How Did This Book Get Published?
(Part 4 of 6)

But wait—there’s more.

By page 46, we’re in 1844 Ireland, and that’s where most of the story happens. Or, I should say, the second story. (Here’s the first one.) Because really, this is two completely different stories mashed together in the hopes they would somehow become a novel. And don’t forget, this is on HarperCollins’s romance imprint … so there’s gotta be a romance somewhere, right?

Here’s the rest of the synopsis:

So here is sad Anna with her twenty-first-century mind intact, rescued by some Irish Catholics who work as servant/caretakers for an Anglo-Irish (that is, British) overlord in 1844. She is clearly out of place, but she just explains that she is American. La-di-dah. She has come across the ocean with her nephew, who is now missing, she tells her saviors. Although they are poor, these people clothe her and feed her and allow her to stay with them, since she has no means by which to travel. She becomes close to the young wife, Glenis, who, it will be revealed, is the sort of person who understands magic and suchlike. (Don’t all the Irish?)

While Anna is recovering from a grievous injury sustained during her time travel and living with poor folk, Joseph has washed up on another beach near a rich man’s house (he also is British) and is taken in as a valued houseguest where he is clothed and treated like visiting royalty. (He tells them he is Canadian to cover for his weird accent.) Later the rich man discovers that Joseph has some serious moves in the wrestling ring—Joseph was on the wrestling team back home in the twenty-first century. This arrogant rich man takes Joseph all over Ireland, pitting him against other wrestlers like a prize racehorse; Joseph, being only sixteen, doesn’t recognize that he is being used, that large sums of money are changing hands.

Joseph falls in love with an Irish servant girl (forbidden to someone in his current social strata), a girl who also has magical powers (those Irish!)—even as Anna falls in love with Glenis’s widowed cousin, a cartographer who carves a walking stick for Anna to use as she recovers from her leg injury (and who seems to also be a bit of a physical therapist). Meanwhile, Anna has confessed her predicament to Glenis, who doesn’t have Anna sent to an insane asylum but instead pays an arduous visit to a witchlike wisewoman to see if anything can be done about it. When Anna finally finds Joseph, he resists her attempts to reconnect; after all, he’s getting laid regularly by the adorable Irish girl and he lives quite well, thank you (as long as he continues to win in the wrestling ring). The witchlike wisewoman travels east to advise Anna, and on one very magical afternoon, Joseph’s young lover screams a magic curse when she learns Anna and Joseph plan to leave and then is forgiven by Anna, who quickly performs a ritual blessing to counteract the curse. And then—pouf!—Anna and her nephew (and the young girl’s dog, an Irish wolfhound) find themselves battered and nearly naked on a beach in Rockport, Maine. Jiggety-jig.

Did you follow all that? I’ve done my best to distill it down to a simple synopsis, but it’s not simple. And the thing is, I don’t actually object to this magical transformation! I think it’s a charming idea, the whole fish-out-of-water, Connecticut-Yankee-in-Daniel-O’Connell’s-court thing. But … there’s just so much wrong with this Irish milieu (past and present). Let me count the ways.

• Early on, the stranger who finds Anna on her present-day Irish vacation does this: “She pulled out a small bundle wrapped in brown paper, taped neatly just the way all the shopkeepers did in Ireland.” (Emphasis mine.) I think the author has Ireland mixed up with France. I experienced this type of purchase-wrapping in Paris but have never seen it anywhere in Ireland.

• An 1844 Irish character says, “[This is] one of the finest manors in Waterford County.” Um, no, it would never be phrased like that. In Ireland they’d say County Waterford.

• I think I was most offended by the author allowing Irish characters to say “mum” for what we Americans would call “mom” and what my Irish friends would say as “mam” or “mother” (which might sound to American ears like “me mudder”). How can you get something as simple as that so utterly wrong?

• It’s 1844 yet we have a scene in which Joseph is scanning the newspapers … where the words Home Rule jump out at him. However, that phrase wasn’t used until the 1860s, a fact I uncovered in about thirty seconds. (An editor should question everything, remember.)

• The Irish folk are nervous about these strangers who appear out of nowhere; historically it was an unsettled time. One says, “Why do you trust him? Why did you take him in as if he was John O’Connell himself?” Setting the grammar aside, I can’t decide if this is a mistake—Daniel O’Connell would have been the logical name to use, because Daniel was famous; he had a son named John, sure, but—or just a mistake. :)

• At the wrestling match where Anna finally finds her nephew, Donal (the cartographer, her lover) says something feels “off”; he was nervous, concerned (supposedly all those British spies looking for Irish nationalists to kill)—but that whole line of intrigue just dropped, never to be picked up again.

