BOOK WAS A FREE REVIEWING COPY.
I also want to disclose that over the years this author and myself had became email friends and I understand that such review is worth less because of that, but I could not give up the pleasure of talking about this book. Consider it a self indulgence of the sort.
In modern day Manhattan, preservationist Susan Lennox saves history for a living. Her long-standing battle with developer Joe McGowan brings a fragile Bowery rowhouse to her attention, and she's as determined to protect it as he is to tear it down. During an inspection, Susan discovers just how unique the property is when she comes across a frightened and apparently homeless man bearing a tale of time travel neither she nor her brother Neil believes—until they find they themselves have traveled three days into the future.
Professor Robin Winfield learns too late the mistake he made in agreeing to help Joe's great-great-grandfather, Victor McGowan, decode a family journal connected to the rowhouse, a place once used as a laboratory for electrical experiments. When Robin is inadvertently transported one hundred and twenty-six years from home, Neil and Susan take him in, hoping to get him back where he belongs before anyone else learns of his presence. But Victor's will has already spilled those beans and Joe thwarts the attempt to send Robin back—only to end up trapped with Susan in 1887.
Broke and homeless in the not-so-ideal past, Joe and Susan struggle to find common ground—and they aren't the only ones, as Neil and Robin join forces in a desperate search to rescue Susan before Victor figures out the secret to time travel. But a secret Victor's keeping is the one destined to change the future—Neil and Susan's—for all time to come.
I think it is made pretty clear in the blurb that time travel theme is very important in this book. The characters travel between the past and future and back (besides what is written in the blurb) I will not tell you who does what, do not worry. The history gets changed in some sense, but not drastically so by the end of the book. The bottom line – you will either take time travel on faith or you won’t and if you won’t you are not likely to like the book. Time travel is one of my favorite ideas and I always enjoy to reading about how different writers execute it. Those of you who read other books by this writer may recall that time travel was present in “Downtime”, but here it is done in more complex, more sophisticated way I would say. I thought in “Downtime” it was mostly a plot device to bring one of the characters to the past and here it is a theme most main characters struggle with in a different ways and for different reasons.
This book is a bit different from other books by this author. First of all this is the first book by hers I have read where the action is probably equally divided between past (1880s New York) and present (New York in 2014). Her other books are historicals even if “Downtime” had a tiny bit of action happening in the present. This book is both historical and contemporary I guess. Since usually one of the reasons I read her books is to be transported to another time and place, I was a little worried that the switching back and forth as it appeared from the blurb would feel choppy for me, but for me it worked.
Going back to the old New York was a pleasure as always, but my New York was something so familiar and beloved that I did not mind switching between past and present when I read the book even if I partially agreed with observation Robin who is from 1880s makes to Neil:
“I was a guest in your home. On holiday, if you so will. Even then, it was all a bit- intense, as you say. Your world is so…”
He shook his head. “So fast. So monstrously big. The whole of it scrubbed to such an impossible shine – like Heaven, in a way, but absent the rather fundamental sense of peace.” He slipped his hand over Neil’s and his heart ached as Neil’s fingers curled around his. “Nearly absent, I should say”.
This book is also different because there are two main romances (I also think it is pretty clear from the blurb) – m/m romance between Robin and Neil and m/f romance between Susan and Joe.
I thought development of romance between Robin and Neil was fantastic, I loved it so much. I felt like I was watching the writer painting the picture with small, delicate touches and the picture kept appearing right in front of me. Robin walked in the Neil’s life as an absolute stranger not just to him, but to his century, so it made perfect sense for Neil and Susan (and eventually mostly Neil) to take Robin under his wing, to show him staff he could show and tried not to educate him of anything important. It made perfect sense that they spent so much time together, and I could see how they kept learning small but important things about each other. I could understand how and why they would eventually be attracted to each other. The development of the relationship happened right in front of my eyes.
I did love sweet chemistry between the guys, of course I did, but I also liked how they kept learning about each other, their personality quirks. I loved for example how Robin saw Neil negotiating the price of the lamp and learning one more trivial thing about him. Only of course it was not so trivial – was something that for me is missing in so many books I read. I want to see the men fall in love, not get attracted to each other in a blink of an eye and boom, story is over.
“Neil’s frown flattened to a rueful smile. “One complication at a time, all right? Let’s see if I can get the price down.”
To Robin’s amazement he did, bartering relentlessly until the clerk agreed on seventy-five. Impressed, Robin was reluctant to admit it. Neil’s satisfaction seemed of more than sufficient measure ; as they emerged from the shop and started at a quick walk to the train station, he talked of the similar bargains he ‘d struck”
I thought the author sold me on Robin and Neil very well and despite them being from the different centuries, I had no doubt in mind that they will make it when I was done with the story.
Unfortunately I had some issues with Susan and Joe’s being eventually together. Do not get me wrong, I really liked Susan’s character. I loved how passionate she was about what she was doing and how she was just a really kind person. I also hate to use this word, because it became such a cliché especially when we are talking about female character, but I really do feel she was strong in the best sense. I loved how very much she and Neil loved and supported each other.
I also liked that Joe revealed some depths about himself when they were in the past, but I did feel that his character needed a little more development. More importantly, I was wondering why they were separated for the most part of the story. I mean do not get me wrong, there was an important reason why they were separated and I liked that plot turn (if you can really like what happened to Susan – because it was painful and brutal, but I thought it was important to show it). No, but how could the development of the romance happen when the characters could not interact? They interact briefly in the beginning and then the development of their relationship happens when the story hit 65-66% mark on my kindle. Okay, at least there are some hints that Joe was at least interested in Susan when they were at odds with each other in Manhattan present time, which appear much earlier. Like this quote here was around 28% of the story:
“Well, it was never anything personal. For me, anyway. I mean…” What did he mean? She was a troublemaker, but she always kept things interesting. The first time he saw her, five years before, she’d cuffed herself to the gate of a derelict little East Side dump. He’d tried to grab her purse to find the handcuff keys and she’d hit him with her bag lunch. Not even incarceration had deterred her- and in the years since, he’d grown used to her showing up whenever he was on the verge of tearing down a building. She’d never been shy about speaking her mind, which probably put her altogether beyond Victor’s idea of womanhood”.
But I saw no signs that Susan liked him at all before and here we go, Boom. After he does something good and heroic for her when the story is almost two thirds underneath, she realizes he was not the man she thought he was? I do not know, that was too fast for me – not even that, but the strength of her feelings for him at the end of the story because so little time passed. More importantly – Joe demolished old buildings and Susan fights to preserve old buildings? To give her credit she does think about it, but I did not see them trying to discuss it, to compromise? And how could such compromise be achieved? I just wonder if their relationship will stand the test of time.
But absolutely I can still recommend this book for great characters, time travel adventure and awesome m/m romance.