Title: Beyond The Reach of Judgment
Author: Jo Bissell
Genre: Paranormal, Vampire, Romance, Tragedy
Rating: 2 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 blood 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 judgments deny him a second chance?
Mary Ruth Jacobson-Ryan is nothing special; a small town girl stuck in a rut. Married to a Veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts 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.
WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW
I had a hard time with this book. I wanted to like it so badly—I’d heard of the author before, and had the general idea floating through my mind that they were a good author, and so when I got ahold of Beyond the Reach of Judgment by Jo Bissell, I was excited to dig in. Unfortunately, I wasn’t prepared for what I was about to walk into.
Right off the bat, I felt like the main characters, Ruth and Julien, lacked chemistry. The characterizations didn’t feel as intimate as I’d come to expect from a romance novel, and the detached, emotionless way Julien acted made it hard to like him as a main male lead. I didn’t like them—not as individual characters, and not as a couple. Both Julien and Ruth made decisions that reeked of poor judgment and immaturity, and considering the fact that Julien was a vampire, I found it hard to reconcile their decisions with the author’s fictitious reality. It wasn’t believable.
I’d also like to take a moment to point out how infuriating the Agent (I can’t be bothered with her name) was. Instead of being professional, she hunted down the wife of a man she only knew through association, a man who obviously had issues and willingly admitted to stalking said wife. It was clear to anyone with half a brain that this man was unstable, and yet she continued to help him—even when she eventually did have doubts about his sanity. She put another woman (Ruth) in danger. I’m pretty positive there’s some kind of girl-code floating around that says you don’t help an insane, dangerous man stalk another woman. I was disgusted with her as a character. Despite all the evidence that Ruth and Julien were happy and Ruth was in no danger, she continued to harass the couple…. it was sickening.
For the most part, the POV of the narrative stayed locked on Julien and Ruth—which was great… until it wasn’t. At one point, the POV switched to a third party POV to view their breakup, and I couldn’t help but sit back and wonder why I’d been pulled out of the intimate, tension-filled moment to a bystander POV. Another time closer to the end of the book, and perhaps more problematic, I was thrust into the unfavorable POV of Ruth’s soon-to-be-ex husband. This is a man who abused her, suffered from PTSD, and was in general, a creepy, stalker-type-personality. I did not like this man, and I liked being in his head even less. It felt like the author was trying to make me feel bad for this obviously sick individual who, for a brief moment, felt some remorse over the way he’d treated Ruth in the past, but even that was wiped away when he hunted her down and shot her.
The story was filled with potholes, cliché moments, unbelievable character actions, and lackluster characterization that made me want to put the book down. I slogged on, and I do mean slogged. I very nearly put down the book down and gave up, but I kept telling myself “I’m at 40%… maybe it’ll pick up… I’m at 80%… it’s almost over.” and I did, in fact, get through the book. Did I enjoy it? Not at all. This was not a sexy or heart warming read. It was a definite tragedy, and one that in my opinion, wasn’t written well.
In the end, the book was “meh.” I’m not particularly glad I read it, and I certainly wouldn’t read it again. I wouldn’t recommend it either. Obviously, I am in the minority of reviews for this book, so I can admit that there are probably a lot of people who will love this book, but I went into this novel expecting to find a sexy, paranormal romance, and instead I got a tragic thriller with a shoddy plotline and an infuriating cast of characters. It may not be a popular opinion, but it is my opinion. I implore you to read it for yourself if you’re so inclined, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.