Twenty-two-year-old Estelle Bailey has had enough of busy city-life and her hot-tempered ex. She escapes to the seclusion and peace of her family’s clifftop home in Ravenscar, where the soothing solitude whispers to her soul as strongly as the sea itself does. But her newfound contentment is interrupted when a mysterious man — a Sachael, master of seduction — joins her midnight swim unexpectedly.
Estelle struggles against his charm and the overpowering attraction she feels for him. He offers her a life she never could have imagined, a life beneath the waves . . . but at what cost? Before she can decide, she’s captured, ensnared by the Sect, a secret enemy of the Sachaels, becoming a pawn in a war she knew nothing about.
Now, she’s left with a new choice — escape the clutches of the Sect and flee into the ocean, or side with her alluring, intimidating captor and destroy the Sachaels forever. Can she turn her back on the man she might love, or will the secret of her heritage change everything?
Set against a picturesque backdrop, Sachael Dreams is the first in a new series, exploring themes of romance, love, and identity, and the struggle that happens when all three collide.
The first thing I remember thinking about Sachael Dreams is: what a brilliant premise. Not unlike a wave crashing to shore, it landed on my desk and instantly captured my attention. The paranormal romance/romantic fantasy genres are heavily saturated with angels, demons, vampires, werewolves, and a plethora of other supernatural critters, but Winter managed to do the unexpected — she gave us a brand new creature altogether.
Estelle’s story is not a peaceful one; kidnapping, escape, fight scenes, and arguments litter her tale with splashes of suspense. But those moments of tense action and drama, while exciting, are perhaps not the most memorable elements. For me, the enchantment of the story lies in its tone, ambiance, mystery, and passion.
Lyrical and detailed, Winter’s prose transports us to the setting with a mastery that had me nearly smelling the ocean breeze on my home’s very non-ocean-oriented air. Realistic and gripping from the moment you start the Prologue (yes, there’s a prologue, and it’s handled with supreme efficiency), Sachael Dreams is like stepping into an ethereal world that’s maybe just a tad dark around the edges.
Even the romance, which is central to the book’s core, starts with an almost Phantom of the Opera-like vibe, and the sinister nature behind the mysterious Sachaels lends a tinge of danger to the relationship unfolding between the lead characters. Add to that Estelle’s personal history (alluded to for much of the book and revealed fully toward the end) and a villain bent on revenge, no matter the cost, and you start to see why the story’s tone is heavier than your standard romance.
Winter makes sure to give readers plenty of swoon-worthy, romantic moments though; don’t worry. But my favorite scenes were actually those where the sheer raw emotion — often of the darker variety — really bubbled to the surface: the arguments between Estelle and Azariah, the heartbreaking moments of loss and grief, even the tortured rage of the villain. All of them were handled with a grace and poignancy that is nothing short of impressive.
Darkly beautiful and intriguing, Sachael Dreams is the beginning of what is arguably a refreshing, original take on mythology from a promising new author. Fans of romantic suspense, dark fantasy, and paranormal romance would be wise to check this one out. I, for one, am definitely looking forward to watching this world, and author, bloom into their full power.
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