Friday, March 4, 2011

New Canterbury Affair by Frances Pauli

TITLE: New Canterbury Affair
AUTHOR: Frances Pauli
PUBLISHER: Devine Destinies
LENGTH: Novella (roughly 30k)
GENRE: Futuristic romance
COST: $4.99

Lierra is returning to her home planet with her fiancĂ© in tow, a union that will help bring prosperity to her uncle, the Governor. She’s hoping for an escape. What she finds is a world she no longer recognizes, and a man she’s admired for years. Forrest Ecks was one of the premier artists of his time until his ruined left hand stopped his career. He finds in Lierra a refreshing honesty and intelligence. Offering to give her lessons is just a means to ensure she refines her skills. Or is it merely the means to get to spend more time with her…?

I was fascinated by the potential set-up of this futuristic world, where the heroine travels to her home planet where time has been halted and modern conveniences are nowhere to be found. But like Lierra, I didn’t get exactly what I was expecting.

The story is simple. Lierra is engaged to Trent, a man she isn’t really attracted to but who is a good prospect. She’s getting past marriageable age, and doesn’t have a lot of options, and Trent seems like a good match, especially financially. The one thing she has is her art, and though she recognizes that she’s not very good, she knows what she likes in others. And she loves the work of Forrest Ecks. When she discovers that Mr. Ecks is now living on her home planet, and is actually a very good friend of her uncle’s, she’s both excited and terrified about the possibility of meeting him. But Forrest isn’t what she anticipated, younger and more attractive than she’d ever imagined him. Forrest has given up his art after an injury destroyed his left hand, but he recognizes a kindred spirit in Lierra and offers to give her lessons. It’s an offer she can’t refuse.

The futuristic world sets itself apart by having this haven against modern conveniences, completely with old-fashioned values and expectations. Lierra is upset when she finds that the planet is breaking away from those, and without even that anchor to hold onto, she escapes even more into her art. Generally speaking, she’s a strong woman, but it often feels like the emotions got glossed over. The events of the story unfold rather rapidly, and sometimes there are jumps in time so that what should have been meaningful interactions are told rather than shown. I kept waiting for deeper insight into her, but it just never came.

Lierra fares better than Forrest, though. I’m a sucker for a damaged artist archetype, but that’s really all he is in this. Ultimately, he lacks personality, and I failed to see the progression of his feelings for Lierra, primarily because of the aforementioned glossing of events. There was promise in the first third of the book, but really, once he started their lessons, things jumped quickly, with little depth to the time they spent together. This was where it should have gotten meaty and really made me fall in love with them, but instead, I got vignettes and time jumps and an awful lot of time spent with Trent, the fiancĂ©. Too much time. The ending gets telegraphed from the second chapter, too, leaving no surprise about how it will all work out, and my final thought was, “Such a wasted opportunity.”


7/10 – Clean and unremarkable


5/10 – So much potential feels ultimately skimmed over


6/10 – Stronger than the hero, but I lacked an emotional connection to her or her journey

Entertainment value

5/10 – I loved the idea, but in many ways this felt like an outline of a story rather than a full one

World building

6/10 – Some intriguing ideas that never really get explained or explored



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