Reading Fanatic Reviews

Time-Travel Romance

 

 

The Soldier’s Poem by Ava Douglan

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The Soldier's Poem*

Well-Written Time-Travel Romance

What an unusual and cracking good read! I’ll admit that I enjoy a good time travel romance, but this is definitely different from most and superior in so many ways. For one thing, it is clear that the authors—and this is written by three authors who go under one pen name—have done an amazing amount of research into the Civil War, including things like soldiers’ slang. When we first meet the heroine, she’s almost incomprehensible because of all the 19th century Civil War slang she speaks in. It was cool for a little while, but I’m glad that eased up. The meet-cute between the romantic couple in the story was memorable. She shoots him! She just suddenly appears in his recently deceased uncle’s quirky second-hand bookstore that he is trying to get ready for the new buyer. In her mind, she has just come from the front lines, and as he is wearing a gray sweater and is in fact in Maryland, she believes him to be a rebel. She shoots him and takes him hostage! He tries to convince her it is modern times, but she just isn’t buying it. He actually thinks that she is a really method Civil War re-enactor. It takes them both a bit to fully understand what is happening and what they need to do about it. While they’re trying to figure it all out and make everything right, they start falling for each other. What will happen between them when she wants to go back to her time to finish the big battle?

This book is so well done in just so many ways. The book pulls you right in, and the authors do have a flair for words, writing very descriptive passages that don’t overshadow or detract from the action. In the beginning especially, it is an immersive read. We get the perspectives of both Benetta and Jack; I love seeing her takes on the modern world as she is trying to puzzle it out. Despite the bizarre circumstance they are in, the characters are believable and relatable. The plot keeps moving along well. If you enjoy time-travel romance or books about the Civil War, you might find this unique time travel romance right up your alley.

A Witch in Time by Catherine Kean and Wynter Daniels

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A Witch in Time*

Uneven; Didn’t Quite Work for Me

I’ll admit to enjoying time travel romance, so I was curious about this book when it showed up at my favorite book reviewer site. However, unfortunately, this book didn’t quite work for me. I thought too much time was taken up with the setup for both the hero and the heroine in their respective time periods. In both of these sections, too, there were pretty good-sized data dumps about the backstory. In much of the early time with the hero in the contemporary world, there were quite a few scenes that didn’t seem to add much to moving the plot or the story. While, of course, we want the hero and the heroine to get together, it felt more than a little creepy given what the hero had left behind in his time, a pregnant wife whose life was in danger. For these reasons, I just wasn’t particularly wild about the book.

Turbulence by Lisa Colodny

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Turbulence*

Not Your Regular Time-Travel Romance

I enjoy time travel novels, so I was curious about this one when I read its description. It definitely seemed different from the typical ones I read. This one starts out in very modern times in the midst of a criminal situation. It actually is quite detailed in discussing the various people and agencies of law enforcement that are involved in all that is happening. The two law enforcement agents don’t get to the past until about 20% of the book, and they don’t realize they’re in the past until about the 33% mark. In fact, they spend their first night in late 1869 Nebraska just thinking that they’ve stumbled upon an older middle-aged couple with an aversion to technology, perhaps part of some kind of a cult.

Some of the modern couples adjustments to life so long ago, like outhouses and chamber pots, were amusing to watch. I could imagine what it would be like in that situation. One of the things that is different in this book, compared to other time-travel romances, is that the romance happens between the two modern characters who go back in time. There aren’t romances between modern individuals and the people back then. They’re very lucky to meet the couple talked about above, as they are good folks who take care of these strangers. The romance aspect was typical, with the push-me, pull-you dance that is always at the core of a love story. There were some issues with grammar, punctuation, and usage. I thought the book was a bit long. It could have done with the judicious hand of a good editor. Apparently, this was originally a longer manuscript that was split into two books. The ending isn’t really a cliffhanger, though; it feels more like this story is just paused.

The Key to Her Past by Blanche Dabney

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The Key to Her Past*

Surprising Supernatural Element… and Not in a Good Way!

I have read two other books in this series, and I wasn’t particularly wild about them, but I do like to give authors several chances before I give up on them completely. Sometimes a book or two just isn’t right for me, but other ones will be. The issues I didn’t like in the other books were present here and were actually worse. While historical time travel books do have an element of the unreal to them, because time travel isn’t currently possible, they are usually still grounded in the reality of both in contemporary times and historical times. But this author has chosen to take time travel romance in a completely different direction that wasn’t even really hinted at in the blurb. In this book, there is a wholly supernatural element that underpins the entire story, and I found it to be shocking and bizarre—and not in a good way. When I realized it this is where the author was going, I had a hard time keeping with the book because it was just too bizarre. Honestly, the author should have warned about this in the blurb or had it accurately reflected in the book’s cover. The cover looks like it could be for any Highland romance, not for a supernatural one.

Like the previous book in the series, too, this one didn’t have the hero and heroine meet until after the 30% mark of the book. Even if the book didn’t have the bizarreness mentioned in the previous paragraph, this late meeting of the couple makes it so that there is not any time to truly develop the romance. This is especially important in the case of this book because it explores the enemies-to-lovers trope.

I will admit to being somewhat surprised at how well this series is rated by other readers. The stories are not well plotted, the characters are without much dimension, extraneous information that adds nothing to the story takes up valuable time, and the books are too short for the romance plot to be explored as it ought to be. I cannot recommend this book or the series.

The Time Traveler’s Magic by Anna Applegate

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The Time Traveler's Magic*

Glaring Medical Errors Distracting

While it isn’t relevant to the entire book, I am an RN, and I have to say that I thought the hospital portions of the book were way off, starting with the phone call that Ember received about her mother lapsing into a coma. As an RN, I have had to make those phone calls myself to family members, and I would have never have called a patient’s daughter at work in that circumstance or asked her to come in right away (when there is nothing she can or needs to do). The idea of having a hospital administrator latching onto a family member when she enters the hospital asking for bill payment wouldn’t happen either. There would be no team of doctors entering her mother’s room, trying to figure out what happened with her mother; there would be one hospitalist or intensivist working with her for the day, and perhaps a consultant or two, but they would rarely all be in the room at the same time unless a critical, emergent event is taking place (and even then it wouldn’t be likely). I could go on, but I won’t.

Aside from the above, I felt like the book was an odd mishmash of what are a lot of contemporary characters/themes in independently published books: magic, vampires, shifters, pirates, and time travel. If only one of them were a billionaire, then most of the common tropes in fiction would have been represented! I didn’t think these all necessarily played well together. I also did not like the heroine; she seemed too inept to handle either the present or the past, which made the reading a bit tiresome.

The Surf of Time by Mariah Stone

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The Surf of Time*

Fun But Sometimes Sad Viking Time-Travel Romance

I have read some of the other books in this series, and I find this one a worthy addition to it. I quite enjoyed this love story of Andor and Cathy. The author explored some serious themes, like letting go of a painful past, self-forgiveness, and when to let someone go. I was pulled right into the story by the prologue, and  I couldn’t help but feel empathy for the hero for what he suffered.  Sympathy for the heroine was similarly garnered in the next chapter. While this book definitely has some heavy moments for both of the main characters, there was also a fair amount of humor. I especially enjoyed the running gag about the Vikings and yoga! (The heroine was a super crunchy vegan yoga instructor in California before she time travelled.) I thought both of the main characters were well drawn and their motivations and fears understandable. All in all, I thought this was a well-written story.

Snowflakes in Summer by Elizabeth Preston

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Snowflakes in Summer*

Not the Best Example of Highlander Time Travel Romance

In general, I’m a fan of Highland romance and time travel romance, which is what inspired me to choose this book. However, I didn’t find this particular spin on those two subgenres to be particularly appealing. I felt like I could understand Caitlin more before she was whisked away on her adventure to medieval Scotland. Some scenes seemed to be taken right out of Outlander, like Caitlin tending to a man’s wounds. The romance fell flat for me, probably because they fell into a sexual relationship very fast. The alternative viewpoints between Caitlin and Bern revealed him to be relatively simple minded and two dimensional. Just because someone is from medieval times doesn’t mean that they’re incapable of complexity, especially for a laird who is involved in difficult power struggles.

