New author Terri Brisbin introduces several fresh elements in her delightful first book, A Love Through Time. Scot-o-philes, time-travel enthusiasts, and readers who like a strong heroine are going to really enjoy this story. Since I'm a fan of all three, I was happy as a clam for most of a weekend while reading it.
Schoolteacher Maggie Hobbs is taking the trip of a lifetime. Newly disentangled from an overbearing boyfriend, she's traveling on a bus tour of Scotland. Alex Mackendimen, accountant, is also in Scotland, chaperoning his Aunt Jean to a clan gathering. Alex would rather be home in New Jersey, hoping for a promotion, but since he's supposedly the heir to the Mackendimen clan, he'll make the best of it.
Maggie and Alex happen to meet near Oban, where the clan festivities are taking place. They exchange pleasantries and find out they live near each other back in the States. Just as things are beginning to click, a strange woman pops up, mutters something in Gaelic, and pushes them backward through an old stone archway. When Maggie and Alex scramble to their feet, they find that everything recognizable has disappeared and they are alone in an empty field. And Alex, while as confused as Maggie, is now speaking in a thick brogue. He can't hear it, but Maggie can. What's going on?
Riders come upon the scene, identify Alex as the returning son of the local clan, and assume that Maggie must be his leman, an Englishwoman that he picked up somewhere along the road from London. Ales and Maggie decide to play along while they figure out when and where they are, which turns out to be medieval Scotland.
Apparently Alex is the spitting image of the long-absent heir to Clan Mackendimen. Soon he is enmeshed in the workings of the clan, while Maggie pretends to be his mistress and tries to avoid the jealousy of Alex's fiancee, the fifteen-year-old Anice. The wedding is one month away. How can Alex marry a child when he's rapidly losing his heart to Maggie? And how can Maggie let this wonderful guy go? And how can they get back through the archway, to a present where they might have a future?
Overall, this book was an outstanding time-travel. Brisbin chose to present Alex's dialogue in brogue, which might have been overbearing, but she's careful to keep it to the recognizable minimum. Maggie remains modern in all aspects, a nice foil. And I absolutely enjoyed the way Alex is modern to a T (lamenting the loss of his cell phone, hiding his Jockey shorts in a chest) but is trapped inside a Scots dialect. Clever, very clever.
In fact, the entire plot was clever. This is time travel as I can imagine it if it were to actually happen. Characters who keep their mouths shut, struggle to fit in, and occasionally use their modern knowledge to help them out of a situation without coming out and announcing "I'm from the future!" Maggie and Alex are those people.
The character of Anice, the scheming fiancée, was stock but handled well. There is one scene that is so well-done it left me in knots, hating her and wanting revenge. It's not often I have such a strong reaction to a character. Boy, it sure kept me reading!
Alex was a little harder for me to get a handle on. I certainly didn't sympathize with him when I met him, as his motivations seemed weak at best. He wants to make partner in his firm to please his dead father, who would be proud of him, and he's doing it by wooing the boss's daughter, whom he doesn't even like that well. Hmmm. It took a while for him to wise up. And while the theme of the book is "teaching someone the value of love", it seemed to take too long to get there. Once he gets out of New Jersey, however, he's much more likable. And Maggie cuts him no slack.
The settings and atmosphere were especially well-presented. I felt like I was right there with Alex and Maggie, the descriptions were so vivid.
Kudos to Terri Brisbin for presenting readers with an innovative, fresh time-travel romance. A Love Through Time is a strong debut for a promising new voice.
Read an interview with Terri Brisbin in our New Faces column!