2004, Historical Romance (1790s Egypt)
Zebra, $5.99, 352 pages, Amazon ASIN 0821774409 Part of a series
Have you ever read a novel in which the author creates the past world so vividly that you feel transported you to another time and place? On the other side of the coin, in some historical novels the author keeps her feet so firmly planted in the modern world that it's impossible to be moved. Tammy Hilz's latest falls into this latter category, a circumstance that is
truly a shame since she writes of a very interesting place in history.
Gavin DeFoe, Earl of Blackwell, is in a bind. Though desperate to locate the legendary pshent (a type of crown carrying very important symbolism for ancient Egyptians) of the Pharoah Menes before Napoleon and his armies find it, Gavin cannot seem to get an excavation crew together.
Then Gavin meets sly former ship Captain Tuggle who, in exchange for an exorbitant price, promises a crew to Gavin and his friends. To Gavin's shock, said crew is elderly and headed by none other than Tuggle's daughter MacKenzie (Mac), a woman dedicated to caring for her father and his aging crew. Despite his anger at Tuggle's trick, Gavin is desperate enough that he takes this ragtag (but charming, of course) crew on his journey.
As one would expect, Mac both infuriates and attracts Gavin. As one would also expect, the attraction begins to outweigh the irritation as time goes on. Mac is certainly an adventurous soul and, despite Gavin's attempts to shield and protect her, she is determined to do all that is necessary to ensure that the crew succeeds in its mission. Rather than sitting in the
shade and behaving as a lady, Mac dresses in native clothing and works just as hard as her men, doing everything from digging to taking on wild animals. However, instead of repelling Gavin, her actions simply make him feel more fiercely protective of her.
For her part, even though Mac finds herself growing attached to Gavin, she believes that he will not want to form any lasting attachment with her because she is not a lady. Her reluctance, combined with Gavin's annoyance/attraction, leads to a truly tedious cycle of fight, make up, fight, make up, and so on.
On top of all that, Hilz infuses her romance with a decidedly modern sensibility that repeatedly pulls the reader out of the story. First of all, MacKenzie sounds more like a modern yuppie name than one that would be given to a lady in the 18th century. In addition, the characters talk much like those in contemporary romance novels and discuss emotion in more
frank terms than one would expect of the time. They also have these blunt psychological/emotional discussions in mixed company, a decided taboo until quite recently. These speech patterns made it impossible for me to feel as though I was anywhere near Napoleon's Egypt.
Lastly, there was one huge historical point that kept pulling out of the story again and again: The main characters kept miraculously reading Egyptian hieroglyphs with little or no trouble. As the story takes place in 1799, this would have been highly improbable, if not impossible. The ancient Egyptian language was considered to be an enigmatic and unreadable code until the discovery of the Rosetta Stone by Napoleon's troops (enemies of the main cast in this story, by the way) in 1799. Even after the discovery of the stone, it took until about 1822 for Thomas Young and then Jean-Francois Champollion to complete the process of deciphering the Stone and making Egyptian writings accessible to scholars.
Mac is rather likable overall, and the setting is wonderful - not to mention a good change of pace from what I've seen lately in historical releases. In addition, the adventure in the first part of the book is rather entertaining. However, the dynamics of the main relationship in this book together with the intrusively modern feel of this story make Beyond My
Dreams a book I cannot recommend.
-- Lynn Spencer
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