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Beyond the Hedge    by Roby James order for
Beyond the Hedge
by Roby James
Order:  USA  Can
Juno, 2007 (2007)
Paperback, CD
* *   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

Roby James's Beyond the Hedge is a gothic romance mixed with early twentieth century British fantasy stories, but with an adult twist. All of these elements combine to create the atmosphere of a fantasy world filled with magic and romance.

Jennifer Paul is a modern woman, more concerned about climbing the corporate ladder than finding a man with whom to settle down. On Christmas Eve, one of the few breaks she gets from her hectic lifestyle, she makes a stop on her way to her aunt's house and discovers a hedge that seems very out of place. When her greyhound Dragon chases a cat through the bush, Jennifer finds herself trapped in the lost county of Clipton Magna in the year 1805.

Soon after realizing she is not in Wales anymore, she meets Jeremy, the Young Master of the Manor of Clipton Magna, who tells her about this strange world as he takes her to the Manor House. Jennifer is immediately welcomed in Clipton Magna, but all she can think of is getting back to her aunt and her job. She is so absorbed in her attempts to find a way out that she does not realize that Jeremy is falling for her, as she is for him. Jennifer must figure out where her heart truly lies, or Clipton Magna will be overrun by dragons that manifest with unrequited love.

James does a marvelous job of creating a mysterious mood in Beyond the Hedge. As soon as Jennifer steps through the hedge, the story takes on a magical, yet slightly dark, air that continues until all is resolved. While the atmosphere is thick with fantasy, it is lacking somewhat in sexual tension, a must for a gripping romance. Jennifer spends so much time analyzing her feelings for Jeremy that passion is not allowed to develop until near the end, where it feels forced due to the advancement of the story line.

Female fans who grew up reading E. Nesbit and Alan Garner will find Beyond the Hedge a compelling tale. Gothic romance fans will also enjoy it, especially for its rich mysterious atmosphere, but regular romance fans will probably want something with a bit more passion.

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