It is not easy to write a time travel romance as many a reader can testify. Used bookstore shelves are littered with the unfortunate remains of time machines gone awry that have failed to adequately tell the tale of those who, for whatever reason, find themselves transported to a different time.
Happily, Timepool by Susan Plunkett left me thinking, "By George, this one works!"
Requiem Maguire, the son of a police officer killed just before his birth, is doing everything he can to stay alive. Reg is a DEA agent who spent the last two-and-a-half years undercover. He is the only one that can testify against the drug lord who killed his partner and help do something to curb the supply of heroin streaming into the country.
Forced to stand quietly by while the thugs around him commit one senseless and horrific crime after another, Req isnít sure heís still capable of experiencing, much less returning, any worthy human emotion. Hiding out in Monterey, California, Req makes a daily pilgrimage to the beach to watch the sunrise. He is looking for a sense of hope and renewal to help wash away the darkness that seems to be a permanent stain on his soul. So when he spies a woman drowning, Req reluctantly dives in and saves what he assumes is just one more druggie having a bad trip.
In 1890 Monterey, Caledonia Hornsby is suffering yet another sleepless night when she discovers a thief rifling through her cherished fatherís desk. Angry at the violation, Cally decides to follow him, determined to find out why the only thing that he has stolen is a blue leather packet.
She follows the thief onto the beach, watching and listening, and discovers that the men he meets were involved in her fatherís recent murder. When a noise gives away her hiding place, Cally hides in a tide pool that quickly fills with water. After nearly drowning, she is dragged ashore by a man with a multitude of tattoos and a diamond earring. Cally is certain that she is about to die at the hands of the same men who killed her father.
What was particularly enjoyable about this story was the strength of character both Req and Cally display. While Cally realizes very quickly what has happened and sets about learning all she can about this new time in order to find her way home, Req remains skeptical of her story. He moves from believing Cally is the poster child for detox to thinking she is only one wing short of the cuckooís nest.
It isnít until he is confronted with the irrefutable truth of her claims that he finally appreciates everything that Cally has accomplished during the time that he has known her. His journey back to humanity is marked by the myriad ways he tries to protect Cally from outside dangers.
Although Callyís adjustment to modern life seemed a bit too quick and easy, her responses to everything that we take for granted were particularly well written and quite charming. It was refreshing to find a heroine conscious of her duty to others, and who refuses to let love deter her from what she feels is right. Callyís determination to return to her own time as soon as possible regardless of the personal cost was admirable. Not once does she allow self-pity or doubt to interfere in her mission. Instead, she uses her considerable intellect to solve her own problems.
The only flaw in the novel came when the bad guys were unmasked. At which point my reaction was "who cares?" I had no emotion invested in their relationship with Cally. That was the case with many of the events involving most of the secondary characters in Timepool. The reader isnít given enough information or time to get to know and care about them. It felt at those moments like the parts of the book that might have dealt with them were lost during the shifts in time from 1890 to 1999.
That aside, the relationship that develops between Req and Cally is well worth a trip to your local bookstore, if you donít have a time machine of your own.