Review: Harm Reduction by Heidi Belleau and Violetta Vane

Harm ReductionHarm Reduction by Heidi Belleau

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Julio is a social worker. In 1992 he meets Linley, a male prostitute/drug user and offers him clean needles and condoms. He expects Linley to die in the rough down-and-out life he’s living, but that doesn’t stop him from caring for the young man. When Linley disappears Julio believes him to be dead and moves on with his life the best he can. 2012 rolls around. Julio’s broken up with his partner and is now the single father of their adopted son. Sitting on a park bench, he suddenly sees a ghost from his past…

Harm Reduction is a lovely story, short but sweet. Split between 1992 and present day, this touching tale recounts Julio’s first contact with Linley and his lingering feelings in the present. It’s written with a lot of care and attention to detail. Linley really feels like a fragile, at-risk youth and Julio the kind of man who’s too honorable and honest to take advantage of someone young and in need.

I felt a pang of joy in my heart when I reached the end, the resolution is just so satisfying. I think we’ve all known somebody in our lives that we were scared for at some point. If only real life was this kind to its characters, the world would be a much better place.

Review: Blood In The Water by Megan Derr

Blood in the WaterBlood in the Water by Megan Derr

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In this fairytale story, Seree is a merman who comes ashore to save his cursed sister. The curse entails making the prince fall in love with her, killing him, or facing her own death. However, she realizes this is an impossible task and asks her brother for help. He takes the curse upon himself, intending to kill the prince, only to find a different answer awaits him…

I liked Blood In The Water. The actual idea for the story was a good one, and it was well-written. I like fantasy stories and mermaids are an interesting fairytale. I liked Seree and the description of his warrior status, as well as the different blades he carried that linked him to the Deep. The fact that he had too much honor to kill an innocent person to spare his own life made him sympathetic to the audience, though why he didn’t look for an alternative to his own death before the very last minute seemed a little strange, especially since his father seemed to want to help.

My issues with this story and why I only gave it three stars stem from the speed at which Seree and Aimé fall in love. While it’s understandable that Seree is up against a time limit, the time that they did have could have been better spent. In fact, a whole week in the timeframe of the story is skipped that could have been used on relationship development. Instead it felt far too hasty and the story was over before I ever got a sense that the two actually had strong feelings for one another. I think more encounters between the two instead of Aimé hiding away from Seree, and more buildup before the sex would have made for a stronger and more believable ending.

Blood In The Water is still a worthwhile read despite these issues, especially since it’s a free story. Megan Derr does a good job of building a world where merfolk are real, and if you like fairytales like The Little Mermaid you will definitely get a lot out of this.