Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Review: Of Water and Dragons by Kelley Heckart

Genre: Romantic historical fantasy


The story is based on events in Roman Britain between 60 and 108 AD. The bones of the story come from the author’s research and are broadly factual. Fictional and fantastical elements have been added. Characters are both historical and fictional. The author makes interesting suppositions to fill gaps in the historical record, and also takes the occasional giant leap. I like giant leaps.

The Celtic tribes who have not accepted Rome are being driven further and further into the fringes of Britain by the Romans. The Romans think that these tribes have been defeated, but the tribes are ripe for an uprising. Druids seek to rebalance the physical and spirit worlds thrown out of equilibrium by the heavy-footed presence of Rome. The omens are consistently bad. Can the Celts make a great enough sacrifice to defeat the might of Rome?

Early on we meet Nemu, who is half water faery, half Celt. The first thing she does is rescue Ambiorix, a half-Celtic Roman soldier who has been injured in a battle against Celts. She nurses him back to health, then takes him to rejoin his Legion. The story concerns their ongoing meetings and partings, their growing love for one another, the Roman military engagements and Druidic machinations which largely dictate their lives after they meet. Through all this runs a thread of fantasy which enriches the whole. 

This is the second edition of a book originally published in 2005.


Kelley Heckart is an American author. She has published some 14 books in a similar milieu to this one, grouped into series. Her literary influences are Marion Zimmer Bradley, Morgan Llewelyn, Ann Rice, Stephen King, Lynn Kurland, and Evangeline Walton.

She enjoys writing about “fierce warriors and alpha males, bold women, otherworldly creatures, magic, and romance”. She describes her writing focus as “steamy, paranormal romance novels”. Her most recent series, Shadow Walkers, contains these elements, set in the present day.

She is a musician with a rock ‘n’ roll background. She is married, but coy about where in the States she lives. When not writing she enjoys archery.

Her website is here.


If you enjoy this period of history, or if you want to discover more about it, then there is plenty of meat in this novel for you. If you enjoy nature, if you enjoy faeries – then, again, there is plenty here.

Unfortunately, (or maybe not, if learning is your goal), the author’s research is not lightly worn. The action has to wait its turn behind substantial descriptions of places, interiors, clothing, weapons, rituals etc. As a result I found the plot slow going, and hard to keep track of. We went down a lot of side roads which turned out to be dead ends. Focus dissipated like the Caledonian mists. Helpful signposts were often absent. As a result, important plot points were sometimes underplayed. The most unfortunate case in point being the end, where a cunningly spotted opportunity to mash together a couple of well-known British legends barely made it onto the page. To know what had just transpired I had to read the author’s note after the end of the book.

The sex was good 😉.

If you skip lightly over the descriptions and can keep the story on track in your mind, there is much to enjoy here.

Buy now from:            Amazon US        Amazon UK


There is some fairly graphic sex (although not, perhaps, as much as one might expect from a novel advertised as ‘steamy’).

There is one c-bomb which took even this potty-mouthed reviewer aback.

Format/Typo Issues:

I was working from an ARC missing a number of chapter headings, so some of the signposts I cite as missing above may have been inserted since.

Rating: ***  Three Stars

Reviewed by: Judi Moore

Approximate word count: 70-75,000 words

No comments: