My mother is forever telling me that I analyze things to death. I think that could be part of the reason why I sometimes have difficulty enjoying the fantasy/time travel genres. I try too hard to make sense of subjects that require a willing suspension of disbelief. That said, you can imagine my surprise at how quickly and thoroughly I was drawn into A Time to Dream.
Shelby Miller is the caretaker of Winterhill, a grand home that has stood next to its twin, Summervale, for over a century. The pair of homes has a colorful history in Hannibal, Missouri. The original owner, Zacharias Logan and his twin sons, Andrew and Mordechai, were banished from Summervale by his reputedly insane wife Agatha, who spent the rest of her life as a recluse.
Zacharias built Summervale’s duplicate, Winterhill, directly next door. According to local history, although Zacharias and Agatha lived side by side, they never spoke to one another again.
Shelby is fascinated by the twin homes’ history and is devastated when she learns Winterhill is to be sold and both homes will likely be demolished. While on a visit to the abandoned Summervale, Shelby is mysteriously propelled through time to 1871 Hannibal and into the body of Agatha Logan.
Shelby believes her time in the past will be short and decides to use the opportunity to learn the reasons behind the break-up of Zacharias’ and Agatha’s marriage. Perhaps her intervention in their relationship could have a positive impact on the fate of both Summervale and Winterhill. What she doesn’t bank on is her attraction to Zacharias and his equally strong reaction to the new and improved Agatha.
A Time to Dream features the standard cast of secondary characters: an evil mother-in-law, a conniving mistress and a sympathetic personal maid, Meg. Even the homes, Summervale and Winterhill, are characters in their own right. And the subtle differences in each home illustrate the evolving relationship between Zacharias and Agatha. But it’s the relationship between Shelby/Agatha and Zacharias that really makes this story work.
Shelby’s childhood, spent in and out of a myriad of different foster homes, makes her adaptability to living in the past believable. And her thoroughly modern reactions to 19th century living are often hilarious, especially her secret opinions of her odious mother-in-law, Victoria. Zacharias’ justifiable anger at his banishment from his beloved estate and guilt over his part in Agatha’s decision to shut herself off from the world also rings true.
The awareness that develops between Zacharias and Shelby/Agatha is unquestionable. When it came time to assign a sensuality rating to the book, I was surprised to realize their relationship was never consummated during the course of the story. And I never noticed. The love and sensual tension between the two was so powerfully depicted, it was unnecessary and, obviously, not missed.
My only complaints concern the quick and effortless turnaround by Zacharias and the housemaid, Meg, in believing Shelby’s claims that she is a visitor from the future. This concept was well beyond the scope of Zacharias, and especially Meg’s, experiences. I simply didn’t buy it.
In addition, everyone is looking for a reason to have Agatha committed and Shelby’s claims of time travel gives them the perfect excuse. Shelby should have realized that. Fortunately, by this point in the book I so wanted Zacharias and Shelby/Agatha’s relationship to work, I was willing to overlook just about anything.
If you enjoy time travels, I think A Time to Dream will make a terrific addition to your to-be-read pile. But if you’re more the questioning sort, like me, you might find A Time to Dream a pleasant surprise. I did.