• I laughed out loud when I read that a character stayed in the “Kilkenny Wayside Inn.” In 1844? That is the most twenty-first century thing I’ve ever heard! Even a visit to modern Ireland would have shown how ridiculous “Kilkenny Wayside Inn” is. No. It would have more than likely been named after the proprietor.

• Aside from the geography problem (read on for that), on one page Anna and Glenis are walking in Kinsale; the next page they are just starting to walk to Kinsale; and on the next they are walking home, never having gotten to Kinsale at all. These are simple continuity issues that can just be fixed with changing words (as opposed to creating whole scenes) and yet they’ve gone unnoticed.

• At one point we have a female character—a wife and mother needed at home—riding off alone to Limerick from somewhere south of Cork—a matter of seventy miles or more one way. I have no research on which to base my opinion, but it just seems odd.

In fact, I was bothered a lot by the geography in the book. Anna is washed up on the beach in County Waterford, in a town identified as Tramore. This is where she spends a lot of her time in 1844 Ireland. Yet we’re told she and Glenis often walk into Kinsale (and back); it’s a market town. By my map, that’s maybe sixty or seventy miles down the coast. Have a look.

View Larger Map

I wonder if the author really looked at the map. At the end of the story, the modern-day Anna returns to Ireland; she lands at Shannon International Airport, which is in the west of Ireland, near Limerick. Then we read:

She drove south to Cork … [Then] she drove east to Waterford [from Cork], skipping the scenic coastal route. She cut south to Tramore.

What? I kept looking at the map wondering why—if she started at Shannon—she ever went to Cork in order to get to Tramore. Why she even went to Waterford, actually. In point of fact, if she wanted to go to these locations, she should have flown into Dublin. It would have been a lot closer. Oops.

I have nothing against making things up, geographically speaking—creating imaginary villages “somewhere south of Cork” or whatever. But if you’re going to name them after real locations and mention other real towns, then, dagnabbit, you ought to get your geography right.

Keep looking at that map. For the sake of fiction, let’s pretend that Tramore is a lot closer to Kinsale, since Anna walks there to go to the market. She has, on a little adventure, been as far south as Skibbereen (some forty miles south from Kinsale) on a horse. Clearly, though, she has never left the east coast of Ireland. Now she is in Cork (with that handsome cartographer), and eating meat for the first time in months. (Or maybe just weeks. The timeline was never nailed down.) She says, “Your friends here eat quite differently from the west.” (The west of Ireland was very poor.) But Anna’s never been in the west of Ireland. She’s referring to all that time she spent with Glenis’s fam. Does the author think Tramore and Kinsale are in the west? Honestly, every geographical reference in this story bore. No. Relation. To reality.

We’re going to come back to this Irish milieu, because (what you’ve seen in Hollywood movies to the contrary) Ireland isn’t peopled by magicians. (It could be that Irish editors are, though.) But it’s gonna take some really powerful magic to pull this thing together.

Need to catch up? Here’s Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

Tweet: There’s just so much wrong with this Irish milieu. Let me count the ways.
Tweet: How can you get something as simple as mum/mam so utterly wrong?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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9 Comments

  1. Oh, my goodness! I would cry for this poor author, but I’m too busy giggling! Spot on! Go, Jamie!

  2. Samantha says:

    In some strange way, this almost makes me want to buy this book so I can study your notes against it. I say “almost” because that’s not really going to happen, and I’m sure you don’t intend to contribute to the success of poor literature in such a manner. I’m just saying you’re great at, not only your job, but also at teaching about it. God has gifted you, and I hope that, while you’re getting “paid to read that stuff” (as one of your readers put it) that you know you’re helping those of us who are gifted in areas outside of writing to become better at sharing those gifts through the written word.

  3. […] be forgivable if the book itself were good. But that’s the problem, as you’ve seen (1, 2, 3, 4, […]

  4. Carrie says:

    Ok. The dropped threads alone would keep me awake at night. Lol.

    • jamiechavez says:

      Seriously. But the thing is, I’ve worked with some wonderful writers who remain unpublished to this day. So when I read something this bad … it makes me a little mad.

  5. […] for, read my series of seven posts called “How Did This Book Get Published?” Here’s 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and […]

3 Trackbacks

  1. By How Did This Book Get Published? (Part 6 of … 7*) on 7 November, 2013 at 6:46 am

    […] be forgivable if the book itself were good. But that’s the problem, as you’ve seen (1, 2, 3, 4, […]

  2. By Short Saturday: Do You Need an Editor? on 4 February, 2017 at 1:44 pm

    […] for, read my series of seven posts called “How Did This Book Get Published?” Here’s 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and […]

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