Samhain Publishing, $5.50, ISBN 1-59998-456-3
Historical Romance, 2007
When I read the blurb for Sharon Long’s historical romance Beyond the Night, I am given the impression that this is going to be a swashbuckling excitement-filled road trip adventure. After all, it pairs two unlikely explorers.
India Ashton has followed her explorer father most of her life all over the place and had lived in India until the Indians decided that they’d rather rule their country instead of letting the British make all the rules. Thomas Hadley, or Ridge on the account of his title Viscount Ridgewood, on the other hand yearns to embark on adventures. Unlike Ridge, India now just wants to settle down in one place. Ridge, on the other hand, is all puffed up and eager to see the world.
They meet when Ridge gets his hands on the journal of a recently deceased explorer which details this explorer’s discovery of the mythical city of Pagoria. India’s father, who is currently MIA and is presumably dead, and that deceased explorer once worked together to locate Pagoria until the explorer betrayed India’s father. Today, India lives as a recluse in her estate, trying to find a way to stave off the inevitable bankruptcy that every romance heroine has to deal with. Ridge shows up at her place with the diary and asks her help in translating the Pagorian scripts in it. As much as India is reluctant to help Ridge, she also sees an opportunity to redeem her father’s good name by proving to her father’s detractors that her father was right – Pagoria does exist.
Yikes, this story however moves so slowly that I find myself wondering where all the Indiana Jones-style excitement is. The two characters psychoanalyze emotions, travel to inns, check with locals for their travel arrangements, et cetera, as if they are in a documentary on the Travel Network. Even towards the end when things could have been interesting, the story instead becomes a tale of “Oh, will India choose between her Daddy and her Boyfriend?” woe.
India never becomes the kick-ass heroine like I hope she will, but then again, this story isn’t the adventure-driven tale like I initially expected it to be. No matter. But even after adjusting my expectations of this story after a few chapters into it, I still can’t help feeling disappointed with Beyond the Night. The characters are okay, the writing is okay, I can read this story in one sitting without encountering much difficulty. But I still feel that it’s like expecting tiramisu only to get a slice of ordinary vanilla cake – a part of me will always be disappointed that this one chooses to be so mundane and ordinary when it could have been so much more interesting.