Friday, July 23, 2010

Waltz Me Through Time by Eileen Ann Brennan

TITLE: Waltz Me through Time
AUTHOR: Eileen Ann Brennan
PUBLISHER: Ellora’s Cave
LENGTH: Novella (roughly 30k)
GENRE: Time travel erotic romance
COST: $4.45

When vintage store owner Juliana Douglas buys a locked steamer trunk, she is thrilled by its contents once she finally gets it open. Containing memorabilia from over a century earlier, the trunk also holds a newspaper clipping with a dancing couple on it, a man and a woman very much in love. Juliana is shocked when she fantasizes about that same man that night, but even more so when she wakes up the next morning and he’s still in her bed…

Maybe I was just in the right mood for this, but for whatever reason, this highly romantic time travel story hit a spot in me few stories have recently.

Juliana owns a vintage shop called Second Hand Rose. She dates a pilot named Alex, who she only gets to see when he’s in town, and on this particular weekend, he’s gone, leaving her with work and a new acquisition. The steamer trunk is locked, but she finds a key that’ll fit it in her spares. Inside, it shows treasure after treasure of a time a century earlier, seemingly featuring a happily married couple. After a long day, she treats herself to wine and dressing up, but sounds from in the store draw her down to discover a man in a tuxedo dancing around. He claims to be Stanley Caldwell III, the husband from the dancing couple, and the chemistry between them sweeps her off her feet. Half-convinced she’s dreaming, she indulges, only to wake up in the morning to find him still in her bed, claiming she’s his wife, and that time travel is all too possible.

Though the time travel methodology in this is schmaltzy at best (he travels by dancing), I was able to put aside my reservations about it and fall into the romanticism of the story with little effort. Juliana is appropriately smart and independent, and her love for the store genuine. Starting out in her POV – and spending the entire story there, actually – was an incredibly savvy choice by the author, since it roots us in her sensibilities first, an eclectic mix of practicality and whimsy. Both are vital. The practical side keeps her reactions to the time travel claims realistic, just as anyone in the modern day world would feel, yet having that sense of whimsy, a hidden hope for something more, something magical, opens the door for both Juliana and the reader to accept the fantastic, and even better, to yearn for it.

It’s helped incredibly by the fact Juliana and Stanley have electric chemistry, almost from the moment they first lay eyes on each other. Their relationship leaps off the page, so tumbling into bed – or onto the trunk – with them is a breathless delight. I quite adored Stanley, though I’ll admit that perhaps he wasn’t the most well-rounded hero. He’s fairly idealized, much like a lot of the story, but because I was swept up in the depth of his emotions for her, and his need to get her back, I didn’t care. I’ll admit, too, part of my liking for him stems from a single action of his, something he did in the restaurant when he and Juliana went out for dinner. I cheered. It showed humanity as well as gallantry, and considering this kind of novella embraces the escapist romanticism of the genre, was a perfect gesture.

Is it perfect? No. I had some small issues with the length of time Julianna protested to Stanley, especially considering her history (which I won’t spoil since it doesn’t get revealed until well over halfway through the story), and the time travel explanations are either schmaltzy or incomplete. There are also considerable details that feel dropped in that never get fully explained. But in light of the sizzling chemistry between the two, and the romantic escapism it offers, these are minor complaints. It’s mostly uncomplicated, heavy on the sex (since this is Ellora’s Cave we’re talking about here), and ultimately, emotionally satisfying. That’s all I can ask for.


8/10 – Very romanticized and sweet


8/10 – Intense and romantic, I’m giving an extra point for doing something that made me cheer


7/10 – Appropriately wary, though considering her history, I thought her protests went on too long

Entertainment value

7/10 – A romantic escape, with a couple that has sizzling chemistry

World building

7/10 – The time travel explanations are schmaltzy and sometimes incomplete, but the rest of it makes up for that



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