I received an eBook of this on goodreads, in exchange for a review. And while I looked forward to reading this, I am now looking back asking myself why. I could have done without exposing myself to this romantic tragedy. It's a book that while you like, you hate also. Or you dislike it, but you can't help but have hope for this book.
Title: Beyond the Reach of Judgement
Author: Jo Bissel
Series: none (possibility of one)
Genre: Tragedy, Paranormal, Romance
Rating: 2.5 stars
Julien Rene Durant was once a good man. Born in France, he took the oath as a Jesuit Priest in the 1600s. He dedicated his life to spreading the Gospel. Now, he was a monster surviving off the bloodline of others; killing for survival even as he wished for nothing other than for his own extinction. After almost four centuries of guilt and hopelessness, he encounters someone who might just be able to rescue the good man trapped within the monster, but will his judgements deny him a second chance?
Mary Ruth Jacobson-Ryan is nothing special; a small town girl stuck in a rut. Married to the local Iraqi War Hero who turned out not to be the perfect guy she fell in love with before the war, she is desperate for a way out. When things turn from bad to worse, she runs with plans to never look back. She quickly finds, however, that her search for a better future may lead her down a path with no future at all.
So I'll start out with my initial thoughts about this book: First I thought Mary (who actually goes by Ruth) is married to an Iraqi soldier living in America, not a war hero who faught in Iraq. It's all in the wording. Second I assumed something along the lines of Ruth being in a bad marriage, meets vampire, falls in love, vampire most likely kills husband, rides off into the sunset with each other. I was right about the bad marriage, but to say I was wrong about the sunset ending is an understatement. I suppose it was wrong for me to assume a cute, little happy-go-lucky paranormal romance.
(I'm going to be a hypocrite here. I dislike when reviewers sum up the entire book, but I have to so I can fully explain everything.)
What really happened: The novel starts out with Julien picking up Magdalen, a hooker. It's his usual thing. He picks up a hooker, gives them money to rent a motel room and say they're alone (they don't dare run with the money because they assume they can get much more cash after the night with Julien). Once in the room, he drinks from their wrists, kills them, and leaves, covering it to look like a suicide.
But this time he doesn't do that, because as he's drinking, he hears two heartbeats instead of one, alerting him that she is in the early stages of pregnancy. He resists killing her then, not wanting to take an unborn child's life as well. He ties towels around her wrists to stop the blood flow. In the meantime he gets curious about who she really is and roots through her bag for ID.
Ruth then wakes up, freaks out, realizes what he is, so Julien takes her to his house where she heals a bit and rests. He is able to learn some of her story. She fell in love and married Jonny, who, since they were broke, joined the army and went off to fight. He wrote letters and everything, but once his mother died and he couldn't get back in time, he changed. When he was finally released, he needed therapy and meds but refused everything. His anger drove him to start beating Ruth. One night of her being in the hospital, she escaped fearing for the child she didn't want but came to love. After weeks of being poor, she resorted to prostitution and Julien was her first.
Ruth's escape from home is classified as a missing person so she has agents looking for her, all while a blurry image of her getting into a black car outside a motel didn't go unnoticed. So a particular agent, Samantha, widow of Jonny's friend is searching for Ruth and trying to figure out the mystery of this black car, not realizing at first that it is the same.
When Ruth goes to the bathroom and sees all the blood, Julien takes her to the hospital under her fake Magdalen name and leaves her there to deal with her miscarriage. For everyone's sake, he leaves with no intentions to return. But a couple nights later when she's released with no where to go, he shows up outside the hospital, surprising her.
As the attraction grows between Julien and Ruth, so does his guilt for all the things he has sinned for. Before becoming a vampire Julien was on his way to priesthood and will often still beg forgiveness from God. The novel carries on with them growing to love each other while having to move to a new location every few weeks because Samantha is on to them, and they know it.
It took a surprising turn when Julien contemplates leaving Ruth because he believes she deserves better. Ruth fights it of course, and after sex that night when he curls up with her, she thought she won. But the next morning he's gone with only a goodbye note in his place.
Meanwhile, Samantha feels she's closer than ever to accusing Julien of wrongdoing. She stays in contact with Jonny, but once she learns how Johnny treated Ruth, Samantha realizes it isn't Julien that is keeping Ruth from them; it's Ruth herself. She doesn't want to be found.
Days pass. Julien stays drunk. Ruth stays lost. Julien ends up in a church one night after leaving a bar and confesses everything to the priest who basically convinces him to go back to Ruth, and keep her as his in a special way if he truly cares for her. So a marriage proposal was made and that's that.
Except there's that pesky problem of Ruth's current marriage. So Julien hires a lawyer to get Jonny to sign a divorce agreement in exchange for $25,000. Samantha demands that he doesn't and tells him that Ruth is in Las Vegas and there's a chance she can get her back for him. But Jonny does, and he takes the money and uses it to get to Las Vegas.
The next night Julien and Ruth go to the same church and priest where Julien went a few nights prior. Before entering a call turns them around and there's Jonny with a gun and a whack of accusations. After all the initial yelling, he shoots Julien but Ruth steps in front of him. Samantha arrives to see all this.
A bystander calls 911, and while Jonny and Samantha are saying that it'll be here to save her, Julien knows otherwise. Ruth begs him to save her, and in the process of him trying to change her, she dies. Samantha arrests Jonny for murder, though it was an accidental murder, and arrests Julien for "crimes against humanity." The crime being trying to make someone into a vamp and is punishable by beheading.
Vampire criminals are kept in special cells and are given blood every once in a while just to be kept alive. And the blood isn't good; it comes from a blood bank and is stale. But Julien refuses all blood. One night when Samantha is in there with him, he talks about all his guilt, especially ruining Ruth's life and that he doesn't take the blood because he doesn't deserve to live.
