JENNIFER'S GARDEN - Dianne Venetta
United States, Present Day
Jennifer Hamilton is stressed. Her mother is dying; Jen is getting married, and she has to keep up with her job as a 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, and in a garden, no less. Desperate to find a landscape artist who can do the job fast and do it well, Jen asks a fellow doctor 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?
Jax was phenomenal...sexy, sweet and extraordinarily sensitive. I found Jackson was my favorite because of his casual nature and witty charm (he was very charming, ladies…very). He was well developed, fairly consistent, and adorable. I really liked him…can you tell? Jennifer was his opposite and not in a good way. She was a surface character, one I felt had little depth of personality or feeling, and her behavior was inconsistent. I couldn't understand the reasons why her behavior was random and unpredictable, and in the end 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 best friend), were incredibly fun and 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). Ms. 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. I was never bored by descriptions of the garden, which were truly just divine.
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 Ms. 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 fiancé's role is really under-done, and that worried me. It seemed as if 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.
Another thing I thought worth mentioning is that most of JENNIFER'S GARDEN is about self-discovery, not romance. The book is women's fiction, meaning that it focuses on the heroine's journey and can include romance (though the romantic aspect is not necessary). The romance between Jax and Jen develops slowly and kick-starts rather suddenly late in the book. Throughout the story, Jax and Jen have to come to terms with grief of different kinds, and with their life goals and plans. I would keep this author on your to-watch list because she has definite potential even if JENNIFER'S GARDEN is simply average.