I was doing an online chat with other authors when the subject turned to paranormal novels, particularly shape-shifters. Confession: I haven’t read too many of those books, usually preferring reality (or a reasonable facsimile of it) over fantasy.
The other authors were discussing the merits of the animals usually favored in shifter novels: tigers and other big cats, bears and wolves, primarily.
“How about a dolphin shifter?” I kiddingly suggested in full smart-aleck mode. Dolphins are one of my favorite animals and have been since I was a little girl who listed Flipper at the top of her must-see TV list.
Surprisingly—to me anyway—the other chat participants quickly and enthusiastically chorused their approval of dolphin shifters. So I thought, why not?
The challenge for me was fitting a paranormal story into a contemporary romance series that’s firmly rooted in real life. I spent more than thirty years working as a newspaper reporter and editor, pursuing a fair presentation of the facts as both sides saw them. Making things up doesn’t come as easily to me as to other authors.
I do a lot of research to ensure that my Gulf Shore novels stay within the realm of possibility. And I volunteer at a marine animal hospital, so I’ve seen firsthand how such operations conduct themselves.
So how do I justify a heroine whose very existence defies belief?
By making the details of her story as conceivable as possible. And by letting the other characters express their skepticism and at times outright rejection of the idea that a person can assume an animal shape, and then change back.
Despite her otherworldly ability and a lifestyle shrouded in secrecy, Marina Seaward, the leading lady of Shore is Magical, is not that different from other women. She squabbles with her sisters and takes family obligations seriously, but chafes at the strings that bind her to their restrictive traditions. Seeking true love, she’s beaten down by a jealous and controlling man but fights to preserve her identity and independence.
Marina isn’t looking for a savior or a prince charming. And that’s a good thing, because Kenshin Hamasaki is neither. He’s a good man but a flawed one, and he hasn’t fully recovered from the tragedies that nearly sucked him down a dark hole of despair.
Kenshin’s wounded heart and soul urges him to play it safe, but he’s inexplicably drawn to the mysterious stranger who risks everything in an effort to fit into his world in pursuit of her happily ever after.
Lurking in the background, however, is a dark presence from Marina’s past, who threatens to end this unlikely pairing before she and Kenshin can fully explore whether they’re destined to be together.
Find out whether Marina and Kenshin find romance or ruin by snaring your digital copy of Shore is Magical, Gulf Shore book four, available Monday, November 28 from all major e-book retailers and from liquidsilverpublishing.com.
Here’s a snippet from one of my favorite scenes in the book, when Kenshin first encounters Marina in very enticing human form. This scene takes place in the marine animal hospital at Gulf Shore Aquarium, where Kenshin works. He thinks he’s helping to rehabilitate a rescued dolphin, but he gets the surprise of his life one night.
Looking up, Kenshin almost dropped his phone. He stared, eyes wide, mouth open, as a lithe form emerged from the pool, water cascading down her body. Where had she come from and, more importantly, why was she naked? Then he glanced behind her and received his second shock.
The rescued dolphin was—gone. Impossible. He gave his cheek a light smack to make sure he hadn’t succumbed to exhaustion and passed out. That was entirely possible, given he hadn’t slept more than two hours at a stretch since leaving Erica’s bed.
If this was a dream, it was incredibly realistic. Off the charts sexy, too.
The woman sauntering toward him was hotter than an egg yolk on Florida asphalt in August. Her shoulder-length brown hair framed a pair of turquoise eyes that shimmered like the sea. Her rosebud nipples all but begged for his touch, and he imagined himself at home between her long, supple legs, which were as toned as the rest of her.
The corners of her lips tipped up as if she’d read his mind. Kenshin’s gaze darted around the rehab unit, looking for backup if he needed it. But Kelsey had gone home early for a change, Flipper probably was loading up on caffeine and carbs, and Sitara was in her office catching up on paperwork.
Kenshin’s carnal fantasies dissolved amid concerns about a massive security breach.
“Who are you, and why are you here?” he demanded.
“You know who I am.” The woman’s voice was as smooth as spiced rum sliding over ice cubes. “You just don’t want to admit it.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Your friends brought me here from the beach, jostling me around in that canvas thing. What do you call it?”
“Are you talking about the sling?”
“It felt like they dragged me across a rocky sea bottom. Very bad for the delicate skin.” She pouted and pointed to a chafe mark on her elbow. “Get something softer, for Poseidon’s sake.”
“This is...insane. Why aren’t you wearing clothes?”
She shrugged. “I didn’t bring any.” Cocking her head, she studied him for a moment before her expression turned playful. “Don’t you like me as I am? I thought the males of your species enjoyed seeing females without garments.”
What an odd way to say that guys lust after naked women. “You’re beautiful, and I think you know that, but it’s beside the point.”
She’d come close enough for Kenshin to stroke a hand down all that lush, bare flesh, and he almost did so to make sure she was real. Common sense kicked in before he acted on the impulse. Besides being a stranger, she was, well, strange.
“Listen, lady, I don’t know what your game is but--”
“Game? There is no game. Your people rescued me, and now I’m your responsibility. Isn’t that how this works?”
Kenshin glanced around again, convinced that any minute Flipper or someone would leap out and scream, “Gotcha!” This had to be a prank. Stuff like this didn’t happen otherwise, at least not to him. But after that dolphin encounter at the reef, anything seemed possible.
Kenshin felt her warm breath on his face. It smelled...fishy? When he wrinkled his nose, she clapped her hand over her mouth. Now she was self-conscious? He looked into her eyes, an inviting shade matched only by a secluded tropical lagoon.
“What’s your name?”
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