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I always read the books that JL Merrow writes, so even though this is a time travel romance (which I don't usuallReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I always read the books that JL Merrow writes, so even though this is a time travel romance (which I don't usually like), I decided to go ahead and read it. And I'm glad I did -- none of the things that usually bother me about time travel romances (like the lack of details about the time travel itself) were present here. And most of all, this story had the charm that I've come to expect from this author, making it a pretty good book.
Ted Ennis works at the Cri, as an all around helper to put on the plays and events at the theater. His boss got him the job, his former partner's best friend, now looking out for Ted, and now a friend to Ted himself. And Ted needs looking after -- he's been pretty lost in the past year and a half since a car accident not only damaged his body and gave him severe head injuries, but made him a widower and an orphan on the same day. So, Ted isn't sure what to believe when he leaves during a performance for a smoke break and finds that himself standing in a Victorian era London. At first he thinks that he's walked onto a Dickensian movie set, maybe some new BBC historical drama. But when he meets Jem, a beautiful corner rent boy who doesn't seem to understand why Ted is asking him about his role and the set, he starts to wonder if it's his mind acting up again. He's had lots of problems before actually… hallucinations and things like that, but this seems completely different. And when he returns to the theater only to look out once again upon a completely modern Piccadilly Circus, he chalks it up to his damaged brain.
Ted isn't sure what to think when the same thing happens during a performance the next night. Once again he sees Jem, leaning against the lamppost, looking sexy and appealing. But a quick one off isn't fair to the memory of Ted's dead partner, so Ted does everything he can to convince Jem to get to know him, go out for dinner, take a walk. Over a series of nights and stolen time during performances, Ted and Jem meet and get to know each other, until Ted is forced to learn just how he's traveling through time.
There are two things that I really loved about this story, no actually, three things. First, it's pretty short, settling in at 27,000 words. And the length is perfect… just perfect. I sometimes worry with a book that just a little longer than a short story because it gives license to write a bigger story but with still not much more room to showcase it. But the pacing here is done just right, and I finished the story feeling like it was perfectly timed. They get to know each other maybe a little fast, but other than that, everything fit just right and felt like it was where it should be.
One thing that I really loved were Ted and Jem. They're both complex characters, though we only really learn about them from their own recollections about their lives. In the case of Jem, since we don't get to see his POV, we learn quite a bit less, but I never felt as if I didn't get to know him well. Ted's POV is most often centered on himself. He's dealing with a lot, and not only his past relationship and what he'd think of Jem, but the time travel issue itself and what exactly he's doing in 1880s London. So a lot of what we learn about Jem is done through casual observation in his words, his mannerisms and his behavior. He accepts Ted's story about where he's really from with grace, but very subtle cues let us in on how he really feels. He is, in a way, reserved, or he is from Ted's POV. So much of the relationship they build is somewhat of a farce, and they don't really get to know each other until all the cards are on the table near to the end of the story. Still, they have a strong connection, one that I could see the chemistry of from the first scene together.
And last, the crux of the story relies on the time travel, not only as a device to get the characters together but also to manipulate them into choices about their future and the climax of the novella. I mentioned before that I don't usually like to read time travel romances, partly because it's just not a theme that attracts me. The main reason, however, is because I find it infuriating when the characters take their situation for granted, or without looking into why they've traveled time. Unless there are already answers, in a sci-fi futuristic book or something, which usually isn't the case actually, I expect the characters to be completely dumbfounded and want to find the answers. And when that doesn't happen, when the author glosses over the time travel and only uses it as a device to put two characters from different times together, it just really bugs me. So I loved that Merrow made the time travel central to the story. Ted has to figure out why and how it is happening in order to manipulate it to get their HEA, and that is what made the story most enjoyable for me.
Of course, part of the fun of a time travel story is having fun with the displaced character. I find it more fun to see a historical character in a modern time, personally, but the other way around can be fun too. There's a great little bit in the middle of this story where Ted and Jem travel around Victorian London so Ted can see the things that he recognizes from modern times and how they're different. This gave the story some excitement for me because it's fun. And like I always expect from this author, the story was saturated in sensory detail -- the unfortunate odors of London in the 1880s, the sounds in the market, and the story has a wealth of historical detail that firmly tethers this story in time.
Jason is an agent for the Tempus Institute, someone who travels through time and keeps watch over history. TReview posted at Brief Encounters Reviews.
