by Roby James

January 2007
ISBN: 978-0809562312
Reviewer Graphic Button Juno Books
Trade Paperback

Jennifer Paul is an American upper level executive recently transferred to Britain. She is currently on her way to visit her aunt for Christmas in Wales when a hedge blocks her from continuing down the road. Jennifer gets out of the car to allow her dog to take care of business but he runs after a cat through the hedge instead. She gives chase. On the other side of the hedge she notices that nothing seems to fit the rest of the Wales landscape. While sheís trying to herd her dog a man wearing old-fashioned clothing rides up on a horse. He seems displeased to see her there and informs Jennifer that the hedge cannot be found now. His name is Jeremy Clipton of Clipton Magna. It is nearing dark so he asks her to follow him to Clipton Manor where he will tell her more about the hedge. On the way, Jeremy tells her that either the nuns or the ancient spirits must be responsible for her arrival. She is convinced she has stepped onto a movie set because Clipton Manor and the village it presides over looks like something out of a Jane Austen story. Once inside the manor house Jeremy shows her to her room. A cat is there looking like a normal cat, except he talks. Jennifer promptly faints.

When she regains consciousness Jennifer finds her hair longer and her speech different. The cat, one of the ancient spirits, has integrated Jennifer into the magical world of Clipton Magna so as not to disrupt the fabric of its existence. Jennifer wants nothing more than to leave. She is supposed to be at her auntís house celebrating not listening to talking animals or looking at pictures of dragons. She doesnít understand all their talk about the danger of her presence in Clipton Magna. It seems simple to her. If the residents are in jeopardy because she doesnít want to be there then simply take her back to the hedge and let her leave. She will go back with or without their help. Her absence at the company will be noticed and her aunt will surely call Scotland Yard to report Jennifer has gone missing. More importantly, however, is the fact that she has this compelling need to make a difference in her world and the only way she sees that being possible is through her job. Nothing will change her mind. Not the ancient spirits, not the dragons, and not Jeremyís declaration of love. Finally, Jeremy yields to her stubborn determination.

Jennifer is a woman in search of her own perception of her destiny. Her world, the Ďrealí world, is not the same as she left it. It is as if she has more influence while inside Clipton Magna. She learns that oneís purpose in life isnít always what it seems and realizes her heart will never be the same after meeting Jeremy. How can she live in a world without him in it? She has to go back. It may prove easier said than done. Now, Jennifer must prove herself to make it back beyond the hedge.

Writing the review of Roby Jamesí Beyond the Hedge is difficult because I donít want to give away too much information. Yet, at the same time I am nearly bursting with the need to tell everything within the pages of this extraordinary novel. The reader tends to forget that it was not she who traveled back in time, but Jennifer, the storyís heroine. The writing is tight, and the story flows smoothly throughout each captivating page. James is a master storyteller.

Reviewed in March 2007 by Rho.

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