Seal Island by Kate Brallier
(Tor, $6.99, PG) ISBN 0-765-34892-6
**
I donít have a short attention span, but found it very difficult to concentrate on Seal Island, Kate Brallierís debut novel for Torís paranormal romance line.† Thereís a germ of an interesting plot in the bookís 450-plus dense pages, but itís lost in dull, unnecessary descriptive passages and stilted dialogue.† †

Cecilia Hargrave is one of those improbable but fortunate heroines who inherits a seaside cottage from a distant recently decreased relative Ė in this case, her Aunt Allegra.† With no personal or professional ties to keep her in New York City, Cecil is soon on her way to remote Seal Island, Maine.† Once there meets the natives, including Abby Cantwell, who helps run the gift shop that Allegra owned and Richard Feinman, a local journalist who quickly makes it clear heíd like to get to know Cecil better.† †

But Cecilís attention is drawn instead to two other men, both mysterious in distinct ways: Thomas Moneghan, a lobsterman who is more than he seems, and Ronan Grey, a mechanic with an equally enigmatic manner and history.† Thereís also a third male in the picture Ė a harbor seal named Ragnarok, who was nursed back to health by Allegra when he was a pup and has returned to Cecilís beach looking for companionship and food.† As Cecil tries to determine if her stay in Seal Island will be temporary or permanent, she cultivates long-suppressed talents and begins to build a fulfilling life for the first time since her parents died ten years ago.† But thereís trouble in her new paradise as well, starting with unsolved mysteries about Allegraís death, and the possibility that her home is being targeted by an intruder searching for something left behind.† The new men in her life may know more than theyíre telling about these ominous events, but while one may hold romantic promise, the other may pose a dangerous threat.†

Seal Island could have used a lot of judicious editing.† I like stories about sad, lonely women who develop new lives for themselves, and at its core the novel has that admirable concept as its theme.† But you have to be a very patient reader to wade through the descriptions of every piece of furniture in Cecilís new home and every glass of wine she drinks to find the good stuff.† Much of the dialogue is unrealistically long-winded as well and the mercifully few sex scenes are marred by painfully purple prose.†

† The bookís paranormal element is hinted at early on, but doesnít kick into high gear until the last third of the story, and even then itís subtle.† Readers looking for fully realized fantasy worlds or beings will likely be disappointed, or at the very least frustrated that they discerned the truth long before the clueless heroine.†

† Cecil mentions at one point that sheís a fan of Barbara Michaels, and while the first-person narrative and slightly gothic tone hints at that venerable authorís style, Brallier has a long way to go before she comes close to emulating her characterís idol. †Seal Island reads very much like a debut novel, and unfortunately itís not one that I can recommend.† †

--Susan Scribner


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