A request went out to any Cannonballers who would be interested in a newly published lesbian/LGBTQ romance in exchange for an honest review. I volunteered.
At the Touch of Death retells the Abduction of Persephone myth, making it a love story in which Hades and Persephone are both taken hostage by love, but get their happily ever after when Persephone reclaims her agency and fights for a relationship with Hades.
In Greek mythology, Hades, the God of the Underworld sees Persephone, the Goddess of Fertility and wants her, so he abducts her and makes her the Queen of the Underworld. Her mother (who is also the sister of both her father and her abductor/husband), Demeter, mourns and refuses to allow anything to grow which results in famine and death. She finds out who kidnapped Persephone and complains to Zeus, Zeus forces Hades to give Persephone back, but Persephone has eaten pomegranate seeds which requires that she stay in the underworld. But, through compromise, she only had to stay part of the year with Hades. Demeter makes everything die while her daughter is in the underworld, and this explains winter.
I really enjoyed reading Greek myths as a kid, but they are chock full of incest, bestiality, dubious consent and rape. I always found the abduction of Persephone particularly disturbing. In Gina Carra’s world, the gods are still gods, but less familial. There’s no incest, but they exist in a small community with limited relationship pools and long memories for bad behavior.
Carra’s Hades is an isolated woman, widely disliked because of past behavior. Hades’ best friend is a meddlesome Eros whose desire for Hades to find love sets off the action. Eros shoots Hades with a love arrow while she is looking at Persephone, forcing Persephone to spend a month in the Underworld. Carra unfolds the story slowly, sometimes too slowly. She shows the evolution of the relationship between Hades and Persephone while also introducing other gods, goddesses and demi-gods discussing the implications of Eros’ actions.
The story is quiet, contemplative, and conversational. It was a lovely read and I found myself reading it at night as I was unwinding from the day.
Zeus is still a jerk though.