I have a great fondness for time travel romances and feel that they are under-represented in the m/m genre. Imagine my delight then when I discover th...moreI have a great fondness for time travel romances and feel that they are under-represented in the m/m genre. Imagine my delight then when I discover this new gem from JL Merrow, a favourite author of mine. The story follows Ted whose life was altered dramatically eighteen months prior to the start of the story when a car accident killed his husband and parents, and left him with brain damage which gives him huge headaches and affects his speech and hand. Since then he's been working for a friend at the Criterion Theatre in London. During a performance of Wild Oats he pops outside for a smoke and discovers himself in Victorian London where he gets into a conversation with male prostitute, Jem, who mistakens him for a customer. Over a few nights the pair grow close but time is fickle and Ted discovers that there may not be a future to this new and exciting relationship after all.
There was much to like about this book. Firstly, I really sympathised with the character of Ted, who still grieves over the death of his lover, and the subsequent difficulties he has faced with his slurred speech and lack of mobility in his hand. He could have come across as moping at the beginning but that is saved by the fact that his narrative and feelings seem genuine and also because he is doing his best to get on with life. Ted is also fiercely independent and so comes across as a little prickly. I liked that he was a fighter, but still vulnerable.
The big test for a time travel romance is the realism in the historical setting when compared to the present day. In this book the author had taken the approach of focusing on particular snapshots of scenes, rather than trying to give a broad sweep of setting. This means that we get a lot of detail in the Victorian Piccadilly Circus, and in other places like Jem's room in the boarding house, but the rest of the descriptions of other streets are vague. This allowed for enough in terms of setting without being overwhelmed and meant that the focus was more on the characters themselves - which for a short novel such as this is what is needed.
The first person narrative meant that Jem is a little less filled out as a character. We get to know some things about him but not much more than his occupation as a whore and the circumstances leading up to that. The pair spend so little time together - a few evenings, one of which leads to an overnight stay - than there wasn't much scope for Ted finding out any more about Jem and this meant that the ending seemed like a huge step for both of them. In some ways I wish there had been a second part to the book, taken from Jem' spoint of view and showing how he adjusted to life in the 21st century. I still enjoyed their time together though, especially in the way the awkward beginning blossoms into fondness and then love, even if it does all happen rather quickly.
This book is more about Ted's journey towards recovery and setting aside his intense grief, so I wasn't too concerned about the potential problems with the romance. The theme of grief is handled with a deft touch and I particularly liked that Ted's ex-lover is remembered fondly and still very much part of who he is by the end of the book. So often the dead ex is shown to be somehow less than the new lover, and I'm glad that this wasn't the case with this book.
Overall, this was a quick and very enjoyable read. The time travel aspect is handled well with the realities of Victorian living shown not too harshly but contrasted with the comforts of modern life. The characters were sympathetic and the writing, as always with this author, very readable. If you like time travel romance, then this is a book I would recommend.(less)
I love a good time-travel romance. I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I really like the whole ‘fish out of water’ scenario. When I read the bl...moreI love a good time-travel romance. I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I really like the whole ‘fish out of water’ scenario. When I read the blurb for this story I was interested in seeing whether the author could make the ‘soul mates’ story work (I’ve had mixed experiences with such books) and I was also intrigued by the setting of England in the 1400s.
Gerald is a young knight at the court of King Everard. He’s also in love and having an illicit affair with the king’s son, Prince Tristan. When tragedy strikes, Gerald travels through a time portal to the future in order to avenge the death of his love, only to meet his lover’s soul reincarnated in Medieval scholar, Jon.
I have to admit, it took me quite a long time to get into this book. I found it very slow going for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the blurb tells us that Tristan is murdered during the story. I assumed that this would happen pretty quickly, but that wasn’t the case. Tristan’s death happens about a quarter of the way through the book and up until that point the book is made up of several sex scenes involving Gerald and Tristan where they declare their undying love for each other. Because I knew Tristan was going to die, I was slightly distanced from him as a character and didn’t have an emotional connection with him. Add this to the fact that the first part is mostly sex, and I found it all a bit dull. Another reason why I found it difficult to engage with the book at first is because there were a few glaring inaccuracies with the historical setting which pulled me out of the story. For example, after a bath, Gerald and Tristan dry themselves with towels, but towelling wasn’t invented until over 400 years after the story is set. There were some language mistakes too with Americanisms such as using ‘quit’ instead of the British ‘stop’, which jarred with the setting and pulled me out of the story.
