I’d like to blame the sudden lack of Kleenex around our house on my emotional instability, courtesy of my current pregnant state. But only two events of recent have actually had me bawling hard enough to reach for the box at my elbow: finding out that someone in our house had eaten the last of my Girl Scout cookies, and reading certain parts of Constance O’Day-Flannery’s latest time-travel romance.
You get the sense at the beginning of Time After Time that Kelly Brennan, the heroine, is a woman who’s not “of this world.” As a bridesmaid in the New Orleans wedding of a distant college friend, she’s dressed in a ridiculous Civil War-style dress that makes her stick out like a sore thumb. Likewise, she feels alienated from all the society people around her and can’t relate to their gossip, their idle chitchat, their superficial attitudes. She also stands apart because she’s utterly alone: her beloved husband, Michael, was killed over ten years before and at 36, she still hasn’t found anyone to fill the void he left behind.
Tired of the post-wedding festivities, Kelly wanders around the estate where the reception is being held and a massive oak tree calls her attention. A strange force seems to pull her closer until she’s touching the tree, and a huge wave of grief washes over her. She pulls away, but the tree has her in its power. She turns back, touches the bark, and suddenly, she’s one with the tree, feeling as if she’s spinning through it.
She hits the ground hard, opens her eyes, and before her stands a little girl who insists Kelly’s a fairy, a fairy who must obey all her wishes. Nothing looks familiar to Kelly; even the compelling oak tree has disappeared. So she “obeys” the strange little girl named Lizzie Gilmore and follows her to the place she calls home.
It doesn’t take Kelly long to figure out that something’s very wrong. Clara, the Gilmore’s Black housekeeper, looks too old fashioned. And there’s no electricity, no running water, no telephones at the house. Then Kelly meets Lizzie’s father, Daniel. And shock of all shocks, he’s a mirror image of Michael, Kelly’s dead husband. Only she’s looking at him in 1888!
Daniel is wrapped up in grief, too. He lost his beloved wife years ago, and when Kelly appears on his doorstep, claiming to be from the future, he believes she’s a gift from the heavens. She even looks like Lilly, his deceased wife. It doesn’t take him long to fall for the strange woman who talks of “telly-phones” and flying through the air back home to Philadelphia in the year of 2001.
The romance between Daniel and Kelly was very real and powerful, perhaps because the author did such a fine job of portraying the depth of grief each character felt before meeting each other. Likewise, I didn’t get the sense that Daniel was a substitute for Michael, or that Kelly was a stand-in for Lilly. No, Kelly and Daniel had characters that were distinct and different from the deceased spouses; it was as if the two people had simply re-met their soul mates - in somewhat different guises and personalities.
I enjoyed the developing relationship between Daniel and Kelly. No fighting, no bickering, no big misunderstandings … just a caring relationship that fairly quickly turns to love. I read the novel waiting for a big “oh no” moment, but it never came. The other thing I waited for - and deliciously - was the moment when Daniel stopped ‘courting’ Kelly and they consummated their relationship. Great sexual tension!
Which brings me to my one complaint about the novel. The course of true love runs too smooth with Daniel and Kelly. He doesn’t seem to blink an eye about her claim that she’s from the future, and she offers him very little proof, save for the stories about computers and women having the right to vote, that she’s sane. And Kelly, who was never an activist in 2001, spends a lot of her conversations with Daniel either up on a soapbox, vowing to improve women’s rights, or “shocking” him by wearing pants. Daniel’s unquestioning acceptance of this outspoken behavior seemed a bit unbelievable. Also, there’s one scene involving animal cruelty at the end of the book that may disturb some readers. (An animal lover myself, I prefer to be warned about such scenes.)
Nevertheless, I recommend Time After Time. It was a wonderful (and wet!) way to while away the hours!