On The Edge Of The Woods
by Diane Tyrrel, contemporary (2004)
Berkley, $6.99, ISBN 0-425-19477-9


This book is advertized as a Gothic novel, but it's more like an, pardon the bad English, "I don't got it" story where I'm concerned. It has everything a Gothic novel should have: a first-person narration, a big house, a mysterious stranger, and a dark and creepy woodland near the house. But I think the heroine is crazy, the hero is childish and obnoxious, and my opinion doesn't change after the last page.

Stacy Addison buys a big house in the Sierras that is in such a state of disrepair that she will spend her whole life (and her entire saving) repairing and remodeling it. All because of a relationship that isn't going anywhere in her life. Other ladies would rediscover carbohydrates, new hairstyles, or credit cards but not Stacy, who, on page thirty, claims to dream about the house, the loan documents, and the title papers so much that she ends up doodling pictures on her work papers when she should be at work. If that doesn't suggest to me that she's better off sleeping in a padded cell, she actually wonders, upon hearing that the last owner was an invalid woman who had to leave the horse for a nursing home, whether the old lady in question ever regretted leaving the house. Yes, if I'm an old lady who can't even get off the bed, I'd regret deeply the day I leave the house for a nursing home where I won't be a danger to myself. Here, Stacy, eat some sleeping pills, they're good for you and they'll chase the dreams away.

If Stacy is three happy skips away from being demented, her hunky neighbor Brand Vandevere is right there waiting for her at the finish line. He has always wanted the house, you see, even if he doesn't have the money to buy it. Cry me a river, really. So that means that Brand will spend the whole book treating Stacy rudely and obnoxiously, slamming doors and putting on a scowl. Naturally, Stacy feels so attracted to him because she thinks that they are soulmates, dreammates, or something. Maybe she remembers him vaguely when they are both sedated and locked up in adjoining loonybin cells.

Strange things happen. Ooh. Although "happen" is pushing the definition of the lethargically-paced meandering non-happenings in this story. The "romance" here consists of Brand acting like a jerk and Stacy shivering in delight as a result. "Conflicts" arise from contrived misunderstandings that are never actually explained, such as a scene where Stacy overhears Brand plotting to harm her - or is he? I never get to know what Brand is actually talking about in that scene.

This book has all the makings of a horror story that ends with the heroine killing the hero and then preserving his body in a vat of vinegar in the basement of her house so that they will be together forever. But Ms Tyrrel wants me to believe that Brand and Stacy, after hundreds of pages of childish miscommunications and temper tantrums, will make it as a couple. She wants me to believe that it is perfectly fine for Stacy to be so preoccupied with her house that it becomes the entire focus of her existence. She wants me to believe that it is okay for Brand to act like a deliberately vague and antagonistic ass even when he's supposed to be nursing some affection for Stacy. She thinks that I can stay awake after pages and pages of nothing but meandering introspections about a white elephant of a house and an asshole.

Like I've said, I don't got it one bit.

Rating: 47


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