Alice at Heart by Deborah Smith
published by Bellebooks in January 2002
Taken from Amazon:
Reclusive, wary, and known locally as Odd Alice, orphaned Alice Riley has always known she was different; but it isn't until she saves a child from drowning by using her phenomenal underwater abilities and links minds with drowning salvage diver Griffin Randolf and saves him, too, that her half-sisters learn of her existence, and she discovers how special she and Griffin really are. Old secrets, revenge, and passion fuel this compelling, intricately plotted story of love, trust, and acceptance, which successfully straddles the line between romance and fantasy and should appeal to fans of both genres.
Genre: contemporary, fanstasy, mer-folk
Series: Waterlilies, Book #1
The Story: Alice Riley has always been different... First, her mother drown herself in the sea mere days after her birth. She doesn't know who her father is... and let's not talk about her webbed feet, weird allergies and food cravings or her abilities to swim underwater for a very long period of time and in very cold temperatures. Tormented and bullied as a kid, Alice has grown up into a very wary and reclusive adult. That didn't stop her from saving the drowning child nor the vision of the drowning man. Both events will change her life forever.
Lilith, Mara and Pearl Bonadier were not aware of the existence of their younger half-sister. Now, Lilith is determined to bring Alice back home... even if it may uncover old secrets, re-open old wounds... and destroy them.
After being saved by Alice, Griffin Randolph decides to recover at the Randolph cottage. Having learned of Alice's abilities, Griffin is determined to uncover the truth about his parents' deaths and prove that Alice's half-sisters were behind it.
My Opinion: In a way, I feel that Alice at Heart is very different than anything I've ever written by Ms Smith, but on the other hand, I find the style and all those family secrets very familiar.
First, I thought the book was too short. Ms Smith introduced many characters and tried to tell their story, even the dead characters' ones ^_^; It definitively was too much for such a short book. If the book has been longer, then I think it would have been dealt better. As I result, I felt that Alice and Griffin relationship suffered the most of the lack of pages. They are after all the main characters and even though everyone's story was quite interesting, I was most attracted to Alice and Griffin... which is why I find it unfortunate that their storyline, relationship and characters were not developed to their full potential. I wished we could have read more of Alice and Griffin, especially together... Their relationship went by very fast, a bit too fast. Especially in a time when Alice was growing from ugly duckling to graceful swan. However, I did like their characters. I just wish we could have read more of them.
Lilith, Mara and Pearl were okay, but I felt they were very uni-dimensional, very stereotypical. Again, we were told their story, but I felt like something was missing. Perhaps it was the writing style which contributed to it. I thought the writing style was very passive, very "lyrical." As a result, I don't think I connect to the story as much as I could. However, to Ms Smith credit, everything flowed seamlessly and I finished the book quickly. The pace was not slow, since she had so much to tell, but there weren't many references to time - how many days have gone by, etc., and I think it made it feel a bit slow. I thought that without the time references, it was very hard to believe in Alice's transformation... especially since Alice seemed to change from one page to another without the readers really knowing why, what prompted it. Was it simply being together with her sisters and embracing her true nature?
The whole setting of the book was interesting as well. Not every author in my opinion can pull off mermaids story :) In that aspect, Ms Smith did a good job... What helped as well is that there was not many external interferences to create problem. The three sisters went around and lived their life normally and at their own pace. They own the land and everyone around them accepted them. There was not big villain to ruin their life, try to capture them or kill them. In addition, Ms Smith didn't worry about the "hiding" aspect of a paranormal creature or the fear of discovery... So it helped moving the story along. In short, the race that Ms Smith was unquestioned and un-threatened.
Alice at Heart is not my favorite book by Ms Smith. I felt like Ms Smith was too busy and engrossed telling everyone's story that she missed the opportunity to deliver the emotionally charged impact that I usually associate with her books. In addition, I feel Alice at Heart is not for everyone. It is a special book and I did enjoy it, so it was not total loss :P I just wished, once again, that the book focused a bit more on Alice and Griffin.
My Grade: C. If you're looking for something different, you might try this book :) Also, I hear there's a second book in the series, but I can't find any information on it... Anyone knows something?