Thursday, August 25

Jennifer's Garden by Dianne Venetta

Related to Lust on the Rocks

Jennifer Hamilton is stressed. Her mother is dying, Jen is getting married, and she has to keep up with her job as Cardiologist at a local hospital. To top it all off, she has to turn her dirt-packed backyard into a suitable wedding location ASAP because her mother wants to see Jen married in a garden, something her home currently lacks. Desperate to find a landscape artist who can do the job fast and do it well, Jen asks fellow doctor, Michael, for a recommendation. But the man who shows up at her door, Jackson Montgomery, can’t possibly be the landscaper – this scruffy, unsophisticated guy doesn’t even take notes for goodness sakes! With few other choices, Jen hires Jax to take care of the garden. As Jen and Jax grow closer, will Jen calm her unruly emotions and marry Aurelio or will she risk leaving her mother’s last wish unfulfilled by postponing the wedding and trying for true love instead?

So Jennifer’s Garden had a lot of unfulfilled promise. I look forward to reading more from Venetta who is so clearly a very talented writer and I have the feeling this book doesn't show her writing at its best. A bunch of issues decreased my level of enjoyment while reading Jennifer’s Garden. The first, which I will mention only lightly, was the grammatical inconsistency of the book – although this is becoming more common in both indie and publishing house books, it’s still annoying and unacceptable. Being a grammar-policewoman, anything more than three grammar mistakes really starts to bother me because I expect more from my authors, editors, and publishers.. So that’s something to make note of – if missing quotation marks or extra commas don’t bother you, you’ll likely give this book a higher rating.

Let’s switch to the positives for the moment. Jackson was phenomenal sexy, sweet, extraordinarily sensitive. I found Jackson was a lot like one of my very best friends, whose name also starts with J, in his casual nature, his sensitivity, and his witty charm. He was well developed, fairly consistent, and adorable. I really liked him - can you tell? Jennifer, unfortunately, was his opposite and not in a good way. She was a surface character, one who has no depth of personality or feeling, and her behavior was inconsistent. Her character changed erratically, and I couldn’t understand the reasons why her behavior was random and unpredictable. She didn’t inspire much tender feeling nor did I ever grow to love her or feel her worthy of Jackson. Jennifer was not a character I could connect with, and her inner struggles didn’t make sense to me. Secondary characters, such as Sam (Jen’s BFF), were incredibly fun, added color to already beautiful prose, and were well-developed.

The thing I loved most about this book was the prose and the descriptions (though they were occasionally repetitive). Venetta describes the garden and other scenes throughout the story with incredible detail and clarity – and yet she somehow saves it from being boring. The garden truly came alive in my imagination as my mind filled with images of flowers in hundreds of brilliant hues and the sounds of rushing water and birds. I loved the garden scenes – loved them. Occasionally the book was repetitive and redundant in its descriptions, which was frustrating, but I found I was never bored by descriptions of the garden.

The repetition issue ties in with another setback – Jennifer’s Garden was way too long. I found myself wishing I could skip chapters just to get to the end. The book moved, literally, at a snail’s pace. There were a lot of little side-conflicts I didn’t enjoy and I found myself wishing Venetta had cut a hundred pages from the book. Few books have ever moved so slowly for me, without losing my attention completely. Some of the phrases were cliché and melodramatic which lent this mostly-realistic book a slightly silly edge. Jennifer’s fiancée’s role is really under-done, and that worried me. It seemed like he would’ve been her first, and most major, concern. While she mentioned being worried about him when thinking about Jax, I couldn’t really feel that she was worried since she seemed to think of him last. If I had a fiancée and I was thinking about another man, my first thoughts would be about my fiancée – not my last.

Another thing I thought worth mentioning is that most of this book is about self-discovery, not romance. The romance between Jax and Jen develops slowly and kick-starts rather suddenly late in the book. Jax and Jen have to come to term with grief of different kinds, and with their life goals and plans. To me, that seemed to be the main focus of the book – not the growing feelings between Jax and Jen. In the end, I would keep Venetta on your to-watch list because she has definite potential even if Jennifer’s Garden is simply average.

Favorite Quotes:

“…What will you do all day long?” (Jen)
“Enjoy life.” (Jax)
“Doing what? Other than dancing, I mean.” Jennifer didn’t mean to be rude, but he was still young with a lot of years ahead of him. How long could he spend floating around the middle of nowhere?
“Living. Breathing. The basics.”

“…I can’t drop everything I’ve worked so hard for because my imagination is running off in frivolous directions, doing unthinkable things–” (Jen)
“He’s that good?” (Sam)

“Sexy”ness rating: Yummy

Overall Rating: C

Bottom Line: The book was well-written and fun, but a bit long and drawn-out with a few too many side-plots. While mostly enjoyable, the book was more focused on self-discovery than romance (or at least it seemed that way to me). For all you Indie supporters – Diane is an Indie author!

Pages: 448
Published: May 5, 2011
Genre: Contemporary

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