from the perspectives of Danny Catron, Gabrielle Pettit, Maris White, and Parvati White. That’s an extremely jarring shift; especially since Gabrielle is a minor character who hasn’t exactly been central to the plot so far. Why exactly are we suddenly inside her head?
Also, it troubled me that Lily’s little sister Sophie doesn’t get any kind of resolution to her plot. There’s been this whole character arc where she’s been worried that her father and sister becoming mermaids means she’ll be left behind. Then she shows up for the climax, and it looks like she’s going to try to force Parvati to transform her – but no, she just sort of stays on the sidelines, and her story arc doesn’t receive any closure.
Even with those problems, though, I couldn’t help but like this one more than the middle novel. The conflict makes more sense, and it’s good to finally have a positive ending after the more ambiguous endings of the past two novels. My brain tells me I should knock it down to two stars for the loose plot threads and jarring perspective shifts, but my heart tells me that it nevertheless felt like a three star experience. I must be getting soft.
Final Rating (Promise Bound): 3/5