Bedlam, Bath And Beyond
by JD Warren, fantasy (2008)
LoveSpell, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-505-52698-4

Reading Bedlam, Bath And Beyond is akin to dating a very good-looking hunk who looks so sexy and most tempting in his very expensive designer suit. It's like letting him escort me to the swankiest and most exclusive five-star restaurant and feeling my heart skip a beat when he tells me that he is more than happy to let me go on a shopping spree at boutiques with names that I can't even pronounce at his expense. And then, as the evening goes on and on, he starts to talk about the most boring things ever and I begin thinking of excuses that I can use to cut my losses, cut short this date, and go home to wash my hair. That is... this book.

This is meant to be the first book in a series called The Storm Ravens. We are talking about an actual series here, folks, with the same characters showing up in every book, so you should get this one only if you are willing to invest time and money on another urban fantasy series. Yes, this is exactly what this book is - the first entry in an urban fantasy series. The cover and the back blurb would suggest that this is merely a paranormal romantic comedy, which is somewhat misleading if you ask me.

The problem I have with this book is tied closely to the execution of the plot - the most interesting parts of the book are its first few chapters.

In these chapters, we have Samantha Jones, a housewife who seems to have everything. Her husband isn't just rich, he dotes on her. She has two twin boys who are very well-behaved. Her neighbors adore her. The neighborhood is perfect. Everything is perfect. Or is it? Samantha can't help feeling that something is wrong with her life. Her sons are too well-behaved that they scare her. Her neighbors' behavior rubs her off as wrong in a way that she can't clearly define. Also, she can't remember any detail about her life prior to marrying Marshall Jones. She can't even remember the honeymoon. And then there is the milkman. He's a cute guy, but more importantly, he is telling her these cryptic furtive messages about how her life is not what it seems to be.

Eventually, Samantha will realize that her life is a cross between The Matrix and The Stepford Wives. She has actually been kidnapped by rogue fairies and been "brainwashed" to play the perfect wife for Marshall. And worse, her two boys are actually demon hell boars under a powerful illusion spell. She has very few allies, among them Corydonais, our hero who is the milkman. Actually, he just disguises himself as the milkman to warn Samantha. He is a fairy, one of the Kin folks who live among humans. After Samantha escapes back to the real world, she is given a tour of Kin culture as she falls for Cor and attempts to ensure that the bad guys don't get their clammy paws on her again.

The thing is, the story becomes really boring after Samantha escapes from her prison as the author begins taking Samantha on what is pretty much a tour of the Kin community in Venice, California. The pace slows to a painful crawl. Samantha has her moments, but in the end she's just another generic wise-cracking urban fantasy heroine with very little to make her stand out in one way or the author. Worse, Cor remains a one-dimensional meat puppet with an infuriating tendency to keep secrets to himself unnecessarily. The romance between him and Samantha... well, I've seen ships passing by in a port that generate more heat than these two. When things finally kick up a notch late in the story, I'm too numbed by the utterly flat hero, really boring romance, and constant dull exposition of the Kin culture (which isn't too interesting because it's pretty the same human lifestyle, only this time the Valley boys and girls have wings and stuff) to care. I can't help thinking that this book would have been better if Samantha's escape from her prison has been expanded to make up the entire story instead of just the first few chapters, because those scenes are easily the most interesting moments in this otherwise dreary read.

Rating: 56

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