QSFer Cara N. Delaney has a new queer fantasy romance out (bi, gay, gender fluid, lesbian): A Melody in the Deep.
Keola is a mermaid – and bound for marriage to a foreign human prince. Unable to face a life cut off from the ocean with a man she despises, she chooses freedom at a terrible cost. Posing as a human wavesinger to remain hidden from her pursuers, she finds work on the ship of the dashing captain Anaar Kahlani.
Anaar is searching for a mythical treasure and believes that Keola is the key to finding it. Amidst the hunt for fame and fortune, Anaar begins to fall for the mysterious wavesinger. Confronted with a secret and a dangerous revelation, she must decide what price she is willing to pay for untold riches – and for love.
When Keola’s past catches up with her, can they survive the oncoming storm together, or will the trials ahead demand more of them than they are willing to sacrifice?
The sea was calling out to her, and Keola wanted to cry.
As she boarded the ship that would carry her to her fate, there was hard, unyielding wood under her feet. Not a grain of sand between her toes, nor a tangle of seaweed playing around her ankles. The breeze carrying the tang of salt and cries of gulls was kept at bay by the soft, expensive fabric of a dress that wouldn’t stand a drop of seawater. The people around her were polite, yet distant. All of them human, hand-picked by her father, to ensure no sympathy for his daughter until she set foot on the shores of her future home.
Mesebor. Caltram’s home.
He would be waiting, and the spun glass seashell that held her heart and soul would be there with him. Sent ahead by her father, King Amoka, weeks ago. A sign of trust, he had said. That she trusted him to have her best interests at heart. Nobody had asked her beforehand. There was no trust to give when you didn’t even know what was asked of you. Yet Keola had trusted her father. Right until she had entered his chambers, where the mages had been waiting.
Now, her skin was always brown and soft. Her hair was shiny and neat, her nails were blunt. Her teeth shone in harmless smiles as her voice made pleasant, empty conversation. Her scales were a faint memory, and in the end, she had silenced her song all by herself. What she couldn’t silence was the call.
The waves were music, the currents a drumbeat in her blood. Winds whispered of storms and tides. Every night, they lured her. Every night, her heart broke all over again for what had been taken from her.
For a good cause, no doubt. They all had assured her of that, many times during the last few months. While the arrangements had been made, her father had tried to make her see the advantages of the alliance. And there were advantages. Shorter trade routes. A northern border that would be kept safe by Mesebor’s valiant soldiers on their sturdy ships. Peace that would last longer than it took the ink on the treaty to dry.
Maleko, of course, saw things much the same. He had tried to console her. Reminded her how much his own bride had loved Neshad when she had visited. How much she was looking forward to their union, and Keola should look to her as an example. Which was easy to say. Raymi was the youngest princess from one of the deep-sea domains. She would gain a king for a husband one day, and nobody had forced her to give up her fins and tail for him. She would happily return for her wedding.
It was difficult not to wish for it to be be her own. That Keola had been allowed to marry the princess. Any princess. She knew her duty to her family and her nation, but Caltram was not the only option. He was simply the most advantageous one. So her wishes had been overruled. For the good of the country.
Now, the ship set sail towards Mesebor. The moment they left the harbour, her home would be forfeit. She had nowhere else to go.
The sailors were skilled. The servants were accommodating. She would want for nothing on this journey, and on the other side, she would enter into the life of a future queen.
The sea called out to her, and when the door to her cabin closed behind her, Keola cried.
Cara lives in a hole in the ground, where she spends her days building whole worlds with nothing but words on the page and a lively imagination.
She may be summoned with a potion brewed from magic beans, but there is no telling what will happen if you do.
Once in a blue moon, you might catch her out and about on a walk through the local vineyards, soaking up the sun and taking pictures of trees.