Jason is an agent for the Tempus Institute, someone who travels through time and keeps watch over history. Though their objective is never quite discussed in the story, the bits and pieces paint a rather bleak picture of the future, Jason's present world. After waking again from a recurring dream of snatches of music he can't seem to remember, he's given one last case to prove himself. Jason's rather flighty in some ways. He goes with the flow for the most part and is pretty well known for not properly briefing himself for his assignments (pointed out rather well when he draws a blank at the mention of James Bond). But Jason knew he had to take this assignment when he saw Sean's picture. Sent only to observe and report back, Jason has a hard time following the rules once he comes in contact with the man in the flesh.
I'm left quite unsure of how I feel about this story. On the one hand, I really like the setup. Jason is a bit of a fish out of water, out of his own time, but he's also in his home city (Wellington, NZ), only in the past and in what is a very different city. He's familiar with some things, and totally ignorant of others, which makes for an interesting dynamic between the two guys once they get to know each other. At the same time, I had quite a few problems with this story. I felt like the story floundered a bit from lack of overall direction (not the immediate relationship, but the world and setup of the plot). We never really know what the Tempus Institute does, although there's a hint at the end of the story. We also don't understand Jason's objective in his mission to visit Sean. On the surface I understood that some mystery was needed, otherwise there wouldn't be a proper resolution to the story. Perhaps my confusion comes from the fundamental way the story is told. We, the reader, are omniscient in the sense that we're told up front that Jason is from the future and we're privy to information on both characters that neither know about the other. Yet, at the same time, we aren't given enough information to see where the story is headed. I felt like I was supposed to have been given all the cards when the characters were ignorant of them, and watch the situation play out. Jason doesn't know, other than "observe only", why he's watching Sean. But then sometimes he alludes that he does know, all the while I was in the dark. Was that confusing enough? That's a bit how I felt. The story could have been straightened out a bit, because while I was reading I always felt like I was missing something. That made the climax of the story less than poignant.
I think the author had the intent of using the difference in time to create an almost mystical connection between Jason and Sean, but because of my confusion I didn't really see it. Jason and Sean move very quickly into insta-love territory, and I just couldn't suspend disbelief enough to feel it. I've heard good things about one of this author's past novels, and I'll definitely try out some of her other work, but unfortunately I couldn't quite connect with this one....more
Okay…. I've just got to say this: What the hell is wrong with everyone? I had tempeReview posted at The Armchair Reader as part of Kate McMurray Week!
Okay…. I've just got to say this: What the hell is wrong with everyone? I had tempered my excitement for this book after it came out because so many people have written very luke warm reviews. I didn't expect it to be bad, but what I found was a really fun, un-put-downable read. I mean, it's not perfect and I'll talk about that in a bit, but for the most part this book was highly enjoyable for me. So yeah, ya'lls on crack is all I can say.
Just like me ;), one of Dan's favorite shows on tv is a reality show about an antiques shop where a guy buys/sells/pawns things and goes through the provenance of the items in detail for the viewers. Of course, a lot of Dan's enjoyment is his attraction to sexy star of the show, Malcolm Tell (great tv name!). So when he comes across an old music box, his sister encourages him to use it to try to get on the show. When he gets to the store, he finds that they're taping, which means Dan has to go through a whole song and dance just to get to the good part. Dan's nervous, and meeting the man he's found himself fantasizing about is much more important than the music box. When Malcolm comes out and it's his cue to start talking about the music box, he is finally able to look in the man's eyes and finds that they seem strangely peculiar. The strange thing is that Malcolm obviously feels the same way. It isn't until Dan hands it to him and both touch the box at the same time that the visit gets really interesting. Both share a peculiar vision that includes a tremendous amount of pain and anguish, which abruptly ends when they remove their hands.
The visit goes to hell after that. The box isn't really that interesting at all, except for an inscription. But Malcolm is reluctant to let Dan leave. And when he does, Dan finds that he's got a date for the next evening for dinner and to examine the box again in private. Will whatever happened happen again? And what does it mean if it only happens when they both touch it?
The music box sets off a strange series of occurrences where different objects tend to show up giving them different visions. When they start to put the pieces together and find out what is really happening, they're thunderstruck by what it all means and what it means for their now-growing relationship. But the inherent problem with repeating history is that they repeat their mistakes, as well as a tragedy that follows them. They have to follow each object and vision until they can find a way to change history and secure a real future for themselves.
I think what I loved so much about this story is the different visions they have. I won't get into what they are of, but it's pure gold for a story because it's a mine of different settings and scenarios to explore. That's exciting for a reader because it makes the book exciting. It also gives the book a really great pace, with so much forward movement in the story, so I never got tired of reading it and I was always interested to discover what would happen next. Of course, I did have one big problem with the story -- I just found the ending anticlimactic. You can see it coming from a mile away. But, the way the story is set up makes for good, natural tension. Except, maybe too much tension. By the time the end rolled around the stakes were so high that I ended up just finding the ending a bit… lame and comical. However, though that might sour a bit of the story, I still found that I loved the rest of the story and it didn't bother me too much. So, it wasn't enough to mark the story down very far for me.
