Friday, October 11, 2019

Fat Friday #16 + Real Cie Reviews: Breakwater

Genre: Fantasy Romance

Rating: Four out of Five Stars

I received a free promotional copy of this book for review purposes.
If the book is purchased through the featured link, I earn a small commission.
This review appears on Amazon, Goodreads, and my review and writing blog, Horror Harridans Writing Sisterhood.

Breakwater is the second book in Errin Stevens’ Mer Chronicles series. Errin’s impressive storytelling skills make this book a fantastic, can’t-put-it-down read. Errin excels at world-building and character creation, and I really enjoyed getting to know more about the Sirens’ society. Breakwater deeper into the relationship between sirens and humans as well as into the Sirens’ archaic and sometimes draconian politics.

Breakwater offers plenty of mystery, intrigue, and surprises. I enjoyed learning more about some of the secondary characters. I had an affinity for Simon. As a “black sheep” in a Catholic family with strict ideas about right, wrong, and an individual’s “correct” role in life, I related to Simon’s distress at feeling that he was letting his family and community down as well as his resentment at being told what to do.

A startling revelation by Seneca throws the Blake family’s stable lives into upheaval, and a new, power-hungry antagonist is revealed, complete with nefarious ideals and a delightfully wicked demeanor. Duncan is a villain that readers will love to hate.

For those who enjoy intensity in their romance, Breakwater delivers. For my own part, I prefer the political intrigue aspect and find the romance to venture too far in the overly possessive direction. Although I like the sirens and found myself particularly resonating with Simon and his internal conflict, I find the male sirens’ interactions with human women controlling and coercive, more like a vampire compelling his victim than a would-be lover courting the object of his affections. Rather than cheering for the woman in the pair to get her man, I find myself thinking: “eek, no, run away!”

I really like Errin’s female characters, who are self-assured, driven, competent women. They are well-rounded, well-written, and realistic. Unfortunately, too much of their energy is spent dreaming of catching a man and lamenting not having a man to complete them.

Overall, the female characters are companionable and supportive of one another rather than being backstabbing and bitchy, a trope which is entertaining if one is watching reruns of Dynasty but tiresome otherwise. The women truly care about one another and embody what sisterhood means.

Breakwater is an exciting and inspiring story, and I truly wish I could give it five stars.

The main thing that stops me from doing so is the scene between the women at Sylvia’s café, where they discuss being “fat” (translate: pregnant), not wanting to “look like a beluga,” and other such unfortunate diatribe regarding any physique which is not slender and toned.

As a person who became bulimic at twelve due to fear of becoming fat, who developed a myriad of endocrine disorders which sealed the deal that I would become fat regardless of how much I restricted my food intake and engaged in orthorexia, and who spent the next 33 years trying to hate myself thin, I am well aware that this type of conversation takes place between millions of women every day. Women bond over size-shaming self-deprecation rather than encouraging one another regarding traits and skills unrelated to their physical appearance. The conversation is realistic, and it is horrible.

As a genuine, actual, bona fide fat person who fights to be at peace with my body multiple times a day every day, I can tell you that reading or hearing such a conversation is hurtful. What these conversations sound like to me is: “being fat is the very worst thing a person can possibly be. Being fat is ugly, disgusting, undesirable. Being YOU is the very worst thing a person could possibly be. I would do anything not to be like you.”

Writers, your larger readers, like all your readers, are looking for a moment of escape, not to be reminded that people see us as The Very Worst Thing A Person Can Possibly Be. We realize that we are unlikely to be portrayed as heroic and/or desirable in most stories but would appreciate not being represented as Things That Shouldn’t Be. Eating disorders are rampant. Let’s not waste our wonderful female characters reinforcing diet culture. Let’s let them be the amazing badasses they are, regardless of their size.

My other wish is that everyone would ditch the phrase “off their meds” immediately. Most people who live with mental health issues are not dangerous and do not stand out in any way. People with mental health issues tend to suffer in silence because of the unfortunate stigma surrounding mental illness. Nobody should be made to feel ashamed of whatever “meds” they take, whether their meds are for strictly physical or psychiatric conditions.

With those bones being picked, I rate Breakwater an overall compelling and well-written read and look forward to the next book in the series.


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