DG London, $2.50, ISBN 978-1386668374
Paranormal Romance, 2017
Eva Harlowe, by the way, used to write under the name Dionne Galace, but unless I am mistaken, A Waltz in Time is her first full length story. It’s one of those stories that seem to have fallen out of fashion: it’s an old-school time travel romance without any brotherhood of vampires, werewolves, or dragons going on and on about mating fever and how big their pee-pees are.
Rachel “Rae” Sutherland is used to being the less glamorous twin – she lets her sister Reggie be the Beyoncé to her Kelly without any resentment at all. Not that she is a doormat, although she’s a bit down lately after catching her boyfriend and one of his groupies in bed. Still, things are looking up: she meets a hot guy, Chris, and things look promising. And then, her ex-boyfriend shows up, wanting to smooth things over. Rae has no intention of taking him back, but lets herself be persuaded to hear him out. And then the car he is driving gets into a bad accident, and Rae dies. This is why you should just tell those exes that you have no intention of hooking up with again to talk to your hand.
Thing is, Rae shouldn’t have died, if you believe the angelic being she meets in what seems to be an afterlife. Her guardian angel was careless in that short moment when she met her doom, and now these angelic folks will try to make things right for her. Unfortunately, she can’t go back to her old body – her body is too far gone after the accident, sorry – but there are many parallel realities running concurrently. Think Star Trek or those comics where everyone from one dimension hops over to another dimension for tea or something. As fate would have it, another Rae from another dimension passed on at about the same time so they can pop Rae into that body. Voila!
Thing is, Rae in that dimension exists in 1847. That’s right, she’s going to be a Victorian miss, the daughter of a merchant, and it’s not like Rae has any choice in this matter as it’s a done deal already when she comes to. She meets her twin sister in this dimension, and her mother too, and they are all throwbacks in many ways to the ones she left behind in her own time and dimension. And when she meets Christopher Hargrove, the Earl of Mayne and her betrothed, well, maybe life in the 19th century isn’t so bad, even without Internet, penicillin, toilet paper… hey, she gets all the hotness she can want in a guy, so that counts, people.
Now, I have better mention this first: Rae may be a polarizing heroine for some people, because she is always “on”, with a feisty quip or ten for every occasion regardless of whether it is appropriate or not. I don’t have an issue with her in this instance, though, as much of the humor in this story comes from Rae going all sassy and letting her 21st-century sensibilities clash with those of 19th century England. Don’t expect sobriety or historical authenticity in this one – it’s all about a time traveling fish out of water, after all.
Now, I like this one enough to keep reading to the end. A big part of this is the humor that I’ve mentioned. Normally Rae could have been a heroine that can be wearying to follow – people who are always on tend to be that way – but here, the author wisely keeps her from doing too-dumb things so the comedy works without being too wacky or farcical. Mind you, a part of me feels like Rae is uttering captions from memes more often than conversing like a normal person, but there is an effervescent kind of enthusiasm and bounce in the author’s narrative that keeps me amused and turning the pages. Christopher’s reaction to Rae is often amusing too, as he is arrogant enough to make Rae’s deflating of his pride so much fun to follow.
I feel let down by the pacing though. It’s hard to pinpoint my finger at the exact cause, but every time that I feel some mounting sense of anticipation that the story is heading in some good direction, the author either drags a scene a bit too long to the point that I get impatient, or the story takes a detour instead to some mundane tangent. Sometimes, a scene may have a good humorous premise or punchline, but the author can oversell the joke in a way that makes the whole thing feels too dragged out and not so funny anymore. All of this eventually results in an unevenly paced story that builds momentum only to lose it just as easily a few pages later. I also feel that the late chapters of the story feel a bit rushed, although that can also be due to the sometimes draggy pace of the story up to that point.
All things considered, A Waltz in Time is an entertaining read, but it’s still quite rough around the edges here and there.