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This is All I Ask

Stardust of Yesterday

The Very Thought of You
by Lynn Kurland
(Jove, $5.99, PG) ISBN 0-515-12261-0
Although not expressly mentioned on the cover or elsewhere in the book, this is plainly a sequel to A Dance Through Time. The hero is the brother of the heroine of the earlier book, the time travel device is based on a map drawn by the previous hero, and the earlier couple makes a significant reappearance in this story. Perhaps if I had read the first book, I would have been more enamoured of this one, but I felt as though I had begun reading midway through the story. Ideally, sequels should be able to stand on their own; this one tilts noticeably.

Alexander Smith discovers a map that appears to depict the location of portals to past times and places. Deciding that 17th century Barbados would be a nice vacation spot, he tries to transport himself there but misjudges the spot and lands in medieval England instead. There he is discovered by the brother of Ralf of Brackwald. Margaret of Falconberg, who has secretly been holding her father's estate since his death ten years earlier, decides that abducting the brother would prevent Ralf from gaining her property through a forced marriage. Instead of abducting the brother, however, Margaret mistakenly kidnaps Alex.

Alex has been impressed with Ralf's failings and is immediately attracted to Margaret so, even though she doubts his trustworthiness, he lends her his assistance. Margaret has been reviled for her height and her practice of dressing in men's clothing so has difficulty believing that Alex is interested in her for herself, but she can't help being drawn to him in spite of his odd speech and questions about his origins. Gradually, Alex becomes involved with Margaret and other residents of her castle.

When a tourney is planned to celebrate the return of King Richard to England (the date of which Alex cleverly knows in advance), Alex sees a chance to win Margaret in marriage and save her and her people from the despicable Ralf.

Ordinarily anachronisms in historical novels really irritate me. Here the anachronisms are deliberate. (Alex's existence in the 13th century is itself an anachronism.) The author flings around 20th century speech and allusions with abandon. For example, Alex unsuccessfully tries to return to the present and decides to "try a few key phrases."

"Beam me up, Scott."
"Take me home, country road."
Alex wanted to laugh, but this wasn't funny. It hadn't taken any key phrases to get home with Jamie.

"I want hamburgers. I want Twinkies. Geez, I'll even take a Lilt at this point." Lilt seemed to be the Brits' equivalent of Sprite. Maybe not his favorite, but pop was pop when you were stuck in medieval England.

All the humor isn't dependent on anachronisms. In fact, the overall tone of this book is light; many of the characters are comic figures, and even the villain is more caricature than a real threat.

Possibly that's why I could never quite get into this book. I never had a sense of involvement with any of the characters or their difficulties. I felt as if I'd come in the middle, and it seemed as though the author wasn't taking this very seriously but rather just having some light-hearted fun while taking the opportunity to revisit some old friends.

The Very Thought of You may work for the reader who's looking for amusement rather than angst. I just wish I'd been warned that it was a sequel before I'd started it while at a cruising altitude of 30,000 feet with the nearest bookstore quite inaccessible.

--Lesley Dunlap

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