This is the first book in a series about a group of time travelers managed by the “Guild,” a mysterious organization that rescues those who have inadvertently jumped in time. The main protagonist is Nick Davenant, born in Devon in 1790 but currently living in Vermont in 2013.
Jumping into the future is what Nick inadvertently did right before what would have been his death during a battle with Wellington’s Army against Napoleon in Salamanca, Spain in 1812. When Nick woke up, it was 2003 and he was in the care of a Guild “greeter,” who arranged for him to get oriented to the future world, find a new place to live, and get set up with a yearly stipend. Nick doesn’t question this much, and the Guild insists on being secretive in any event, so he takes his money, goes to Vermont, and lives the good life of an artisanal cheese farmer, happy to have a car and blue jeans. But now, after ten years, he has received a mandatory “Summons” to London by the Guild.
The Guild is apparently calling in its chips: it wants Nick to go back to his own time, but in 1815, and help them infiltrate a group of Guild rebels called the “Ofan” who, unlike the Guild, believe in “experimenting” with time travel and maybe even changing history. The Guild is opposed to messing around with history, although not for the obvious reasons.
Nick isn’t entirely opposed to going back; he never forgot the appealing neighbor with the dark eyes, Julia Percy. Back in Devon, Nick once again becomes Lord Nicholas, the Marquess of Falcott, who disappeared after the Battle of Salamanca. Nick now claims he was missing because an injury gave him amnesia for the last three years.
In alternating chapters, we learn Julia’s story. Julia has been brought up by her grandfather, who had the mysterious ability to stop time. When he dies (just as the book begins), Julia finds that she can do this trick too. She knows she must keep it a secret, however, because her Very Evil cousin Eamon – the heir to her grandfather’s property, is tearing up the house in an effort to find out the key to the grandfather’s talents.
What follows is a surreptitious romance between Julia and Nick; lots of intrigue and carriage-chase scenes; peril from the present, past, and future; mysterious bad guys; mysterious good guys; some brief forays into the political and social currents roiling early 19th Century Britain; and lots of intricate plot developments. It all ends up, however, by … well, not ending. It turns out that this is just the first book in a series. Gaaaaaaah!
Discussion: The book drags in parts, and the plot twists are so convoluted one can only hope they get resolved in a manner that makes sense in later books. Still, the story is entertaining, especially with the occasionally funny anachronisms common to time-travel stories. The women characters are quite good; strong and smart and courageous, in spite of the strictures of their time.
Evaluation: I see a number of possible good futures for this time-travel series.
Published by Dutton, a member of the Penguin Group (USA), 2013