Ery Phillips is stuck in a job doing corporate design work that is draining his spirit. His muse seems to have dried up and he has no inspiration for the creative side of art that he loves. When his friends Chris and Dylan go out of the country, Ery decides to spend a couple weeks at their rural home and focus on painting, hopeful that the time off from work and in a new environment will provide the spark he needs.
Ery is shocked one day near the pond so see a gorgeous, naked man with long blond hair come out of the water. Karl is a nix, a water spirit who lives in Chris and Dylan’s pond. Meeting this supernatural creature should be more surprising, but since Dylan is a werewolf and Ery’s grandmother talks to spirits, Ery takes Karl’s appearance in stride. Karl is sweet and kind, with a touch of innocence from being isolated in the pond for so many years. He tells Ery about how he was created by a sorcerer to guard a harbor, but that he never fit in with the other nixes and they chased him off. He eventually found his way to Chris’ family pond where he has lived for generations.
After meeting Karl, Ery is suddenly struck by inspiration he hasn’t ever felt. He can’t paint fast enough and he is doing the best work of his life. While Ery paints, Karl spends his days watching him and playing his guitar. The two begin falling for one another, and Ery begins to have feelings for Karl he never expected.
As wonderful as it is to be with Karl, they both know the relationship can’t last. Karl can’t be away from water long and he belongs in the pond. Ery must return to his job and his life once Chris and Dylan come home. And as his paintings begin to draw notice, opportunities start to open up for him. The men know the relationship must end, but that doesn’t mean it is not hurting them both. Ery thinks he has no choice, but ultimately he must decide what he really wants out of life and what he needs to do to truly be happy.
Bone Dry is part of Kim Fielding’s wonderful Bones series, and it is kind of a sequel, kind of a spin off. The first two books focus on Dylan and Chris meeting, falling in love, and dealing with Dylan’s wolfiness. We meet Ery in the previous book as he helps the guys out with their ghost problem (yes, this farm is pretty much a supernatural hotbed). In Bone Dry, Dylan and Chris make a significant appearance as Ery’s friends and owners of the pond where Karl lives, but the story is really focused on Ery and Karl. I think you could probably get away with reading this one as a stand alone because we really get to know both MCs well here, but you may miss some of the depth about past events that happened in the first two books, as well as the the lovely relationship between Chris and Dylan.
I really enjoyed this story, mostly because Karl and Ery are so incredibly sweet together. Poor Karl, he is so strong, but also clearly has dealt with so much hurt in his life. He was created by a sorcerer who didn’t do a particularly good job. He is not like the other nixes, and they want nothing to do with him. He has lived this isolated life in the pond, never really having anyone. He once fell in love with one of Chris’ ancestors, only to be left when the man went out into the world and found a family of his own. Through it all, Karl is accepting of his fate. He realizes this is what his life will be and doesn’t expect or ask for anything more. It is kind of heartbreaking, to see this combination of pain and acceptance, and it is so wonderful to see him find happiness with Ery.
Ery is sort of at a crossroads in his life. He knows he doesn’t like the work he is doing, but he also isn’t really getting anywhere with his art. His grandmother encourages him to spread his wings, to take chances and try something new. But Ery doesn’t quite know what that is. When he meets Karl, suddenly there is a spark again. He is inspired in his painting and he begins to reflect more on growing up and what he really wants out of his life.
Fielding does a nice job with a delicate balance between them. The real crux of the conflict is that Ery’s life is away from the farm and Karl’s is at the pond. We can really feel Karl’s pain as he knows Ery must leave and move on to other parts of his life, and maybe even other men. He is so accepting, so loving, that he is happy with whatever Ery can give him. This could have really made Ery look like an insensitive jerk, but Fielding does a wonderful job of showing how hard this is for Ery as well. He loves Karl, he doesn’t want to hurt him, and this whole thing is tearing him up as well. Like I said, this book really has some heartbreaking moments as it truly doesn’t look like it will work out for these guys (and in fact, at times I feared it wouldn’t). But Fielding manages to pull it all together into a wonderful and believable ending.
I don’t really have any major criticisms here. My only small issue is that Karl seemed surprisingly modern in his language and the way he relates to people. Fielding does a nice job showing Karl’s wonder at things out in the world — bath tubs (which he adores), appliances, etc. But despite the fact that his last human interaction was 100 years ago, Karl has no problem understanding anything Ery says. He carries on a conversation using modern language and has no problem following Ery’s slang or everyday references to things Karl shouldn’t understand. It is a small thing, but seemed inconsistent given the care Fielding gives to showing Karl’s lack of understanding in other areas.
Overall I really enjoyed this one. I am a big fan of these series and I loved getting to see Chris and Dylan again. Ery and Karl are such a wonderful couple, so sweet and gentle with one another. I loved Karl and think Fielding gives us a great balance of inner strength, innocence, and acceptance about his life that makes it almost impossible not to love him. The story was just really heartwarming and I loved the way it all came together. I know I keep saying sweet, but it really is. The other two books has more of a suspense element, but this one focuses much more on the relationship and just left me really feeling good when it was all over.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.