On a muggy August day in 2002 Alexandra Lind is inexplicably thrown several centuries backwards in time to 1658. Life will never be the same for Alex. Alex lands at the feet of Matthew Graham – an escaped convict making his way home to Scotland. She gawks at this tall, gaunt man with hazel eyes, dressed in what looks like rags. At first she thinks he might be some sort of hermit, an oddball, but she quickly realises that she is the odd one out. Catapulted from a life of modern comfort, Alex grapples with her frightening new existence. Potential compensation for this brutal shift in fate comes in the shape of Matthew – a man she should never have met, not when she was born three centuries after him. But Matthew comes with baggage of his own and at times it seems his past will see them killed.
Having just finished this book, I can safely say that it is not the type of book that I would normally read. Rather, this is a book I would take on holiday with me to read on the beach whilst huddling under an umbrella to keep the sun away from me. I don’t really like beaches you see, and have to take a book with me to keep myself from getting bored beyond measure. However, although it’s not normally a book I would read, I should say that I did rather enjoy it and in particular because the story was set in the seventeenth century.
The story itself is your basic time slip concept – modern woman finds herself inexplicably thrown back in time and spends most of the first few chapters confused about where the hell she is and what the hell should she be doing. The heroine, Alex Lind, was likeable enough and I did rather like how she kept confusing people by talking about modern stuff. I was however a little disappointed that the hero of the story, Matthew Graham, didn’t make a very big deal out of the fact that Alex had come from the future when she told him, just giving her a hug and doing a sneaky sign against the evil eye behind her back. Of course, witchcraft was mentioned rather a lot during the story from various other characters including the main “bad guy” Hector Olivares and Matthew’s nasty piece of work brother, Luke. With Luke, I felt like his story was one of the more interesting ones – caught in bed with his fathers ward at the age of 15 he ends up being kicked out of the family home, Matthew ends up marrying the girl and ends up catching her back in bed with his brother. Said ward, by the name of Margaret, is the spitting image of Alex – although this point wasn’t really expanded upon as much as I would have liked. The hatred between the two brothers is a huge part of the story and it all ends up getting rather messy.
As I read through the book, it seemed to me as if the plot centred mainly on the life lead by the people in the little town and those who lived in the manor house where Matthew (eventually) lives. I say eventually because about half of the book is made up of Alex and Matthew in the wilderness, running away from soldiers who are intent on capturing them both. Occasionally hints are dropped of the wider historical context – the death of Oliver Cromwell, George Monk helping to bring Charles II back, the issue of religion during the seventeenth century. I liked these little snippets of context and I feel that the time spent on the context was probably about right – Matthew fought in the English Civil Wars for Parliament, believed wholeheartedly in the commonwealth and becomes worried when he hears that the Protector is dead and wonders whether Charles Stuart will allow religious freedom. The snippets were good, and added to the story rather than detracted from it.
The narrative was written well, and really quite descriptive. I could imagine the hustle and bustle of Matthew’s household, could imagine the dirty and smelly towns, could imagine the infested taverns and dark looks of the clientele who frequented them. There was just one thing about the narrative that got to me, and that was the constant finishing of sentences with the word no, and then turning it into a question:
“And it would be the one gift, no?”
“I told you no? Unless you clean them they rot and fall out”
“Get over it? You held her against her will, no?”
All in all though, a good read and perfect if you want to escape from reality for a little while. Likeable characters and a story set in a time that was far from easy, it’s really rather easy to find yourself wondering how you would act were you in Alex’s shoes. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes a bit of a historical fiction, but doesn’t want to get stuck into something too heavy.