I've heard from friends who read this that they found Dan a bit too weepy and whiny. I'm not sure if it's just a case of some people not really liking for their guy characters to cry too much (I know some people don't -- that's fine), or that I just felt like the circumstances were justifiable (if I was facing possible death and loss of my newfound and totally awesome love of my life and counting down the days for find a remedy I think I'd be a ball of angst and tears!), but it just didn't bother me at all.
So, while I might caution some readers who these things will automatically send up red flags, I would encourage you to give this one a try. Because while it may not be perfect, it's still a really fun and exciting read with quite a few twists and turns that I wasn't really expecting. Expect for the book to take a turn towards real fantasy and be a bit surreal toward the end, but I found that part of the fun ;)...more
This is a pretty typical and run of the mill time travel story. While the characters aren't necessarily unorReview posted at Brief Encounters Reviews.
This is a pretty typical and run of the mill time travel story. While the characters aren't necessarily unoriginal archetypes, they're aren't quite fully developed either. Still, the strength of this story is in the settings -- first, rural Nebraska and second, the bombed cities of Europe and the beaches of Normandy.
The story is pretty straightforward. Matt is mourning the loss of his great great-aunt Violet, who was always a little mischievous and doted on him as a child. Before flying back to Oakland after the funeral in Omaha, his mother passes on the old photo album Violet left him, the one he used to pour through as a child. That night, as he gets drunk in his motel room and looks through the old pictures, he settles on the one that used to captivate him, a 19 year old boy with haunted eyes, posing in his army uniform a few weeks before deployment in WWII. That night, Matt dreams of the boy, meeting up in a diner with his aunt now young serving them breakfast as they got to know one another. Soon, through problems with the cheating ex he hasn't (until recently) been able to get over, and various continued dreams as the boy, now man turns darker from seeing death and war, the two slowly get to know one another -- all through Matt's dreams.
I suppose one of the strong points for me was the paranormal like twist to the time traveling. There isn't a time machine, or a specific cause and effect that brings the two together. Their meetings are hazy and unsure, especially afterwards when Matt wakes up again in his own time, over and over again. I liked that there were no complete answers, it left the story open to interpretation.
Also, as I said before, the settings really brought the characters to life, especially the decline of Joseph (the boy in the picture) each subsequent time they meet. From a shy and unsure boy among the cornfields to a hollowed out man with little left to fight for, all framed among hollowed out buildings with rubble crunching under his boots.
This isn't the best time travel story I've read, and the ending wasn't perfect and felt a bit out of sync with the rest of the story, but for the most part I liked it. B-...more
This is a rather short and simple story. Wallace, who ironically works at one of those Colonial historical hReview posted at Brief Encounters Reviews.
This is a rather short and simple story. Wallace, who ironically works at one of those Colonial historical homes where they dress up and show what life was like without plumbing and electricity, is knocked on his ass by a man in a Victorian suit who appears out of thin air. He explains that his name is Thomas and that this is this second trip using his time machine that he recently built. He needs help exchanging some of his gold for US Dollars and in finding an inn for the night, but after Wallace's terrible and long day at work, he'd rather just take Thomas home with him. Not to mention, Wallace is pretty sure that Thomas is gay, but being from Victorian London and all, is probably pretty scared to admit it if he is.
This was a pretty simple story -- the meeting, Wallace's first confusion and disbelief at Thomas' story, their getting to know one another that evening and Thomas' million questions about the modern era and technology (and Star Wars!), a romantic interlude, then the promise of more. I didn't really feel like either character stood out, they weren't distinct enough in the short amount of time to be more than caricatures. Wallace is a typical, normal gay man, maybe a bit of a single homebody. Thomas is, of course, a genius physicist who plays up is aloof scientist demeanor back in the 1700s so as to keep his homosexuality a secret and avoid the grand parties and balls of high society. He is, of course, cute and nerdy, which I always love, but I would have liked to see them together for more time so get a feel for their connection. Similarly, the sex didn't stand out to me because of the lack of significant distinction in their characters.
There were a few times where I noticed Thomas speaking like a typical american instead of like a man from Victorian London. He once said "I totally…" as in I totally blah blah blah which seemed as out of place to me as if he'd like, used like for every other word ;) Still, for those that aren't too picky and like the out of time feeling from time travel (I love a character who has lots of fun questions!), this is a good and uncomplicated time travel story. I did wonder if the author plans to write more about this couple, because the ending was left very open… Perhaps we'll find out. A solid C....more
This was an all-around heartwarming read that I really enjoyed!