Things got better after Tristan’s death and the story moved forward in time and switches narrator from Gerald to Jon, who has the soul of Tristan. I liked Jon a great deal, and could sympathise with his feelings of displacement. In fact the part of the story which focuses on Jon as the reincarnation of Tristan actually worked well. I felt that Jon was a person in his own right, and I liked how Gerald fell just as much in love with Jon as a man, as well as his soul. I was slightly disappointed not to get Gerald’s point of view during the part set in modern times, because I would have liked to have known how he felt to see Algonwick castle in ruins, as well as adjusting to modern times. In fact, Gerald fits in rather too easily with his life in 21st century England and would have thought he would have drawn much more attention than he did. However, I was enjoying the story too much to be too bothered about that.
Despite liking the second part of the story, I was still being constantly jarred out of the action with further inconsistencies, this time with the dialogue. Jon uses the word ‘oi’ when he hails someone, or wants to catch their attention. Every time he did this (which was very often) , it threw me right out of the story because in Britain the word ‘oi’ is actually an incredibly impolite way of gaining someone’s attention – usually used only by those who are spoiling for a fight or in anger. The correct term would be ‘excuse me’, not ‘oi’. The book would have greatly benefited from having a British person read over the manuscript before publication because mistakes such as this and a few others could have been picked up very easily. Thus I found my reading interrupted time after time and it made it difficult to engage fully in the characters or story.
It’s a shame really because the writing and the descriptions of setting are done really well, the story is imaginative, the characters well rounded and the love between Jon and Gerald quite emotional satisfying. If it hadn’t been for the numerous sex scenes at the beginning and the way I kept being thrown out of the action by the errors, then I would have enjoyed this book a great deal and given it a much higher mark. As it is, this book was only an average read for me. Those of you who are from outside the UK would probably not have the problems with the book that I did, so I would still recommend that you give it a go, especially if you like time-travel stories.(less)
I was attracted to this story because I love pirates and time-travel stories so what could be better than a time-travelling pirate?
The book begins wit...moreI was attracted to this story because I love pirates and time-travel stories so what could be better than a time-travelling pirate?
The book begins with hero, Ian, on his pirate ship. However, Ian is no ordinary pirate captain. He travels backwards and forwards in time between the present day and the 18th Century Caribbean islands using a special stone which was found in an archaeological dig where he also met his lover David. As a pirate he ‘rescues’ important artifacts from ships which are known to sink without a trace whereupon he hides the treasure in a special place for David to find in the 21st century. He then travels back to the present time to fame and fortune.
There were quite a number of things I liked about this short story. Firstly I felt that the author had done a good job in showing the differences in Ian between the past and the present. When Ian returns he gradually strips away his pirate outfit and cleans away the dirt and grime which accumulates whilst he’s at sea. This transformation is also necessary as he prepares himself for facing his lover, David. This scene went a long way in showing us how much Ian loves David as well as building up anticipation and tension for the coming sex scene. Ian and David’s relationship was another aspect I found interesting. David is much older than Ian, but that aspect wasn’t the cause of the friction within their relationship, but rather David’s unwillingness to bring their relationship out into the open. David has all sorts of reasons why he can’t do that and when Ian pushes, their relationship is fractured, especially when Ian returns to his pirate ship on the eve of it’s documented sinking. I also liked how David was Jamaican in origin but that their interracial romance was not held up to be a big deal apart from Ian citing it as a possible reason as to why David won’t be open about him.
If I have one criticism of the story it is that there were a number of things which were either glossed over and not explained fully or could have been expanded upon. This would have made the story longer, but I felt that maybe the story would have been better for it. An example of this is the statue that Ian risks his life to get for David. A little foreshadowing of David’s desire for this piece would have taken away some of the abrupt way this was introduced right at the end. Also there were some details such as how Ian managed to convince his crew to take him on as captain and how he kept that captaincy in the cut throat world of piracy, how the two men agreed on hiding places that wouldn’t be discovered in the intervening 200-300 years and the actual properties of the stone and the ’special cloth’ used in the time travel which could have enhanced the story had they been filled in a little better.
However, these are just slight niggles in an overall interesting and well written love story and how it pays to take a chance on love rather than let it slip away. As far as I can tell, Eden Winters is a new author and I shall look out for more of this author’s writing in future. As for now, I recommend that you read The Pirate’s Gamble if you are looking for a short, romantic read of excitement on the high seas mixed with the problems of two men who love each other very much.(less)
I have to confess that time-travel novels are a bit of a guilty pleasure for me. I know that they have a reputation for being a bit unrealistic, but I...moreI have to confess that time-travel novels are a bit of a guilty pleasure for me. I know that they have a reputation for being a bit unrealistic, but I still have a fascination with characters who are somehow able to travel back in time. Perhaps because that's something I would love to be able to do. When the opportunity came up to read Downtime, I grabbed it. M/m time-travel books are very rare - and a much under-represented sub-genre of m/m in my opinion - and so I was looking forward to immersing myself in some modern/Victorian m/m love.
