Reviewed by Sara Padilla

An unlikely heroine, Tess Patterson is inspired by romance and legend, but her reality involves a faithless partner and a troubled childhood. In the telling of her story, Erika Marks begins another tale set in the late 1800s in the same town in the state of Maine, and begins to weave the two stories together in a magical and provocative manner. From the beginning, the description of a small town that annually celebrates the myth of mermaids and the sea captured my interest and kept me reading late into the night.

The Mermaid Collector explores the legend of a woman that lived long ago during a time when women relied on their husbands for their security and position. Marks offers a unique look at a woman who in historical times would have been removed from proper society had she been discovered to have had an affair and become pregnant with another man’s child. There are unexpected turns when the story returns to the present, and Tess, independent and stubborn, also becomes involves with a man with a troubled past, her current partner having left her suddenly.

Each of the central characters in the books has experienced difficult and painful loss that has prevented them from moving forward personally. When they come together unexpectedly in this small town, they are forced to take a close look at the past and decide whether or not they will forgive or forget their family members as well as themselves. Truths are revealed carefully and thoughtfully throughout the book. Its endings – both that of Tess’s story and that of the heroine who lived more than one hundred years before her – are credible and satisfying.

The description of a small, seaside town is lovely. The people are proud of the old lighthouse that remains functional and critical to the history of the town. By leaving the characters a bit unpolished and quirky, the story entertains and surprises the reader despite some of the disappointments experienced by the characters. At the story’s close, one is left feeling hopeful for Tess and her town, and deeply appreciative of the potential of the past to influence the present.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Ms. Sara Padilla is a freelance writer and maintains a personal blog on family, health and wellness. She resides in the Pacific Northwest.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by NAL Trade. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.