Anthony is an A-List Hollywood actor who wakes up on the day of his 50th birthday alone and regretful. He has everything now that he thought he wanted -- he has a brilliant career that he got by sacrificing everything that would now make him happy as his career naturally declines with his aging looks. He spends that evening at a fundraiser for Berkeley, his alma mater as a guest of honor and runs into his old flame. Well, Rob is the only man that Anthony ever really felt he could come to love, and they never even got to have their first date. All those year ago in college, he finally wore Rob down until he agreed to a date, then stood Rob up for an audition that turned out to be the big start of his career. But seeing Rob again brings up all those old feelings, especially seeing Rob on the arm of another man. He wishes he could go back and change everything, now that he's realized that having Rob would have meant so much more than fame, fortune and adoration by millions.
This second chance story is a very, very common plot, but one that is sort of tried and true. It seems like every other year another movie comes out with this same plotline. I think that these authors (who this is their first published story, by the way) could have easily changed this plot to make it new and exciting but I'm glad they stuck with the simplicity of it. The writing is solid and very easy flowing and the story works because since we've already seen this plot over and over, the story becomes about the characters, and I really liked them.
Anthony is the one that gets a second chance here. He's our narrator and as the story moves through time we get to see him at different points of his life. From, at 50, almost tired and in a since finally grown up, but way too late -- to back in his college days, where we get memories of how shallow and driven he is towards his career, then shown through the light of his newfound understanding after having gone back in time. This is shown well through the first meeting after the time shift. Rob is Anthony's Shakespeare tutor and even while Anthony has been trying to wear Rob down and get him to date him, he's also been shallow and he doesn't care at all about Shakespeare, preferring new, modern words and roles to play. He doesn't understand Shakespeare at all, nor try to. Seeing him then, after he's in effect finally matured to Rob's level (now being a 50 year old in his young body), he understands and uses Shakespeare to show Rob that he's really serious about life and getting to know Rob. That was one of my favorite scenes, which worked well as one of the scenes where the character is shown just a bit out of place and time.
I'll definitely be reading anything this duo publishes in the future. LIke I said, I really enjoyed this story because it didn't try to mess with such a solid and well-known plot. Other's might disagree, because this is a story that we've read and seen in movies before. Still, the characters here make this story original, and I really enjoyed them. I don't really have any complaints and I'm happy to give this story an A- rating!...more
This is a story of two halves and as such, I'm of two minds about it. On the one hand, the first half was a wondeReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
This is a story of two halves and as such, I'm of two minds about it. On the one hand, the first half was a wonderful fish out of water story. On the other, the turn towards sudden romance then no follow up and sudden ending left me disappointed.
We meet Francis on the doorstep of his very good friend Sir Desmond Rivest, a gentleman adventurer of Edwardian London. He is dying and Francis is only barely able to see him one last time, barred from the home by the Lady Rivest, Desmond's wife. As they say goodbye, Desmond gifts Francis with a strange watch and speaks of how brave and fearless Francis really is. It is the beginning of a new kind of adventure that Francis must take alone.
What is wonderful about this story is Francis' forward shift in time. It works so well with the fish out of water theme. We see him totally baffled by the little boxes with lights and buttons that people pay an inordinate amount of time paying attention to. He has some poignant thoughts, as only an objective viewer could, about how reliant people are upon technology. I liked how rude people were to him in the beginning, walking on the street in strange clothes. It's honestly true, and contrasted nicely to Pam and Simon when they take him in and care for him, even though they think he's a bit crazy. Or on drugs. We get to see a lot of Pam here, who I did find a little annoying, but not overly so. She's a bit of a modern twist on a Dickensian meddling busybody, but she means well and that comes across the more you read in the story. Simon has a bit of his own story here as well. He was engaged to a rather smarmy character named Andrew, though no longer. It was interesting to see Francis react to current gay rights when only a week prior he had to worry about being arrested for being with another man.
All of that was wonderful. We get the delightful fish out of water theme, a bit of a connect the dots mystery of a painting of Francis and his connection to the descendants of Desmond. The problem is that suddenly everything stopped. For most of the story, there's only even a tiny fraction of interest between Simon and Francis -- the story is really focused on the time travel theme. Then, it is 3 years in the future and they're together…. Where was the relationship? I was a bit sad that we missed that, because I thought that the two had the beginnings of a connection. Not to see that come to fruition seemed like a bit of a tease to me, and left me with a disappointing feeling in the end. It felt a bit like the story had to stop to meet a short length, and the story definitely wasn't finished being told.
