Maggie Parkhurst is an everyday woman surrounded by extraordinary people and supernatural beings. Maggie finds herself falling for her boss’ sister, the ketoi Persephone, but she can’t imagine how this beautiful and strong creature from the sea could ever be interested in someone like Maggie. When Maggie’s childhood friend Oliver comes to town, he makes his interest in Maggie clear. Although she has no romantic feelings for Oliver, Maggie wonders whether she might not be better off with this man who wants her, rather than pinning her hopes on what will likely never be with Persephone.
When Maggie’s friend Irene goes missing, Maggie goes to Persephone for help. Soon the women uncover a plot that is far bigger than they might have imagined, one that threatens the ketoi and connects with enemies that they have been fighting on many fronts. Now Maggie must be brave enough to fight for her friends and the woman she has grown to love, and hope that their combined strength is enough to stop the evil that threatens them all.
We have been following the developing romance between Persephone and Maggie for a little while now through the Whyborne & Griffin series, so I was so excited to see this novella dedicated to their relationship. I absolutely adore this series beyond reason, and I love that Hawk decided to give us the side story of these two women. One thing I particularly love about Hawk’s work is that she gives us strong, competent female heroines and there is no exception here. We already know that Persephone is a warrior, but here we get to see Maggie really shine as well. This story is told from her POV and we see that despite being shy and uncertain at times, she is also tough, brave, and determined to do what is right. I have loved seeing her growth over the series from someone sort of meek and shy, to a woman who is strong and tough and can hold her own in a fight.
The main focus here is on the mystery end of things concerning what happened to Irene, and how it plays into the larger plot involving the cult and the ketoi. I think Hawk does a nice job tying this story to the larger, overarching series plot. At the same time, it works as a side story as our series regulars, Whyborne and Griffin, aren’t here. However, I do think this story would be a tough read if you haven’t read the rest of the Whyborne & Griffin series. While a lot is explained, this isn’t a long story and you kind of have to be familiar with a lot of the basics or I think you will have many questions along the way. I also really appreciated that Hawk lets the women stand alone here. I was wondering at first if we would see Whyborne and Griffin make an appearance, but this story overlaps Fallow and the guys are gone throughout the book. And I loved that, because as much as I adore the men, I was thrilled to see the women step up here and solve their own crisis. We get some other regular side characters who make an appearance, and this story very much feels like a part of the larger series world, but definitely the woman are the focus here.
As far as the relationship, it is secondary to the suspense angle for most of the book, but comes together really nicely at the end. We know from the start that Maggie is fiercely attracted to Persephone, but is unsure about the other woman’s feelings (though as readers it is pretty clear Persephone returns her attraction). Maggie is unsure what she offers to this strong and engaging woman, but I like that the book doesn’t get mired in her insecurities and she accepts Persephone’s feelings easily. When the women get together, it is sweet and sexy (and just the teensiest hint of tentacle porn); Maggie may be inexperienced, but she isn’t timid. We get a really nice ending that leaves these women in a good place together.
There were a couple of tiny issues here. First, Persephone seems to walk awfully freely around the streets at night. Given her appearance is obviously not human, it seemed a little too convenient that no one ever notices her. You also have to be able to go with the whole human with a non-human being thing. Again, Persephone is clearly not human in appearance, with fins and shark teeth and tentacle hair. As a reader, I could sort of forget about that for most of their intimate time together, but I’ll admit the shark teeth gave me some pause, so you just have to be able to roll with that. I also had a giggle at Maggie’s continued cluelessness about Whyborne and Griffin’s relationship. It is even funnier when you consider how oblivious Whyborne himself was to Maggie’s feelings for him in the past. She wonders why the men spend so much time together when they are just landlord and boarder. Though I did have to wonder why, given her own attraction to someone of the same sex, it never occurs to her what might be going on.
So I really loved Undertow and thought it was a great addition to the series. The story nicely expands the larger Whyborne & Griffin universe and moves the overarching themes forward nicely, but also stands well as the story between Maggie and Persephone. I have been enjoying these women together for a while, so I was happy to see them get their story. These are some strong, capable women, and I loved seeing them take care of business and find their love together as well.