Bedlam, Bath and Beyond

J.D. Warren
2008, Fantasy Romance
LoveSpell, $6.99, 295 pages, Amazon ASIN 0505526980
Part of a series

Grade: C
Sensuality: Warm

Bedlam, Bath and Beyond sounds like the title of a cute and cozy mystery, but itís a fantasy romance. It has its virtues, but I canít really recommend it.

Samantha Jones (actually Dorringer) lives in a beautiful McMansion in the most exclusive gated community in town. Her rich husband Marshall adores her, and showers her with clothes, shoes and jewels enough to gladden the heart of the most materialistic of material girls. So why do things feel off? Samanthaís awakening comes when the milkman asks, ďYou know none of this is real donít you?Ē With that phrase, Samantha seems to waken from a semi-comatose state and begin to notice things.

It turns out that her perfect world is only a construct made by a group of powerful and long-lived beings that have been around the world for eons. Europeans called them fairies, they prefer the term Kin or Peri. Some of the Kin abuse their power by ensnaring humans in real-seeming constructs so they can study them. The milkman is actually Corydonais, a Kin who belongs to the Storm Ravens clan. Corís job is to investigate other Kin who abuse humans by trapping them in other realities.

Pretty soon Samantha finds the key that keeps her locked in the construct and destroys - it only to find herself in Las Vegas being pursued by Demon Pigs. Luckily Cor is with her and they manage to get away. To sum up: Samantha meets the rest of the Storm Ravens, falls in love with Cor, and discovers why Marshall - the Kin who posed as her husband - kept her in the construct. Then Sam and Cor go out to hunt him down.

Bedlam, Bath and Beyond is told in first person by Samantha, an engaging and likable character, particularly during the first part of the book and as she and Cor get to know each other. But when she discovers the true aims of Marshall and other Kin who think like he does (who are nasty and evil and preparing for human sacrifice) she doesnít change her tone at all. The light and chick-lit-esque tone of her narrative clashes with the evil of the plot's progression, making for some very disconcerting reading.

Another problem with Samanthaís first person narration is that Cor remains very shadowy. He has loads of potential, but since we only see him through Samís eyes; by the end of the story heís still cloaked in darkness. Oddly, some of the secondary characters, especially Nikki, Corís teenage sister, and his lieutenant Ginger are more alive than he is.

There's a lengthy excerpt at the back of this book for its sequel, Crate and Peril. It looks to be more of the same, and that could be a good thing - or not - depending on how the author proceeds. Although Warrens' series has potential, the dissonant quality to her writing style really skewed my reading experience.

-- Ellen Micheletti

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