"Wink & A Kiss"

An Original Sin by Nina Bangs
(Love Spell, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-505-52324-8
When Fortune MacDonald (a/k/a Four-Two-N) wakes up one morning, she discovers that the man sleeping next to her looks real -- too real. In the year 2300, the male gender has gone the way of dinosaurs and dodos, and Fortune makes her living making men, incredibly lifelike men, to ease the loneliness of women. Her best work can't compare to the model in the bed next to her.

It takes her a few minutes to realize that the model is not a model, but a living, breathing man. A few moments later, the man awakens under Fortune's lusty gaze, and they both realize they've been transported through time. For Fortune, it's back three hundred years to 2000. But for the poor guy next to her, it's 300 years into the future.

Leith Campbell, a fierce Scottish warrior from 1700, first thinks that Fortune is a witch who has cast a spell on him. Nothing around him looks the least bit familiar -- not the Texas landscape or the awe-inspiring technology around him. While Fortune has the benefit of "history disks" to know of the year 2000, Leith has nothing except for his strength, his wit, and his good humor. Not to mention a strange little cat named Ganymede that seems to follow them wherever they go.

Ganymede is, in fact, a naughty little sprite who specializes and delights in natural disasters. Tired of his regular diet of floods and sandstorms, he decides to bring a man and a woman together through time travel, then rip them apart at the right moment. It will be his best trick yet. And a lot of fun for him to watch in his feline disguise.

As Leith and Fortune make their way through the strange and otherworldly landscape of Texas 2000, all sorts of funny situations arise. There's Leith's introduction to fast food ("I know King William rules England, but what land does the Burger King rule?") and a hilarious scene in a local shopping mall, where Leith takes a liking to K-mart. But beneath all the humor lies the sad fact that Leith wants nothing more than to return to his 1700s Scotland to resolve a stormy relationship with his brother Hugh. And Fortune feels obligated to bring Leith with her to 2300 to help repopulate the world with men.

As much as I wanted to love An Original Sin (Leith, the hero, is the perfect hero -- strong, sexy, SCOTTISH!), I found that after the initial five chapters the story began to drag. Interestingly enough, as I thought about this book over the weekend, it wasn't because there wasn't enough going on -- there was simply too much. You have time travel, the supernatural element, a mystery regarding a strange ice cream man -- all set in a humor-based plot, but with a very melancholy twist of history underlying the whole story. With all this stuff going on, it was hard for me to concentrate on the characters and get pulled into the story. I never felt very grounded; indeed, even present-day Texas seemed surreal to me in An Original Sin.

I would love to recommend An Original Sin to readers because it's different from your standard time travel fare. It's very funny in places, and the characterization is solid. If you like a quirky romance, you'll enjoy this book. Otherwise, be prepared for a schizophrenic carpet ride through time.

--Diana Burrell

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