The book begins with our hero, FBI agent Morgan Nash who is in London on loan to MI6 for a short assignment. Whilst chasing the bad guys around the British Museum, Morgan is shot in one of the storage rooms and blacks out. When he comes to he discovers that he has been transported back in time to 1888 by the hapless accidental spellcasting of a group of friends: Ezra, Henry and Derry. They take him back to their boarding house overnight with the intention that they will send him back to the future the next day. Things don't go as planned though when the spell book goes missing. Ezra, who has the ability to talk to the dead, and Morgan spend the next few days trying to discover the whereabouts of the spell book as well as developing a hopeless attraction to each other, and Morgan is further distracted when he decides to apply his 21st century crime solving skills to discovering the identity of the Victorian age's most notorious murderer, Jack the Ripper.
There is quite a lot fitted into this lengthy novel. Firstly, there is the character of Morgan and his observations on life in the Victorian age. At first he finds it difficult and there are many snort-worthy moments as he copes with the primitive transport and the constricting clothing, but as the book progresses he begins to see the positives in living life at a slower pace. Morgan has a very dry sense of humour which works well within the first person narrative and greatly endeared him to me as a character. His no nonsense approach to life and willingness to take risks made a good contrast to the cautious and thoughtful Ezra. Morgan is also a cynic and sceptical of Ezra's psychic abilities leading to much conflict between them at first. The whole sub-plot surrounding Ezra, his abilities and how he walks a fine line between what is deemed acceptable and what is considered madness was an interesting theme within the book and led to much of the tension and frustration within the storyline.
Another area which is explored in detail is the relationship between the men who live in the boarding house and Kathleen, Derry's sister who runs the house on his behalf. Much is made of the camaraderie and difficulties of living together in this way. For Morgan who lives mostly on his own, the sense of family and friendship he gains from staying at the boarding house, is one of the most compelling reasons not to return to the present day. There are also many observations made about the differences in how the men physically interact with one another and also how life in the boarding house compares to those who live in opulent splendour. Ezra straddles the line between the upper and middle classes as he comes from a rich family, but chooses to spend his time with his lower class friends. I found myself warming to these characters and their quirks as much as Morgan does and looked forward to the scenes where where learned more bout Ezra, Kathleen and Derry.
By far the part of Downtime which worked best for me was in the growing affection between Morgan and Ezra. The whole first part of the book, as they desperately try to ignore their attraction, was filled with a delightful sexual tension. When they finally give in to their lust the sex scenes are tender and suggestive rather than explicit, focusing more on feelings rather than mechanics. Their regard for each other shines through the way that they speak and their small affection gestures which focus more on the heart of the man rather than crude physical lust. It was just so lovely that parts of the book brought tears to my eyes.
The part which didn't work so well for me was in the mystery plot. Much of the second half of the book has Morgan and Ezra chasing clues, scoping out murder scenes and Morgan getting them both into trouble by sticking his nose into the investigation. Whilst the historical detail in this section seemed accurate, I found the change of pace from focusing on the romance plot to switching to the mystery plot slightly disappointing. Especially as I wasn't entirely sure that Morgan would have been able to get away with half of what he did in the book. I was also a little uneasy about the way that Morgan was messing with history by trying to solve what is, to this day, an unsolved murder case. Another part which didn't work as well was during the second half of the book when there is also an entire section where the characters take a trip to Northampton (I don't want to say why for fear of spoilers). I couldn't quite understand why that lengthy section had been included as it didn't affect anything else in the plot at all and the complication surrounding the trip was resolved so ridiculously easily - almost so easily that it bordered on unrealistic.
Looking at this book as a time travel, I obviously had to suspend my disbelief. After all, the parts where Morgan goes back in time are hardly the most realistic of plot devices. However, the realism of life in the Victorian era more than made up for the fact that time-travel is essentially fantasy. I greatly enjoyed Downtime, despite its flaws and was sad to leave the characters, which were, in my opinion the book's greatest strength. If you are looking for a well written book with complex characters, an involving plot and some great historical detail, as well as a tender and moving romance, you can't go far wrong than this book.(less)