The next night: Samantha goes to see him, calls out, but the cell is empty. So she slowly walks in, gun drawn..."As she did so, the form that had once been Julien René Durant collapsed upon itself in a cloud of dust until all that remained was a pile of ashes amongst a prison-issue grey jumpsuit.
She sighed. Never before had she witnessed a vampire starvation. She had not thought it even possible until now. Laughing to herself, she said, "He had the will after all..."
As she turned to leave, she wondered if she should have told him the truth--Mary Ruth Jacobson-Ryan survived."
AND THAT'S HOW IT ENDED. That, what you just read above, WAS THE LAST LINE OF THE BOOK.
Before I talk about what I liked and disliked, I'm gonna go on about the ending. Oh boy...well first there's a prologue that takes place later. Of course when I read it the first time I was clueless as to what's happening. After the book was finished, I went back to read it again. It's in Julinen's POV and takes place when he's in the jail cell. He thinks about Ruth and how he loves her and regrets her, and how she's the reason he won't drink. A) he wants to starve and B) the last blood he had was hers and he doesn't want to drink this utter stranger's stale blood; he said he wanted her blood to be the last thing he tasted. And more importantly he thought about her death. Needless to say, it is depressing.
Although the ending is dramatic, it's really unnecessary. Think about it. Ruth jumped in front of a vampire to protect him from a human gun. Um. HE WON'T DIE. She died for nothing! And then we get into the arresting of Julien. And Samantha says she arrests and kills a lot of vampires. How? She's a measly human while they're powerful immortals. I don't see how any of this really works. And it's not like she uses a special weapon on them. She just arrests them plain and simple. Cause I'm sure that's accurate... Uh huh.
While the ending is terrible, I applaud Bissel for being unique. How many paranormal romances end on a tragedy? There was only one other book I have ever read that ended with the vampire making her leave, and I cried. But at least there wasn't death and guilt thrown around left and right. Of course, we can all draw the similarities between this and Romeo and Juliet. So while I say this ending is unique, yes it is like R&J, but R&J is so commonly known for it. But how many people nowadays use that in their books?
And of course no book would be complete without the suicidal vampire. It was quite interesting actually. All the guilt, topped off with how he "ruined" Ruth's life, drove him to suicide. A nice parallel in a way, since all the prostitutes he's killed, he made it look like suicide.
And then we learn that Ruth lived! Now since the book is so open ended, we can assume that the vampire venom finally made it through her system and she's now one. But what if it didn't? What if the medics got to her in time and managed to save her? Which I find unlikely since the venom is in her system.... Anyway, sucks for Ruth. She wakes up as an immortal to find her ex-husband in jail for her murder and her vampire lover and would-be husband a pile of dust. Immortality just got lonely for her. I'm still having trouble processing why Julien was arrested. Yes, he was trying to inflict vampirism on a human, but at her request and he was trying to save her life! Sucks for Jonny though; tried to kill a vamp and accidentally shot his ex-wife.
Speaking of Jonny, what's up with his case now? He was arrested for her murder...but she's not dead (in a way). But he'd still do jail time because he almost did? Because he was the one still wielding that gun. Maybe? I don't know.
We just have to make the ending to this modern, paranormal version of Romeo and Juliet. Bissel says that in the future there is a chance for a sequel. Do I want to read this? Not really. Will I? Probably. My curiosity will drive me to it. I'm wondering what it'll be about. Ruth after she wakes. There's only two ways I really see that ending: suicide or a reconciliation with her abusive ex. Right before Jonny signs the divorce papers, we get flashbacks in his perspective of when he met Ruth and their life afterwards. He seems like he really did love her, and now that she's gone with their unborn child (because he doesn't find out the baby is gone until her before he shoots the gun) he realizes how wrong he was to her this whole time. So would that play out in the sequel? I can see Ruth doing this.
So while the ending is upsetting, it's also very unexpected. Lots of mixed feelings. So now what I liked and disliked about this book (other than the ending).
What I disliked:
~I couldn't fully connect to the characters. Though we got a background on all them, it was written in a way we couldn't emotionally attach. Instead of the story being in color for me; it's in black and white.
~Ruth's name. Mary, as her real name, Ruth as the one she goes by. Both are boring. And her full name is just long.
~The descriptions weren't the best to non existent. There was a lot of telling when it came to emotions and descriptions. And other times, I had a hard time getting a clear image of the characters, the scene, and the setting.
~Everything seemed to happen too fast. The book is kinda short, though, so that could be the reason.
~The realism in this book is not good at all. A book needs to be realistic through its characters and plot. And yes, although this is a paranormal, it can be realistic. I've read fantasies that are realistic. Again this is all in the characterization and plot points (other than the made-up creatures and/or places, of course.) Everything just seemed too easy for the characters (until the end) so...just...no.
What I liked:
~The start of the book. It starts out with Julien hunting, and it's really interesting reading it. I found it to be a really good hooking scene. (And the word "hooking" is not supposed to be a pun on the girls he picked up. Haha.)
~Despite everything, I liked the romance that developed between the two of them. It was cute.
~The spelling of Julien and Jonny's name. Common names but unusual spellings.
Overall, my feelings on this are eh. It was a cute book, the writing wasn't terrible, the plot was okay to say the least, my enjoyment level was just under the midway point. Despite the bad, I was hoping the couple would end up together. But will it be a book I reread? No. But while reading, there is this pull that the book has that makes you continue reading it. Halfway through, when I was still feeling meh about it, I couldn't not put it down.
Do I suggest this book? Probably not. Do I suggest it to people looking for a cute romance? Hell no! But I do suggest it to people who want to read an ending where the couple does not end up together.
And that's all the word vomit I have for this book. I think.