Another Chance to Dream

From This Moment On

The More I See You

Opposites Attract

This Is All I Ask

The Very Thought of You

Dreams of Stardust by Lynn Kurland
(Jove, $7.99,G) ISBN 0-515-13948-3
Readers who enjoy books set in the Middle Ages could do worse than this. But they could also do better.

En route to Artane castle in England, Jake Kilchurn’s car goes off the road and he’s thrown 800 years into the past, to 1227. When he regains consciousness, he’s been stripped of everything except his shorts.

Amanda de Piaget, a famously beautiful woman from a wealthy and powerful family, has been of marriageable age for four years. She’s rejected one suitor after the next because they only want her money. Now, Amanda’s father is losing patience and pressing her to choose a husband. Amanda doesn’t want any of the available candidates, so she’s in the midst of running away from home when she stumbles across Jake, unconscious in the grass.

Although Amanda is desperate to escape, something makes her stop when she spots Jake. The brothers in hot pursuit catch up, and that’s it for her flight – they’re all on their way back to Artane. Jake recognizes the place, but he’s confused. He seems to have wandered into a costume ball where everyone speaks Norman French.

Amanda’s parents and older brothers are out of town, which may explain why, when Amanda insists that their prisoner must be a lord from someplace and should be freed, the castle guards escort Jake back to where she found him and wave goodbye. Within minutes, however, he’s being attacked again. Amanda and her brothers rescue him again. Once again, everyone troops back to Artane.

Although I am not usually a fan of time-travel stories, this one actually worked quite well. Ms. Kurland does not make the mistake of inventing a long, convoluted ‘explanation’ for the time travel; there are simply doors through time. Jake falls through one and everybody moves on.

Jake is also very plausible. He makes his way in the 13th century on the strength of his character, winning the respect of Amanda’s family on his merits even as he struggles with medieval reality. Clearly, a self-confident man of modern sensibilities is the only possible match for Amanda. The men of her family are astonishingly tolerant, but undoubtedly the average medieval lord would crush the mouthy, headstrong Amanda like an insect.

Amanda is a little more problematic. While she is clearly meant to grow as a character, she’s a bit of a twit and is still indulging in immature behavior at the end. She has been educated like a man, allowed to train (as in fighting and physical fitness) like a man, ride like a man, and even dress like a man when it suits her. And yet, she’s running away from home because she must be free! Free! Of the four walls of Artane (where she lives a life of luxury). Of the oppressive protection of her powerful brothers (who let her do just about anything she wants). Of the possibility that she might have to marry a man she doesn’t love.

Apparently, she’s never seen or heard anything about the world outside if she thinks a young woman alone in this time will ever find more freedom than that. To the author’s credit, Amanda is punished for this bit of stupidity, although it’s frustrating for the reader that she persists in it throughout the book.

In general, while there’s lots of story, it drags in places thanks to the author’s long-winded explanations. We spend a very, very long time, hearing about Jake’s travails in learning sword fighting, and listening to Amanda gnashing her teeth because, oh woe!, she cannot wed someone who isn’t a lord. (Which, frankly, sounded a bit odd, coming from the girl who flouted every other stricture of her time.)

On the other hand, some rather important story elements are scarcely explained at all, such as the motivation for Jake’s breathtakingly cruel father. And the romance definitely takes a back seat to everything else that’s going on.

On the whole, it’s an okay read if you’re in the mood for a medieval romance that’s no more implausible than these things usually are, and more interested in the setting than the romance.

-- Judi McKee

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