Point in Time by Linda O. Johnson
(Love Spell, $5.50, PG-13) ISBN 0-505-52244-6
I wanted to like this book because the author did such a nice job of researching colonial Pittsburgh; many fascinating historical tidbits are woven into this time-travel romance. Unfortunately, the historical tidbits are the best part of Point In Time. The story line is slow and repetitious; this book would have been much improved if a hundred pages or more had been left out.

Mariah Walker is a successful unit production manager; she is currently on assignment in Pittsburgh, scouting the area for a low-budget historical film. She pulls out the screenplay for the film and discovers that the first line of the screenplay's dialogue is: "You must right a grievous wrong." This is a line that Mariah has been hearing in her dreams for as long as she can remember a plea for help that's never been explained in her dreams. Mariah devours the screenplay; it's the tragic story of a former British officer, Charles Thorn, and the time is just after the French and Indian War.

It seems that while Thorn was on duty at Fort Pitt, Indians kidnapped a young boy from the town. The boy's mother subsequently kills herself and a disgraced Thorn heads for the woods, an outcast. Befriended by a Frenchman and a young woman, Thorn stops running from his past. He starts meeting the many challenges life offers; his character grows and matures until he is ready to reenter society. Before he can totally reclaim his life, however, he is killed in a duel by a relative of the missing boy.

The screenplay moves Mariah, even though it never explains the "grievous wrong." She accompanies the screenwriter, Josiah Pierce, around Pittsburgh and when she tells him that she loves his work, except for the ending, the old man's cryptic reply is that the ending, "[C]annot be changed-for now." Pierce takes Mariah to Fort Pitt and when he places her hand on the only original part of Fort Pitt still standing, Mariah finds herself transported back to Thorn's time. However, nothing is exactly as the screenplay portrayed it to be, including Thorn.

Okay, here's my first problem with this tale. If you had been haunted your whole life by a voice that continually requests you to right a grievous wrong, with no explanation, and you read a screenplay with the same request, but with no explanation, what would your first question to the screenwriter be? Yeah, I think my first question would be the following: What the heck is the grievous wrong? It's a bit difficult to understand why it never occurred to Mariah to ask that question of Pierce.

However, my biggest problem with Point In Time is the amount of time/pages devoted to Thorn and Mariah doing the I-want-you-one-minute-and-don't-want-you-the-next thing. The following is a typical example:

"And Thorn. His miserable, unanticipated attitude.
His searing, startling kiss.
He was so different from the story version.
He was still gorgeous.
Something about him drew her. Something else repelled her.
He was unreliable."

I understand that Thorn has a problem with anyone relying on him, and that Mariah has a problem with unreliable men. But I don't think that Thorn has to save Mariah a half a dozen times in order for the characters, and the readers, to get the point that Thorn is reliable and that Mariah can trust him.

Perhaps it's just that I don't understand why Thorn thought donning a self-imposed hair shirt avoiding friendship, love, and responsibilities was a better course than doing something about the problem. In other words, I would have liked Thorn better if he had spent some time trying to find the kidnapped boy instead of running to the woods and wallowing in self-pity. Thorn's too accepting of the boy's fate, and his own guilt, to be my idea of a romantic hero. Yes, he finally catches on to the fact that he is a decent, reliable human being but it's a long and not a very interesting process.

--Judith Flavell

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