I found the language to be stilted in many places; the book didn’t read naturally for me. At times, it felt like to me that the author was trying to mimic Jamie’s speech patterns from Outlander for Burn. The author made some strange word choices, and for one in particular, I wondered if it was truly a word that a Scot would have said back then. The numerous sex scenes were often written in ways that made me cringe at the words chosen. There are many issues with grammar, punctuation, and usage. Commas seem to be particularly problematic.

With the popularity of Outlander, time travel Highlander romance has become a trendy subgenre of romance. There are some good ones out there, but this did not impress me as one of them.

MacBean by Diane Darcy

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MacBean**

Kind-Hearted Highlander and His Fierce Lady

The headline sounds like it could be the title of a novel itself!

Alan MacBean does not want to leave the moor when Soni offers him his chance. He has found a family in his ghostly brothers and only consents to go when Sonny agrees to bring him back to Culloden after his task is complete. Alan is transported to contemporary Salem, Massachusetts, where he immediately rescues a little girl who, thinking she is a superhero, makes a jump off a roof. Needless to say, the mother and grandmother are most thankful to him for saving the little girl’s life. They offered him food and shelter, and he helps a bit around the rambling mansion. Turns out that this a beautiful old family home is in danger of imminent foreclosure. Grandma swears that her several-times great-grandfather hid treasure on the property, and she believes it will all turn out in the end.

Will they be able to save the old family home? Will Alan and Lilith continue to develop an attraction for each other even though Alan knows he can only stay two days? Will Soni grant them a happily ever after?

I have read all of the Ghosts of Culloden Moor series up to this point, and I absolutely adore it. I’m of Scottish descent myself and have visited Culloden Moor several times. I loved Alan, the hero. He is just the type to sucker me in because he is noble and kind but doesn’t realize his goodness. He treats Lilith and the little girl, Olivia, as they deserve to be treated but which they have not been. He wants so much to be able to save and protect them. And I love that Lilith gave him his first kiss! Lilith is a worthy heroine, too; she has taken on much responsibility in her relatively young life. I love how she wanted to fight for him and what she did to attempt to keep him there. She is perhaps the strongest heroine in this series that I’ve read so far. You go, girl!

I have two quibbles with this book. One, I don’t quite understand how a house that has been in the family for generations can be foreclosed upon. Shouldn’t the mortgage have been paid off decades ago? If there was some mention of a reason for a current mortgage, I must have missed it. Second, unfortunately, the plotline is so similar to many others in the series. At this point, I am tempted to go back and count how many of this series’ novellas have to do with the heroine losing a piece of property. Again, as I said above, I adore this series; I just wish the authors would play around with more concepts that would put the heroine in peril that requires the help of her Highlander. That said, of all those in this series that have a similar plotline, I love the added fun of having the ghost great-grandfather come back during the seance and only be able to communicate with Alan. Let’s add more ghosts to the ghost story!

If you’re not familiar with the Ghosts of Culloden Moor series, I highly recommend that you read the first book that sets up the premise for the 80 books to follow, The Gathering. If you like Scottish time travel romance, you may very well enjoy this multi-author series and this particular installment.

The Marriage of Time by Mariah Stone

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The Marriage of Time*

Finding Safe Harbor in Viking Times

In Viking times after a battle that has gone poorly, jarl Hakon is given a choice: death or marriage to the victor’s daughter and becoming that man’s ally. Hakon chooses to live, though he develops a plan to kill the man with whom he has a very bad history beyond this battle. In present-day Boston, Mia is at the hospital, showing her ultrasound to a friend. She is expecting a child, but she is determined to escape her abusive boyfriend, Dan. He finds her and lets her know that he will not let her go now that he knows she is carrying his child. A kindly looking older woman had been watching, and she follows them as Dan tried to take Mia out of the building under threat of force. She offers Mia a way out of her situation. She is a Norn and has the ability to send Mia back to Viking time. Mia soon finds herself at a runestone altar in the woods, and it is clear the older lady was telling the truth. Very nearly attacked by a bear when she first gets there, Mia is rescued by a man who claims that she is his bride-to-be.

