Suzanne McDermott, eight and one-half months pregnant, is informed by her husband Kevin that he’s been involved in an affair with her best friend Ingrid and he’s moving in with her. Distraught, Suzanne flees to her favorite spot along Rancocas Creek in New Jersey and flings her wedding ring into the water. She thinks she’s hit a swimmer on the head and wades out into the water to haul him ashore where she administers CPR.
The stranger, Charles Garrity, has actually been shot in 1926 by his friend Mitch, and somehow his fall from the bridge over the Rancocas has transported him to the year 2001. Suzanne goes into labor, and when Charlie tries to drive her to the hospital in her unfamiliar car, he realizes that things are very different from what he knows.
Suzanne delivers a boy she names Matthew Charles. Charlie confides in her that he believes he’s traveled through time. She suggests he stay at her house until he can decide what to do, and he proves indispensable in his assistance to the new mother and baby. Suzanne finds Charlie much more supportive and caring than the faithless Kevin was in the six years of their marriage. With her aid, Charlie begins to adjust to the changes that took place in the seventy-five years he skipped.
Kevin begins to make things difficult for Suzanne both financially and emotionally. To protect herself and her son Matty, Suzanne consults with a lawyer to start divorce proceedings. This course of action will eventually lead to exposing a long-buried crime and to righting an old wrong.
One of my favorite series of books, Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, is time-travel fiction, but that’s something of an exception. Fantasy fiction, including time-travel, usually doesn’t appeal much to me - I rarely find it very credible. I’ve read too many time-travel stories where the mechanics of getting from one time period to another are unconvincing and often just plain silly, language differences are ignored as modern era characters communicate effortlessly with those of other centuries, and the time-traveling characters seem to be fairly immune to culture shock.
So it came as something of a surprise to me to find this time-travel story to be quite entertaining. The specifics of how Charlie makes it into the twenty-first century are left very vague, but the relatively short seventy-five year difference between his time and now eliminates some of the mundane questions that have bothered me in similar books. The practical side of me wondered how Charlie was able to get a Social Security number - that all-important nine-digit cradle-to-grave number - and the book also skims over that little detail.
Here and Now has two major story lines: how Suzanne is going to survive as a woman and a new mother in the wake of Kevin’s and Ingrid’s betrayal and how Charlie is going to come to terms with what he’s lost. The romance between Suzanne and Charlie is a small part of the narrative. Sure they’re both nice people, and they’ve both experienced betrayal from those they trusted, but their relationship is less about passion than compassion.
I did appreciate that Suzanne experiences some of the less joyful aspects of post-partum existence although she sometimes seems unrealistically resilient. I also appreciated that when she discovers the depths of Kevin’s perfidy, she sets out to get him. In too many romances the betrayed heroine meekly accepts the role of victim. It’s nice to find a heroine with too much spunk to allow that.
Mainly, however, I got caught up in the narrative and the characters’ problems. That’s what I believe most readers are looking for: a story that captures their interest. Here and Now is engaging enough that it may be a good choice for romance readers even for those who, like me, ordinarily avoid time-travel stories.