This is the first story that I've read by GS Wiley and I've heard wonderful things in the past. I'm a bit at odds with how I feel about the story because it seemed to so suddenly change, but because I did really enjoy most of the story, I'll definitely be reading more of this author's past work and I'll give this a So So....more
I have to admit that I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with time travel stories. I find that I don't likeReview posted at The Armchair Reader.
I have to admit that I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with time travel stories. I find that I don't like them more than I do like them, and I think it's because I have a hard time suspending disbelief in able to enjoy the story. And while I didn't love this story (but did like it), it had nothing to do with the time travel. In that regard, I found it mostly well done.
I usually find myself not liking the story because things just don't… add up, in the details of the time travel. Here, many of those details are purposefully left out of this story, which worked for me because I didn't feel such a large disconnect. The way that the time travel scenario is set up is done in a way I could understand, a second chances theme, and while I did find a few of the extraneous details pertaining to the logistics of it somewhat strange (I could have done without them altogether -- like, the eye?), for the most part that didn't bother me.
The part that worked well for me was the relationship and the sex. The story starts with Wade in 2012, who had a phantom/ghost lover of sorts. An invisible man seems to engage his body without his prior warning or consent and he finds that he loves and hates it. We soon learn that Michael, in 2022, is having a similar phenomena, but only in his dreams of his phantom lover, a man he doesn't know and can't remember upon waking. The unique situation soon becomes entwined in the desperation of Michael's life and past regrets, and the addition of an old Chinese man with a store full of strange artifacts sheds light on how to change his life.
I found that what worked best for me with this story was the relationship and the sex. From the very beginning the story is very sexually charged. While there's little to no relationship between the characters -- after all, that's the only way they can connect -- Michael's POV soon sheds light on how they're connected between time. The sexual chemistry was immediately steamy and brought me quickly into the story. Where I felt the story failed in some respects was the easy wrap-up. We see Wade and Michael together in the same time very, very little and most of that is taken up by sex. Once together they act as if there's no impediment in their relationship and they've been together for years. I couldn't quite connect how a few months of a strange sexual connection (when they didn't know it was the other) could immediately translate into a happy, healthy and established relationship. So in that respect, this seemed very much like insta-love to me.
Still, I enjoyed the story and I'm looking forward to reading more of this author's work in the future....more
This is a story of many different relationships and factions coming together. Jeritt iReview is originally posted at Brief Encounters Reviews
This is a story of many different relationships and factions coming together. Jeritt is in love with Frost, his husband and they're a team of time travelers. Jeritt is a Scourge and equipped with an embedded compass, keeps and watches over the shifts in time, correcting wrongs and setting paths to rights. He has one regret, however happy his current life is with Frost in the very distant future -- that he lost his relationship with his best friend and former partner Brekin. But Brekin is rogue somewhere in the past, and Jeritt feels a duty to try to find him and convince him to come back before the plan that is already set in motion and out of Jeritt's hands will find his friend killed. But when he and Frost go looking for him, nothing turns out like he thought it would.
There's quite a bit going on in this story, and while I felt like it did come together and I was only lost a few times, it was still a little too rushed for my liking. There are large shifts in time (relative time) where the story relies on thin narration to progress and save space in such a short story. While I understood why this happens, it really lessoned some of the emotional impact later in the story.
You know how when something gets pretty complicated and has to rely on some exposition to explain it? I found that happening quite a few times, and even though I ultimately liked this story, I could only conclude that this plot was just too much for a short story. Beside the fact that the time travel and all the implications of such a thing take a bit to puzzle out, especially when they're so central to the story in the way it is here, I found myself wanting some of that time to get more of the relationships, both between Jeritt and Frost and between Jeritt and Brekin. Some of this could have been set up beforehand, but again, that would have made this a much longer story. Still, it is one that I would have really enjoyed reading.
I liked these characters. The nature of the plot is really about misunderstanding, especially between friends in a really natural and understanding way, and because of the premise of the story, we get to see different sides of both Jeritt and Brekin. I appreciated that, even in the limited capacity that we see them, especially Brekin. Frost's purpose is really to serve as the support system for Jeritt. He's total Alpha material, growly and arrogant at the same time, and while their relationship is the focal point of the first part of the story, it still felt a bit outside of the story for me (told in memory).
This is good story, even though I was picky with some of the details and the delivery of the story. I sometimes get frustrated with short stories that are really undersized novels or novellas. What really frustrates me is when that is needless, like a contemporary story. That isn't the case here and I understood why the story is written as it is, but it still made it a difficult read and too rushed for me....more