Monday, June 15, 2009

Always and Forever by Pamela Labud

TITLE: Always and Forever
AUTHOR: Pamela Labud
PUBLISHER: Resplendence Publishing
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 77k)
GENRE: Historical time travel romance
COST: $6.50

Crippled after a duel to protect his sister’s honor, Robert Houghton finds himself in a sickbed with little hope for the future…until a cursed ghost whisks him away to satisfy the bidding of a Scottish lass in need of help. Jenna MacReynold is in desperate need of aid. She’s just fled the malevolent grasp of her would-be husband, a man who only wants to wed her in order to get to her untainted younger sister. She needs a man she can claim as a temporary husband so she can both get help from a neighboring clan and hold the evil Murton Carrick off. She just doesn’t expect to be so attracted to the man she ends up with…

Throughout this entire novel, I could never shake the prevailing sense of missed opportunity. I loved the blurb I read, and the romantic promise of these two desperate characters filled me with great expectation. However, while I liked both the possibilities behind the plot and the two leads, it never really lived up to the story I wanted it to be.

The problem for me started quite early. Though I generally liked the characters I was introduced to, the incredibly awkward information dumps about their histories and situations made for some very clunky reading. There was a ton of telling, not showing, in order to establish motivations and needs, and I found myself cringing when another passage would come along to convey needed backstory. It did a tremendous disservice to the characters that were being set up. Robert has a determined spirit, one that shines through in spite of his disability in his present time, while Jenna is plucky and strong without losing her femininity. Much of this comes through later on in the story, in the way they act and react to their increasingly awful situation, but I wanted it from the start and didn’t really feel like I got it.

The depiction of Scottish life in the thirteenth century was strong and vivid, with solid details to paint the world in which Robert and Jenna grow close. I sank into that portrayal much more easily than I did in Robert’s nineteenth century England, though that’s primarily due to the fact that Robert is mostly bedbound for all the time he’s there in the beginning. But in the end, a strong sense of place isn’t quite enough to compensate for the awkward information dissemination throughout the story. These enjoyable characters deserved a smoother presentation than what I read.


6/10 – Awkward information dumps hold back the promise of this idea


7/10 – I liked his spirit and determination, though I’ll admit I liked him more in the past than I did in his present


7/10 – Plucky and strong

Entertainment value

6/10 – Though I liked the characters and the idea, the execution failed to live up to its promise

World building

8/10 – Some solid details that brought Scotland to life



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