Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Past Her Time by Melissa Jarvis

TITLE: Past Her Time
AUTHOR: Melissa Jarvis
PUBLISHER: Siren-Bookstrand
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 81k)
GENRE: Time travel romance
COST: $5.50

As an agent for the Lineage, Alex’s job is to correct anomalies in the timeline without interfering with anything else. Being placed in 1793 Revolutionary France isn’t her favorite assignment, though. She hates the stuffiness, and the etiquette, and having to play the simpering female, but a job is a job…at least until she runs into an Englishman with an unknown connection to the man she’s supposed to save from the guillotine…

I’ll be honest. Even though I’ve had this book since its release last summer, I’ve been reluctant to try it due to its publisher. That was a trifle unfair. Though it might look like it on the surface, Siren does actually publish more than the outrageous ménages I associate with them. This certainly could’ve been published by any number of other e-pubs just as easily.

It’s a time travel romance about Alex, a woman from the 21st century who works for an agency called the Lineage. Her job is to correct anomalies in the timeline without interfering in local events beyond what she’s instructed to. Her latest has her in Revolutionary France where her mission is to prevent a man named Fontaine from getting executed before his time. In a chance encounter, she meets Englishman Gabriel Huntington and quickly learns that he’s an associate of Fontaine’s. Since he has appeared nowhere in her brief, she keeps tabs on him, hoping to use that connection to get to Fontaine. It works too well. She soon learns Gabriel also helps to rescue people from the guillotine, which casts him in an entirely different light than she was expecting. For his part, Alex – or Alexandra, as he knows her – is different than any other woman he’s ever met, able to see through his pretenses, keeping him on his toes. Their chemistry sparks early on, but the rules of her assignment are clear. No involvement. She’s just having problems actually obeying them.

I do love a good time travel, and combined with how I was feeling guilty about shuttling this to my TBR for so long just because of its publisher, I was determined to stick this one out. It wasn’t easy in the beginning. The first chapter was good – tense, action-driven, sympathetic characters. But the first bit of exposition that occurred on Alex’s purpose, with her interaction with her partner Banderan, threw me into a tailspin. She specifically says this is their fourth assignment for the Lineage. Her partner considers her a rookie still. Yet, very soon after (in the same scene), there are allusions to a time when she broke cover and her claim it was one of only a few, the large number of broken hearts Banderan has left behind, as well as blatantly saying she’d been working with him for years. I couldn’t sort that out in my head. They’d had four assignments, and worked together for years? It could only be an editorial inconsistency, I thought, and debated giving up then. If there was such a blatant mistake that early on, it didn’t bode well for the book.

However, I decided to persevere. Eventually, I decided an assignment was a blanket term meant to apply to being placed in a specific time period, and that each anomaly they corrected within it was something else entirely. That was the only way to justify the inconsistency. That rationalization seemed to fit with what I was reading, and soon, I could let go my mistrust of the book to slip into the story.

The fact that it was action-packed helped. It wasn’t always clean – there were time and scene shifts within chapters that felt inorganic and jumpy – but it always moved the story forward. I also liked the characters enough to see it through. Neither one was anywhere near as smart as they thought they were – a couple times Alex made such stupid mistakes, it was hard to believe she’d been an agent for years – but they really did have some chemistry, and I was intensely curious about how it would get resolved.

The action and chemistry compensated for a lot of the other shortcomings. In addition to the things I mentioned earlier, the time travel isn’t handled very cleanly, and I had a lot of questions about how some things worked. This book is labeled as book 1, so I imagine a second will be out at some point that might do a better job at explaining. About Banderan, perhaps? I don’t know. Maybe. I’ll decide if I see its release whether or not it’s worth it to continue. Right now, I’m on the fence.


8/10 – Good detail and flow without being overbearing, though the lack of clarity on assignments near the beginning had me wary of editorial issues for far too long


7/10 – I liked him, but I thought his constant masks weren’t differentiated enough to be as stark as the heroine claimed


7/10 – Not nearly as smart as she thinks she is, but still likeable for the most part

Entertainment value

7/10 – Though it took me a while to get past my misgiving at the start, there was enough action and chemistry to keep me involved for the duration

World building

7/10 – The historical detail was good – if a little coy at times – but the time travel element wasn’t as clear as it should have been



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