A Sweet Sting of Salt by Rose Sutherland: Captivating Sapphic Twist

When a sharp cry wakes Jean in the middle of the night during a terrible tempest, she’s convinced it must have been a dream. But when the cry comes again, Jean ventures outside and is shocked by what she discovers—a young woman in labor, drenched to the bone in the bitter cold and able to speak barely a word of English.

Although Jean is the only midwife for miles around, she’s at a loss for who this woman is or where she’s from; Jean can only assume that she must be the new wife of the neighbor up the road, Tobias. And when Tobias does indeed arrive at her cabin in search of his wife, Muirin, Jean’s questions continue to multiply. Why has he kept his wife’s pregnancy a secret? And why does Muirin’s open demeanor change completely the moment she’s in his presence?

Though Jean learned long ago that she should stay out of other people’s business, her growing concern—and growing feelings—for Muirin mean that she can’t simply set her worries aside. But when the answers she finds are more harrowing than she ever could have imagined, she fears she may have endangered herself, Muirin, and the baby. Will she be able to put things right and save the woman she loves before it’s too late, or will someone have to pay for Jean’s actions with their life?

In A Sweet Sting of Salt, Rose Sutherland’s debut novel, I found it a captivating Sapphic twist on the Selkie legend, an endearing love story that will thrill and chill you with the atmospheric storytelling. Right from the introduction, the story grabs your attention with the queer overtones and the mystery of Muirin. 

Rose Sutherland slowly unveils the connections in “A Sweet Sting of Salt” which makes it all the more chilling when you recognize the truth of what Tobias has done to Muirin. I also love the haunting quality to Jean’s loneliness, her inability to feel part of the townspeople and how in opening up to Muirin, in helping her, Jean forges connections with others and heals herself of old wounds. I love the thrilling action and the uncertainty of what Tobias will do next, the mystery and intrigue of how Jean attempts to save Muirin.

If you love sapphic love stories, this beautiful retelling of the Selkie legend will have you rethinking the original stories and you will find this a captivating Sapphic twist. The ending is beautiful, the love story enchanting, and the reveal of Muirin’s nature incredibly well written. The narrative is like a force of nature, making you live and breathe Jean’s world.

Rating: 5 out of 5 foxes

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