Thursday, June 4, 2015

Review: The Summer of Chasing Mermaids

The Summer of Chasing Mermaids
By Sarah Ockler
Published: June 2, 2015

The youngest of six talented sisters, Elyse d’Abreau was destined for stardom—until a boating accident took everything from her. Now, the most beautiful singer in Tobago can’t sing. She can’t even speak.

Seeking quiet solitude, Elyse accepts a friend’s invitation to Atargatis Cove. Named for the mythical first mermaid, the Oregon seaside town is everything Elyse’s home in the Caribbean isn’t: An ocean too cold for swimming, parties too tame for singing, and people too polite to pry—except for one.

Christian Kane is a notorious playboy—insolent, arrogant, and completely charming. He’s also the only person in Atargatis Cove who doesn’t treat Elyse like a glass statue. He challenges her to express herself, and he admires the way she treats his younger brother Sebastian, who believes Elyse is the legendary mermaid come to life. 

When Christian needs a first mate for the Cove’s high-stakes Pirate Regatta, Elyse reluctantly stows her fear of the sea and climbs aboard. The ocean isn’t the only thing making waves, though—swept up in Christian’s seductive tide and entranced by the Cove’s charms, Elyse begins to wonder if a life of solitude isn’t what she needs. But changing course again means facing her past. It means finding her inner voice. And scariest of all, it means opening her heart to a boy who’s best known for breaking them . . .

My thoughts:

While there are some connections (character names like Ursula and Sebastian and even Christian and a singer who loses her voice), this isn't exactly a contemporary retelling of The Little Mermaid though the fairy tale may be an inspiration for this beautifully written novel.

Elyse is a broken girl. She is unable to speak or sing after her accident but her spirit is also broken. She was very close to her twin sister Natalie but has shut her out since the accident. She has a new friend in Kirby, whose mother Lemon (real name Ursula) invited her to stay with them in Oregon. Lemon is a warm and nurturing woman who practices wicca and runs a shop in her home. She and Kirby have been welcoming to Elyse and allow her space to just be. Elyse spends her time collecting sea glass on the beach and helping out at the store but not really connecting with anyone in the community.

Christian's family owns Lemon's house as well as the house next door where they stay during the summer months. Every year he races in the annual Pirate Regatta with Noah, the mayor's son. Although Mr. Kane and Noah's dad do not get along and have been in competition with each other since their own youth, Christian and Noah are friends. This friendship is tested when a stupid bet is made. The mayor wants the Kanes to sell him their property for redevelopment as part of his plan to revitalize the economy. Christian and his mother and little brother are adamantly against this but the mayor goads Mr. Kane into accepting a bet on the regatta where their houses are on the line if Christian loses. Christian always won in the past but that was when he and Noah were sailing together. Now Noah is the competition and Christian has to find a new first mate.

Elyse is drawn to Christian even though she knows of his reputation with girls. She agrees to help him win the regatta because she wants to help Lemon keep their home. She is terrified of being back in the water but she enjoys helping to fix Christian's boat and spending time with him and his adorable little brother. As the day of the race gets closer, Elyse has to face her fears.

I loved the relationship between Elyse and Sebastian. He believes in mermaids and even wants to participate in the annual mermaid parade even though it is "girls only". He is a really sweet little boy but his dad doesn't pay him much attention and when he does it is only to belittle him. Christian does his best to protect his brother but he also has a bad relationship with their father. It is touching to see the friendship that blossoms between Elyse and Sebastian and how helping him seems to help her too. While I didn't entirely trust Christian at the beginning, I thought he was nice to Elyse and they are able to share their hurts with each other. The romance was harder to buy into since he was portrayed as such a player but it became obvious that he was devoted to Elyse as the book went along. He was just a flirty kind of guy.

My only issue with the story is the mystical mermaid element. Does Elyse actually see Atargatis or hear menacing voices in the water? I didn't mind if Sebastian believed in the existence of Atargatis as he is a small child. It is never clear if Elyse is just hallucinating or if the mermaid is really there but the scene is used to show Elyse confronting her fear and truth about herself and the accident. She emerges as a stronger person who has found her inner voice again. I could have done without the mermaid aspect of it however.

Overall I thought this was a good book. The writing and descriptions are gorgeous. I loved the setting of Atargatis Cove and Elyse's struggles to find herself and her passion again made the book worth reading. I admired how she was able to change and grow and find her inner voice again. The novel examines not just dreams but also difficult family relationships and opening up to people and allowing friendships to happen. 

I'd suggest this book to fans of Sarah Ockler's other books and readers who enjoy contemporary romance from authors like Sarah Dessen, Jessi Kirby and Morgan Matson.

Note: I received an ARC for review purposes courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss


  1. I feel like I've been seeing this book around everywhere! And, yes, I wondered if there was a Little Mermaid connection in there somewhere. Thanks for the thoughts. I'm still trying to decide on this one.

  2. Great review, Christina! I also really enjoyed Ockler's writing in this book - gorgeous - and thought overall it was pretty entertaining. Like you, I had a few questions regarding the mermaid lore/myth. That aspect of the story really didn't work for me.

  3. Beautiful review Christina. Twenty Boy Summer was my first Sarah Ockler, I enjoyed it so I'll think I'll add this one to my TBR pile!


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