Soul Selecta by Gill McKnight is one of those books that’s a difficult to categorize. Magical realism is probably the closest I can get to shoehorning it into a category, but even that isn’t quite right. I mean, what do you do with a contemporary romance where one character is on Earth, and the other in some sort of Classical Greek afterlife? On paper, a book like this shouldn’t exist (see what I did there?), and yet Gill not only manages to pull it off, but she does so with her usual wit and flair.
The book opens with the sexual awakening of Jesse Colvin. With the help of one of a high school cheerleader, she discovers she is a lesbian. At the same time, sweet Norrie Maguire is trying to figure out why she sometimes feels very strange indeed. When Jesse manages to die abruptly she ends up in the Elysian Fields, the Soul Selector and Death have to figure out what to do with her. It turns out she is one half of a pair of soul mates fated to fall deeply in love, only now that she’s dead, that can’t happen. Her journey to connect with her other half puts her in the path of a millennia-long conflict between the gods.
Jesse Colvin is your prototypical female high school jock. She discovers she is a lesbian which throws her into a bit of a tailspin early in the story. She’s also a good person, which unfortunately leads to her untimely demise. Jesse’s the kind of girl who is ready to jump into action for what’s right or for what she wants, but doesn’t always think through the implications. She has strong convictions and is very stubborn.
When we first meet Norrie Maguire, she is sweet and quiet, and experiencing some *very* strange sensations. It turns out she’s so tightly bound to Jesse, even though they’ve never met and are separated by the Atlantic Ocean, that she is able to sense Jesse’s sexual awakening. With Jesse out of the picture, Norrie seems doomed to fruitlessly search for the other half of her soul. She is a gifted musician, and her search comes through in her music. Unfortunately, a series of failed relationships have left her isolated and depressed.
Soul Selector/Selecta can’t figure out what she did wrong to end up with so much going wrong all at once. As the one designated by the gods to shepherd soul mates together, one getting away from her feels like a personal affront. When that one turns out to be Jesse who isn’t going to take her death lying down, she is grudgingly dragged into the situation on Jesse’s behalf.
Death is my favourite character. He looks like a young man who’s more than a little bit of a clothes-horse. He also has a bit of a speech impediment which leads to some entertaining exchanges. Unlike the Soul Selector, he has a sense of humour and doesn’t take much seriously, especially not his job. The Soul Selector seems to have a soft spot for him and allows him to take certain liberties she would never allow from anyone else.
The Writing Style
Like Gill’s other novels, her sense of humour shines through. She is adept at building situations up into ever more comical quagmires, and just when you’re wondering how things could possibly come out, there’s some little twist that brings everything together. Her writing style is clean and direct and never distracts from the story she’s telling.
Fun characters, an insane situation, and true love. These are the ingredients for a great read and a fast one at that. You’ll be churning through the pages desperately trying to see what comes next!
As I mentioned earlier, this book is a little difficult to categorize. It’s romantic, but the main romantic characters aren’t engaged in anything close to a traditional romance. One of them isn’t even aware of the existence of the other for much of the book! If you’re looking for a traditional lesbian romance, this isn’t it. However, if you’re willing to give it a chance, you won’t be disappointed.
If you’re in the mood for something quirky and fun, this is definitely the book for you. I can’t recommend it, or Gill McKnight’s other books, highly enough. If you don’t know Gill’s work, this is a good introduction as it stands alone, unlike her Garoul Series. Then clear some room in your reading schedule, because you’re going to want to read through the rest of her work.
Excerpt from Soul Selecta by Gill McKnight
“What the hell is going on?” Soul Selector’s angry pacing swished a yard-wide furrow. Her cloak swathed through the grass like a scythe.
“I don’t know. I can’t look once people get naked.” Death turned his blushing face away.
“I’m surprised. I thought this would be the moment you stole their clothes.”
“Sarcasm is a weak substitute for poor conversational skills.” He sniffed. “Even monkeys do sarcasm. They display their genitalia.”
“How would you know? You’d be too busy looking the other way.”
“You’re doing it again.”
“Would you two stop bickering and help me?” Jesse rubbed her eyes dry. She had been quietly crying. “I need to get down there. Norrie is with the wrong person, and it’s killing me, except you two idiots have already seen to that.”
“Here we go again,” Death muttered under his breath.
“I’m so sorry to upset you by wanting to live,” Jesse yelled at them. “I want to be down there with her, and because of you I can’t. It hurts; it actually hurts.” She turned away. “It hurts like hell, and you just don’t get it.”
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Bits and Bobs
- ISBN number: 978-1626393387
- Publisher: Bold Strokes Books