Heaven's Time by Susan Plunkett
(Jove, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-515-12287-4
Good time-travels allow you to suspend disbelief. Diana Gabaldon's Claire going through the stones, Nora's Hornblower brothers entering a black hole, Courtney and her cowboy being sucked up in a turquoise tornado I can accept these methods of time travel. In Heaven's Time, we're being asked to accept something as elemental as magic as a time-travel vehicle. While my goal is not to be an iconoclast, I do require a certain amount of realism. A witch, a magic wand and Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo won't cut it. Magic as a time-travel vehicle seems too pat and too simplistic. For me, it doesn't work.

Two events are occurring simultaneously. In 1887 Washington Territory, architect Rory McCullough is saying goodbye to an otherworldly woman, a woman he rescued and befriended ten years earlier. Rory has always known that Shelan was different, but he's never encouraged her to practice her magic. It's as though she's been recharging her magic batteries for these ten years. Before leaving Rory, Shelan promises that he will soon find a woman, a woman who, with time and care, will become his soul mate.

In 1998, astronaut Melissa Fuller is orbiting the Earth when she finds herself in the middle of an unexpected meteor shower. As she plummets to certain death, she realizes how futile and empty her life has been. Her single minded devotion to her career-oriented lifestyle, and the scars from a miserable childhood, have left her friendless and lonely. Next thing we know, Rory sees a shooting star, hears a loud plunk in the lake, and rescues a naked woman . . . who is suffering from amnesia.

. This is once that amnesia as a plot device seems entirely credible. Think about Melissa's recent journey. I'd say amnesia would be justified. Either that or go nuts! So would total incineration, but Shelan's strong magic must have served as a heat shield.

For the first third of the book, Melissa does not regain her memory. However, she knows that some things are not commonplace to her. She recognizes items, but knows that her perspective is historical. This is one of the few areas where the book felt correct.

The character of Rory is that of a paragon. He was abandoned at age ten, but rather than become embittered as did Melissa, he's decided to establish an orphanage. Seeing the kids now that he's been adopting over the years, you'd never know that their early years were less than idyllic. Rory is without flaws and Melissa's antithesis. Instead of being bitter about his less than ideal childhood as is Melissa, he's perpetually optimistic. He greets challenges with eagerness. Melissa finds herself reluctantly drawn to Rory and the kids. I enjoyed this interlude but kept remembering that Melissa is an astronaut, trained in logic, science and mathematics. Her transition from a self absorbed career-oriented astronaut to a nanny didn't seem plausible.

The middle part of the book begins with an epiphany. Melissa remembers who she is and realizes that she wants her old life back. Why? We know she was miserable, lonely and maladjusted. For the first time in her life, she's learning to trust and love, yet she vows to get back to the future. Ask yourself why a trained scientist would put credence in the notion that magic would return her to the future. I also found it rather incongruous that she would so willingly accept that magic was the cause of her present situation.

After Melissa vows that only death will keep her from returning to the future, this thread fizzles. She begins to ponder about her wretched past existence, her unworthiness to be loved, her inability to trust and her unsuitability to work with children. She realizes that she is withholding from Rory the same thing she's always withheld from people: trust.

Heaven's Time did not work for me. Melissa's character is never fleshed out. Rory and the kids are too perfect. The denouement comes out of nowhere and makes Melissa seem ridiculous. If Shelan has plans for future matchmaking, I hope she comes up with better pairing.

--Linda Mowery

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