- Title: The UnTied Kingdom
- Author: Kate Johnson
- Genre: Romance
- Format: Kindle
- Source: Own
- Reviewed by: Olga
- Rating: 3 out of 5
Description: The portal to an alternate world was the start of all her troubles – or was it?
When Eve Carpenter lands with a splash in the Thames, it’s not the London or England she’s used to. No one has a telephone or knows what a computer is. England’s a third world country and Princess Di is still alive. But worst of all, everyone thinks Eve’s a spy.
Including Major Harker who has his own problems. His sworn enemy is looking for a promotion. The general wants him to undertake some ridiculous mission to capture a computer, which Harker vaguely envisions running wild somewhere in Yorkshire. Turns out the best person to help him is Eve.
She claims to be a popstar. Harker doesn’t know what a popstar is, although he suspects it’s a fancy foreign word for ‘spy’. Eve knows all about computers, and electricity. Eve is dangerous. There’s every possibility she’s mad.
And Harker is falling in love with her.
Review: Unexpectedly, I enjoyed this book. It could be billed as a time travel romance or a dystopian romance. Neither is my favorite genre, but the book engaged me on the visceral level. It held me under its spell and sent my nerves tingling, as I followed the heroine’s harrowing adventures.
Although the novel has many flaws, including mediocre language, interchangeable secondary characters, inadequate world building, and lapses in logic, the story was superb, filled with risks, betrayals, friendships, and star-crossed lovers.
The protagonist Eve is a former British pop star, currently in trouble with the tax office. During a glider accident, she falls through a gap between worlds and ends up in a parallel universe. England is different here – a poverty-stricken third world country with no television and no computers. British Empire has never existed. America was settled by the Japanese. And nobody has heard of Shakespeare. To top it all off, there is a civil war going on, and the country is under military rule.
Of course, the military brass suspects Eve of being a spy: she was flying over the Thames after all. Or maybe she is plain mad: the way she spouts nonsense about internet, Beatles, iPods, or reality TV. Disoriented and utterly alone, Eve is sent to a prison/asylum. Falling into despair, she even begins to doubt herself, when one of the top army officers, Major Harker, is charged with a secret mission to capture a computer from an enemy stronghold.
Harker is a typical alpha-male hero, gruff, unkempt, and absolutely dependable. He has a reputation: he never leaves his men behind. For his mission, he picks Eve as one of his select group of soldiers. She might be a spy or crazy or both but at least she seems to know computers. None of the others has ever seen one.
The group’s journey across the hostile territory serves as the background for the unfolding love story between Harker and Eve. Both resist their burgeoning attraction as long as they can, while the danger builds and the tension mounts. Their personal clashes reflect the chasm between cultures. He is a career soldier, used to issuing and following orders. She is an artist, a product of democracy, where freedom of choices is valued above all else.
Their verbal spats were fun to read, while their sufferings and sacrifices made my heart beat furiously in sympathy. I wanted for Harker and Eve to find their happily-ever-after, but sadly, their love looked doomed from the start. Too many obstacles stood in their way: the oily, devious antagonist, the thick-headed, relentless general, even the lovers’ own frequent misunderstandings. And of course, their alternative realities.
The ending disappointed, although on the surface, it was a good one: Harker follows Eve into her world. But think about it. If Eve was distrusted and suspected in a computer-less England, what would’ve happened to Harker in the computerized England of today? Without a birth certificate or immigration papers, he wouldn’t have fared better in our world than Eve fared in his. Maybe worse. The joy of marriage and family would still be denied them. In any modern country, the lack of proper documents is a disaster practically impossible to overcome, unless one is willing to resort to criminal means. The author should’ve thought this through. How would Shakespeare handle such a situation, I wonder?