by Mari Carr, historical/time-travel (2009)
Liquid Silver Books, $5.95, ISBN 78-1-59578-555-8
Poor Hayley Garland, the heroine of Mari Carr's No Recourse. Her good friend Erin vanished without a trace the day before her birthday one year ago, and Hayley since then has been suffering from nightmares where she tried to save Erin from a menacing "dark man on the horse" only to fail. When the story opens, Hayley and her friend Tori spend the summer at Fernwood Grange, Tori's family estate in Dover. They usually spend the summer together with Erin, three friends who go way back, but this time around, the two ladies are understandably teary-eyed over their first summer without Erin. While wandering around the grounds, she encounters a storm and worse, who seems like the man on the horse from her nightmares. In the following chaos involving what feels like a tornado (don't ask), Hayley loses consciousness...
... And awakes in June 1818, pried from a storm by Captain Jack Campbell. His uncle's ward, Julia, had been missing for two days now and he's trying to search the coastline for her when he finds instead Hayley. For all he knows, Hayley could have been a smuggler, trying to sneak French spies around, so he's better keep her for questioning. One never knows what mischief Napoleon could be plotting, after all. Hayley is of course an Independent Modern Woman, so our hero is going to have to do some angry kissing and pawing to keep her in check. Hey, that method has worked for alpha males since 1974, after all. Failing that, he can always get in touch with his sensitive side and be a gentleman toward Hayley. Which will it be? I'd let you find out.
No Recourse is a pretty decent read. It has some signs of brilliance and it also has just as many predictable and overused elements typical of time-travel romances. Early in the story, I find the mystery of Erin's disappearance more interesting as the romance is pretty much a standard "angry kisses and unexpected rush of attraction" affair, but as the story progresses and the time-travel elements become more outlandish, the romance thankfully becomes more interesting. Julia and Jack start behaving like rational adults instead of clichéd stick figures, talking and listening as well as pawing lustfully at each other. Their romance, as a result, has a ring of authenticity to it.
Unfortunately, the pay-off to the paranormal aspects of the plot is not as good as I'd have liked. The whole "Oops, I knew it all along but I didn't want to tell you, Hayley!" thing in the plot is so contrived that it is as if Ms Carr wasn't even trying there. And then we have an unbelievable explanation of this [spoiler starts] magic tree which is dragging women back in time to give them their romance stories. This plot device can work in other stories, I suppose, but here, the way the explanation is given has me laughing, which I suspect is not the author's intention. [spoiler ends]
I hadn't been impressed by this author's short stories that I have read, but I have to say that she has me convinced that she can come up with something worth my time here. No Recourse isn't what I'd consider a keeper, but it has a pretty good romance featuring likable characters and a story that, while could have been better, isn't too bad the way it is. I'd keep an eye out for the next book.
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