from the ongoing series A Tale Of Two Paradises
media release by Jayne Christopher, for Surf City Source
for general distribution
Edmund Burke has it that a certain sublimity exists even in frightening circumstances. In fiction, this can account for the macabre fascination readers have with the most lurid particulars, no matter how immoral it may seem to face and to appreciate them. As a part of the ongoing Two Paradises fantasy series, the short stories contained within Jonnie Comet’s The Hope of Gwendolyn Dahl (Surf City Source Media Group) amply fulfil Burke’s definition of the sublime. Ostensibly a romance, Hope does not quail from lush sensuality nor blunt, unflattering detail. This open-eyed appeal to both the frank and the fanciful is vital to the series’ charm and literary merit.
The Hope of Gwendolyn Dahl opens with the episode ‘Serendipity’, relating two young people’s long, meandering trek over the picturesque interior of tropical Eden Island. Cast off by her abusive brothers, Gwendolyn encounters Jonathan, who gallantly escorts her towards safety, comfort and, ultimately, romance. Over the course of the afternoon and evening the two, in spite of being too far apart in age and having revealed some startling personal secrets, forge an attachment that will conduct them through their shared and individual destinies.
If too young to be a conventional romantic heroine, Gwendolyn is clever and cautious whilst lacking nothing of what makes her authentic as a precocious pubescent girl. She speaks in a stilted style (using few contractions), an affectation from her affinity for Romantic literature but not uncommon in the exotic but formal British Paradise Islands. An accomplished gymnast and ballerina, she is as courageous facing emotional trials as she is facing physical ones. Long belittled by her family, she suffers from an inferiority complex, heightened by her youth and pixyish proportions, till Jonathan, in ‘Creamsicle’, assures her, ‘No mind and spirit like yours could ever be termed “little”.’
Jonathan, son of the territorial earl and heir to a fortune, revels in the role of protector and provider, even whilst succumbing to Gwendolyn’s misplaced, put-on promiscuity. In ‘Day On The Strand’ he introduces her to some of his own acquaintance, impressing her with his eagerness to acknowledge a girlfriend so much younger. Recognised by her father in ‘Sunday Dinner’, Jonathan insists on downplaying his own status in order to be taken only as a respectable young man with a sincere interest in a charming young lady. In private he is as captivated by her heart and mind as she is with his, each of them excited and relieved to discover the embodiment of long-held romantic ideals. But, owing to family commitments, Jonathan will not commit too much too soon, forcing the crisis at the end of ‘Caesura’... and necessitating the next instalment.
Like much of this author’s work, Hope wades deeply into the risqué. The foreword attempts to prepare the reader for the standards of this incarnation of Paradise, a fantastic world strikingly liberal in its freedoms for teenagers. Brief attire, alcohol consumption, and early, casual sexual involvement are all commonplace here. Hope centres round the thematic concept of the prodigal maiden, one that has appeared in other Comet works. The premise of a young girl too soon facing mature situations provides a heroine who is vulnerable, here emotionally, and plenty of opportunities for suspense and worry for her sake.
Gwendolyn, to her credit, is a born warrior, determining that ‘rising to the challenge of being the regular girlfriend of Lord Jonathan of Paradise was no more difficult than mastering a two-and-a-half back salto off the uneven bars.’ She constitutes the best of what heroines should be, astute, eager and unafraid, even in facing the myriad of challenges that accompany falling in love.
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Individual episodes from The Hope of Gwendolyn Dahl are available in Kindle- e-text editions. The compilation volume, containing six of them plus various addenda by the author and editor, is due out in paperback during March 2016.
More about the Gwendolyn Dahl story arc can be found here (contains spoilers).