What will happen to Mia in Viking times? How will Hakon react to her, especially if he learns her secret? Will Mia be able to escape, or will she have to marry him? What of the real bride-to-be? What of Mia’s life back in 2019? Will she go back to the future?

There was much to like about this book. Both Mia and Hakon are people with troubled pasts, Mia because of her abusive boyfriend and difficult father and Hakon because he has lived under the shadow of a curse that has affected his psyche as well as cause issues with his people. Even though Hakon looks tough on the cover–and he is–he’s got a kindness and a vulnerability about him that makes him a worthy romantic hero. While they get off to a rough start, how could Mia not fall for him?

I enjoyed, too, the lovely little moments that happen in time travel books. I particularly loved how it was almost a running gag that at times he just did not understand her words: hospital, congenital, etc. I adored the scene where she “uncursed” him, swaying to Thriller in her mind as she wiggled her fingers above crushed-up Tylenol…and how Hakon thought that she must be both a witch and healer, as his headache improved and hip pain went away. LOL!

There were a few things I didn’t like about the book. I am not a fan of clichéed secondary characters, and unfortunately, mafia crime lord Dan is an unfortunately stereotypical stock character. Medical issues are touched on briefly here and there, and as I am a registered nurse, I could pick up on some inaccuracies occasionally. And in the tiniest quibble of all, as both a nurse and a knitter, I took issue with two parts of this sentence describing the Norn as she watches the scene unfold between Dan and Mia: “…she was knitting, the needles in her hands jumping up and down like the lines of vitals monitor.” First, as a knitter, I can say that the needles don’t jump up and down in your hands! In fact, often the needles stay very stationary, with only the smallest movements evident as the yarn is picked (if a Continental knitter) or the hands moving to throw the yarn around the needle (if a British-style knitter). Second, I don’t know what vitals monitors the author has seen, but none that I have worked with would reflect such movement (an EKG maybe, but not a vitals machine), even if what she stated about the knitting was true.

That being said, I did enjoy this book. Mia and Hakon seem very real, and the way that they interacted with each other was fascinating to follow as their relationship grew and changed. I like seeing how both of them could heal wounds for each other; I love that when it happens in stories. By the way, I so wanted to give Mia a firm talking to near the end. Goodness, girl, what were you thinking!

The Going Back Portal by Connie Lacy

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The Going Back Portal*

Time Portal to Dark Time in American History

Kathryn, an investigative TV journalist, loves her grandmother, but thinks she is not quite in her right mind when she starts talking about seeing a Cherokee woman at a farm nearby. The problem is, there is no farm close to them. After investigating with Grandma, Kathryn changes her mind when she is transported back to the 1840s. Forest Water is a woman from that time who was left behind on the trail of tears and trapped on what used to be her family’s farmstead by a brutal white man. Kathryn keeps going back in time, wanting to help the young woman. Soon, she finds that more is at stake than the woman’s freedom and her life.

Will Kathryn be able to help the Cherokee woman? Can she keep the dangers at bay? Will Forest Water be free of the man harming her?

This book was well written. There’s a good mix of dialogue and narrative prose; she doesn’t hit you over the head with a lot of backstory all at once. The story unfolds naturally, as we learn along with Kathryn. It’s clear that Kathryn and her grandmother have a good relationship, even when Kathryn doesn’t believe her. It’s always lovely to see warm, intergenerational relationships. Oh, my goodness, poor Forest Water! What she had to go through! Even though this is fiction, it brings home the atrocities that happened at that time.

This book is a real page-turner. The author made the time travel aspect seem plausible. You can’t help but feel for these two women as they struggle against forces that are so strong. Yet, the fight is important. I loved how the author interwove romance relationships for both of the women into the plot. Something for them both to have hope for.

If you enjoy time travel and romance steeped in one of the dark times in America’s past, you might enjoy this very different take on time travel romance.

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The asterisks (*) by the book title denote the source of the book copy.

One star = I received it as a free advance/review copy or directly from the author.

Two stars = I borrowed it through my Kindle Unlimited subscription.

Three stars = I purchased the book outright (sometimes for free).

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