Beyond the Edge
Beyond the Edge is the first of Harlequin’s Extreme Blazes, stories that claim to be more “daring” than those regularly published in the Blaze line. It’s certainly different than the norm, with a paranormal/SF premise that lets the author be especially creative when it comes to the sex. Too bad Susan Kearney doesn’t put as much effort into developing her characters.
Fallon Hanover is your run-of-the-mill Mary Sue character, an idealized heroine so ridiculously perfect she’s not credible in the least. She’s beautiful, she’s rich, she runs a multimillion dollar company, and she’s a CIA agent to boot. One night while she’s working late at the office, a man mysteriously appears out of nowhere in a shower of sparks. He seems just as surprised to see her there. When she tries to escape, he stops her, saying he can’t let her disrupt his mission. He tells her that if she gets a certain distance from him, she’ll suddenly start to feel sick. This proves to be true, leaving her even more confused about who this man is and what he’s done to her.
The man known as Kane forces her to take him home with her and foils her every attempt at escape. He also offers a deal: for her help in completing his mission, he will make her sexual fantasies come true. It doesn’t take her long to overcome her initial wariness and agree to his terms.
Spoilerphobes should stop reading here, because I’m going to reveal the hero’s big secret, which isn’t explicitly stated until halfway through the story. It’s hard to discuss the book without doing so, it’s something I think most readers will want to know about so they can decide whether the book is for them, and the back cover reveals it anyway. Besides, the clues dropped early on are so thuddingly obvious I wished the author would stop being so coy and cough it up, if not to the heroine then at least to the reader. There are few narrative devices as annoying as an author keeping an obvious truth from the reader we’d have to be blind not to see.
So Kane is a time cop from the future. As I said, this is hardly a surprise. When a man in a one-piece uniform made of shiny material appears in a cascade of sparks and asks what the date is, it’s not hard to draw a conclusion (unless you’re the heroine in a story like this, of course). I have a fondness for this type of story, so the premise grabbed my attention at first.
The hero isn’t the only thing about the story that’s a little “out there,” as he introduces a number of futuristic elements to his sexual relationship with Fallon. For instance, Kane produces a device that, once placed on her, moves about her body, cleansing her skin and trimming her body hair to his preferences. One morning she wakes to discover the device has placed several piercings on her body and attached a chain connecting them to each other. While the light bondage elements may not be something every reader (including myself) necessarily finds appealing, I did find them interesting and, throughout reading the book, wondered what the author would come up with next. Another device introduced late in the story is particularly intriguing, but Kearney doesn’t do nearly enough with it, leaving its potential unfulfilled.
However, the pace is slow, and after a while the sex grew dull for two reasons. For one thing, the author’s writing in these scenes is fairly explicit, but never all that engaging. I was never caught up in the passion between the characters or felt the attraction that was supposedly there. As a result, these aspects are sexual but never truly sexy or sensual. A big part of this is how difficult it was to care much about either character. Fallon is too over-the-top perfect to be believed, not to mention I didn’t really buy her as a CIA agent. Kane is almost a nonentity. The author reveals a few bare facts about his family and a past love, but he displays no personality. The lack of investment I had in them kept me from getting too involved in their relationship, sexual or otherwise. The love story really wasn’t convincing, happening too quickly and coming across as forced, but I will say I liked the way the author dealt with the stay in the past vs. go to the future dilemma in the end.
Beyond the Edge‘s premise and sexual content are somewhat more daring than the usual Blaze, which may be enough to hold some readers’ interest. What it doesn’t provide is enough of an emotional connection with its characters to make it more than an interesting, but unmemorable, read.