Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Beyond The Hedge - Roby James

Hey there! Sorry for my silence lately, I have had (and still have) the head cold from hell. I'm back though, with a TBR pile that's growing. Hopefully, I'll be able to really start hitting the reviews pretty heavy in the next few days. Just a heads up, my FAB pick, Richelle Mead will be here with me starting the 21st for an entire week! I'm so pumped. Richelle's debut novel Succubus Blues will be out March 6, and this book is absolutely FABulous. No other words for it. Well, there are, but I'll get to those on the 21st. Not only is the book a total FAB, so is Richelle, so I'll be doing a full on FAB! So, read up on Richelle, and get ready for a great week. Then, the first week of March I'll kick off my FAB pick, Atlantis Rising by Alyssa Day. Trust me, these two authors are unbelievably great! And now, without further ado...

Beyond The Hedge by Roby James

When corporate executive Jennifer Paul stumbles across the mystical boundaries of Clipton Magna, a time-lost land from the era of King George III, she finds herself conversing with a talking cat, taking advice from an owl, and fighting an undeniable attraction to Jeremy, the handsome heir to the local lord. This magical realm is beautiful and its people warm, but Jennifer is a twenty-first-century career woman who's itching to make her mark in the "real" world - our world. She wants to go back.

But the strange rules and odd spirits that rule Clipton Magna bind Jennifer more closely than she knows. Her decisions - to stay or go, to love or not - threaten to alter the fate of this enchanted oasis, and just might affect the modern-day world in unexpected ways as well...

This BCC actually summarizes the basic plot of the book very well, and when I read it, I was really looking forward to reading this book. I mean, doesn't that just sound like a great read? And then I read the book, and whoo-boy. Although the BCC is not misleading when it comes to the story, it is misleading because the tone of the BCC does not match the tone of the book.

Since the BCC does do such a good job of explaining the book, I won't go into to much detail in my wrap-up. Basically, on a short trip to see her Aunt for the holiday, Jennifer takes a wrong turn only to be stopped by a very large hedge. When her dog, Dragon, chases a cat through the hedge, Jennifer runs after him. But when she finally catches him, there is no sign of the hedge, and she can't seem to find her way back to her car.

Jeremy comes to fetch her, and takes her back to the Manor House. On the horse ride Jennifer tries to get information about where they are and why the surroundings were so different then they should be, only to be treated with short non-answers. Figuring she was just having a bad day, Jennifer accepts the bed offered for the night with the intention of getting out the first thing in the morning. Only, when they reach the Manor, Jennifer encounters a talking cat and passes out. When she awakes the next morning, her clothes have been replaced with clothing from the 1800's, her hair has grown to an extremely long length, and whenever speaking to someone other than Jeremy, she is unable to say what she wants.

Soon, Jennifer also encounters a talking owl, and still cannot get straight answers to her questions. She finds out that in order to figure out how to get out of Clipton Magna, she must sleep with Jeremy. But as soon as she decides to do just that, Dragon's start coming to life from drawings, threatening the existence for Clipton Magna, in order to better fight the dragons, the Owl gives her some magic to help fight them, and when the time finally comes for Jennifer to go, she does, but has she truly made the right decision?

The basic story line of this book is wonderful. I loved the idea of the book. That a magical place existed out of our time, made because a Prince fell in love with a woman that was not suitable for his station. The imagination of the author is vast, the writing and actual story-telling of the author, however, is what killed the book for me.

Written in Third Person, solely from Jennifer's point of view, Beyond may have the HEA, but it lacks the bonding with the characters that I require to truly enjoy my Romances. What's more, I didn't particularly like Jennifer. She constantly put down other women in a move to make herself feel superior. "Unlike many other women in business, she did not need the trappings of success from Cartier, Prada, or Ferragamo in order to be seen as fit for the executive role, but she did use them, with some pleasure, to make an even more emphatic statement." I read that, and wondered how the heck this woman knew that those "many other women" needed those things? Could they simply not use them for pleasure as she did? Or, was she lying to herself? There were many statements along those same lines from this gal, and it bothered me quite a bit.

Then, there was the fact that Jeremy fancied himself in love with her, when they barely spoke and when they did, it was nothing about either one of them personally, but about how she could get out of Clipton Magna. There were too many passages that just didn't fit. It was if the author was trying far to hard to make us believe that Jennifer and Jeremy were bonding. For instance, there is this part where Jennifer thinks she likes the comforting sound of Jeremy's voice, and I was thrown, because I hadn't actually read where they had conversed much at all. You see, I actually need to see the interaction between the main characters, not just be told it has happened.

The word choices also threw me. There were times when Jennifer's thoughts were just as they should be, coming from a woman of the 21st century, and other times, they were very old fashioned. I realize that she is taken to a place not of this century, but that shouldn't have changed who she was or her language. It was just very confusing. For instance, there is this sentence, when Jennifer gets dressed in her new daytime attire, "Jennifer caught a glimpse of herself in the cheval glass and thought that she looked like nothing so much as a Barbie doll." I'll admit, I had no clue what the heck this meant. I had to ask people to explain it to me. I absolutely abhor feeling stupid when I read a book. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind a book that makes me think, just not about what the meaning behind a simple descriptive sentence. And then, later in the book, Jennifer thinks this, "...if she was that hot for the sight of flowers." See, there really is no consistency in Jennifer's thought/speech patterns.

The pacing of the book was slow. I'm talking snail pace, until about Chapter 10, and it only speeds up for a few chapters, until we're back at the slower pace. But the pacing problems could just be because I really didn't like Jennifer, and being in her perspective the entire time made it harder to get into.

This is a JUNO BOOKS release, and Juno states this, "Juno publishes fantasy featuring strong female characters in richly imagined contexts that include romantic or erotic elements." And they are right, this book is very high on imagination with a nice high-concept fantasy element. But Jennifer was not what I would consider a strong female. She was self-centered and thought too much of herself, that she simply made herself look insecure and weak. She gets her HEA, but I'm not so sure I wanted her to. I wanted her to get her comeuppance, and learn a little humility.

I'm still not ready to give up on Juno's books. They have great story-lines, but the copy editing needs to be given close attention, as does the tendency towards info-dump that slows the pace.

Take Care

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