Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tangled in Time by Pauline Baird Jones

Back of the Book Blurb:

Colonel Carey (from
The Key and Girl Gone Nova) takes a test "flight" through the Garradian time-space portal, but an unexpected impact lands him somewhere and some when. As he attempts to get to Area 51, he crosses paths with Miss Olivia Carstairs, who could be Mary Poppins' twin sister. Or maybe her cousin. Olivia's got a transmogrification machine powered by steam and something more, and a mouth he'd like to kiss like it was his job. Can he get them both to safety before the buzzard eats them or she shoots him with her derringer?

The genre for this Novella read: Science Fiction/Steampunk/ Paranormal. Quite a lot to fit into one book. I was also a little wary about the blurb because it made it seem as though this Colonel Carey character was from a series of books and I don’t like picking up a book in the middle of a series. Still I gave it a go.

The beginning read like the beginning of any novel so it seemed that perhaps I wouldn’t have to worry about it being part of a series. However I noticed right away that the genre's were misleading. The two settings in the novella are in a dessert or on another planet (which could have been anywhere really) and the only Steampunk item was the machine the brought the female main character to her current location. I wouldn't classify it as either Steampunk or Paranormal. There is some scientific techno-talk to explain the time travel bit that I guess one could classify as Science Fiction, but the genre for this should really be Romance.

Romance isn’t something I normally read and when I do I’m picky. I like my romances to have an interesting plot; something that moves the book forward in a way that makes me care more about what happens next then if the guy gets the girl (or vice versa). This book didn’t quite do it for me.

The author can write well and her descriptions of the emotions the main characters were experiencing - the lust and tension – were so well done you could almost feel it yourself. But I felt the plot and the sense of a story wasn’t as good as it could have been – particularly the lack of resolution. About ¾ of the way through the novella, a bad guy is revealed… and then nothing. They talk about him, how they will need to keep an eye out for him, but there is no resolution. There are a multitude of subplots that are brought up that bring a real interest to the story, but are never tied up at the end and sometimes are only mentioned once. In fact, the only thing that gets resolved is that the guy gets the girl at the end, which is pretty standard for most romance stories.

If this is meant to be part of an ongoing series in which things will eventually be explained in another book, then it really should be marketed like that so that people like me aren’t expecting a full story when they pick this novella up.

The author can write, she’s got talent that’s for sure, but if this is a stand alone book I can only give it 2 out of 5 stars.


  1. Hi there! Thanks for reviewing this book. I really enjoyed it (agree with you about the lust & tension). I liked the lighthearted nature of the adventure and also the fact that I couldn't predict where it was going.

    I agree it would have been nice for more resolution, but series books do have cliffhangers on occasion. I don't mind them so much if I don't have to wait long for the next book, LOL!

    However I noticed right away that the genre's were misleading. The two settings in the novella are in a dessert or on another planet

    I had a different response. I thought the settings were fine since steampunk can take place in all kinds of settings. Yes, Victorian England is the norm, but authors have written steampunk in other places (e.g., the Old West, space, alternate fantasy settings).

    What's your thought on if the story had been labeled "science fiction romance with steampunk elements"? Would that have made a difference for you prior to reading the story? Just curious, and because I love talking labels for books!

    Quite a lot to fit into one book.

    Are the labels mentioned above publisher ones or reader ones? Because publishers frequently label a story with just one label "SF" or "Fantasy" or "Romance" when in fact the story is cross genre or even a hybrid story.

    On the other hand, what I love about metadata is that it can better capture a story's hybrid nature (if it has one). So I find that those types of labels ("Science Fiction/Steampunk/ Paranormal") help guide my expectations more specifically than if the story was simply labeld "SF."

  2. I can only speak for myself, but I generally find books that list a number of genres lack focus or have such minor elements that, really, the metadata doesn't even apply.

    I prefer 1 main genre and 1 sub-genre, but as a writer and as a reader. Low fantasy, for example. Or, Historical romance. But, once you through in things like "low paranormal fantasy romance", I just roll my eyes. I want to shake the author and scream, pick one dammit!

    I haven't read this story - Tina did the review. So, again, just commenting on my own general preferences :)

    re: cliffhanger - these aren't as popular as they used to be. People often pick up series mid-ways through (that's how they discover it's a series at times!), and it's important to ensure that there is enough explanation to carry things through and lead to an ending of the book's conflict, even if an over-arching conflict isn't resolved. The Dresden Files is a good example of this, as is Celeste Bradley's Royal Four series.

  3. Hi Heather,

    Thanks for the comments. I'm with Krista when it comes to too many labels. And yes, I think I wouldn't have been as disappointed with the genre confusion had the labels read "science fiction romance." The fact that romance had been dropped from the labels entirely was what caused me the most concern. And for the record, these are the labels that were sent in with the request for review. After checking on the publishers website it reads "Steampunk/ Romance" which is better but still not accurate to me.

    The cliff hanger was a little on the withholding side for me. I believe that every book needs to have a good sense of resolution at the end of it; didn't each Harry Potter book resolve most of the questions raised in that book? Like I said in my review, this book was not sent in as "part of a series", it was sent in blind. After reading it, I figured that it would or should be part of a series but it needs to be marketed that way. Had I been told that up front, I would never have picked it up mid-series - that's just my preference as a reader. Also, in retrospect, I don't feel this is a book that can stand on it's own.

    As for the steampunk, have you read the Steampunk Scholar's blog? He's been doing his thesis on what steampunk is. Yes it is an aesthetic that can be applied to anything, but in order for it to be a steampunk novel (in my opinion) it needs to have more than one steampunk object. Because the steampunk machine in the book has only one function - to bring the two main characters together - and then isn't part of the rest of the plot, I would say that this doesn't count. I'm fine with steampunk in the wild west, or alternative future settings but they all have many steampunk elements that move the story forward and are essential to the plot - much in the way science is to science fiction. So to me, this wasn't a steampunk novel.

    I love these kinds of discussions so please let me know if you have other questions about my review or if you'd like to discuss something else. Thanks again for stopping by and leaving your thoughts.

  4. I should drop a note to state that the author emailed me back and apologized for not mentioning that it was a romance. It wasn't that she was trying to do that; she had simply forgot when she filled out the request.