Timeless Wish by Barbara Sheridan
(Jove, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-515-12499-0
***
First a disclaimer. I picked up Timeless Wish primarily because the author, Barbara Sheridan, lives in Pittsburgh and I like to support local romance authors. I'm glad I had the incentive to read this story, because what I found was a most promising first novel with interesting and likable characters and a pleasant read.

On New Year's Eve, 1898, Sheriff Corby Hillhouse goes outside and looks up at the stars. While his friends and relatives are celebrating the new year with their loved ones, Corby is alone. Twice widowed, he misses the love and comfort of having a wife. So he makes a wish: Please send me a woman my love won't kill. . . .

On New Year's Eve, 1998, Laura Bennett is also alone. Her beloved grandfather has just died. Her foster daughter has been returned to her birth mother. Her best friend is far away. And the man she loves can't love her the way she needs. So she wishes for a better life.

The next morning, her friend Galen Hillhouse calls and tells her to check her mail. Galen has a project for her interior designer friend. She wants Laura to redo the old family home in Oklahoma so that Galen can start a bed and breakfast. To entice Laura to take on the commission, she has sent an old family photo album with pictures of the house as it once was. As Laura peruses the album, she comes across a portrait of a man with sad eyes which touches her somehow. It is Corby Hillhouse, the cousin of the man who owned the house in 1898. That Corby resembles Galen's brother Jake, the man she loved and lost, adds to her attraction.

Laura decides to take on the commission and when she arrives in Oklahoma, feels a strange familiarity with the lovely old house. Then, one day, the balcony railing gives way and she wakes up to find herself looking into the face in the picture. She utters his name, and then, they share a memorable kiss. Yep. Laura is now in 1898.

Corby is much taken by the lovely woman in the strange clothes. His generous relatives take the confused Laura in and she begins to find out more about the man whose portrait had so entranced her.

Like all the Hillhouses, Corby is part Indian. He lost his wife in childbirth five years earlier and has a daughter, Sabrina. But, despite his love for his child, Corby has kept his distance from Sabrina, and Sabrina is yearning for love. Laura is immediately drawn to the lonely little girl and to the father as well. Corby's relatives decide that Laura is the answer to the dilemma of finding someone to take care of Sabrina and someone to bring Corby out of his shell. So they arrange for her to become Corby's housekeeper.

The road to true love is not smooth. Corby is riddled with guilt about his role in his wife's death. There is a scheming townswoman who has her eye on Corby. And there is danger lurking from Corby's past.

Sheridan plays out the time travel scenario quite well. Laura's adaptation to the much harder life of a woman a century ago is well done. I liked her introducing cheeseburgers and pizza to her new friends.

I enjoyed the author's take on her heroine and hero. Both carry a lot of emotional baggage that they have to overcome. The fact that Laura disappears back into the 20th century and then reappears creates considerable suspicion about who exactly this unusual woman is.

Timeless Wish is not without flaws, although most probably arise from the author's inexperience. I was distracted by Sheridan's very short chapters, some lasting for no more than a page or so. This makes me wonder if the book wasn't cut from a much longer original. I must admit that the transitions between scenes could have flowed much more smoothly.

Still, I liked the characters, both primary and secondary, and I liked the relationships, both between Corby and Laura and between Corby, Laura and Sabrina. I also enjoyed the portrait of small town life a century ago. Timeless Wish is a most acceptable time travel romance.

--Jean Mason


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