Format read: eARC provided by publisher
Release Date: 18 July 2012
Number of pages: 384 pages
Publisher: Astor and Blue
Formats available: ebook, paperback
Purchasing Info: Goodreads, Author’s Website, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Astor and Blue
Two years after losing her husband, overworked librarian Panna Kennedy battles to distract herself from crushing Grief, even as she battles to deal with yet another library budget cut. During a routine search within the library’s lower levels, Panna opens an obscure, pad-locked door and finds herself transported to the magnificent, book-filled quarters of a handsome, eighteenth-century Englishman.
She soon recognizes the man as Colonel John Bridgewater, the historic English war hero whose larger-than-life statue loomed over her desk.However, the life of the dashing Bridgewater is not at all what she imagined. He’s under house arrest for betraying England, and now looks upon her a beautiful and unexpected half-dressed visitor as a possible spy.
Despite bad first impressions (on both sides), Bridgewater nonetheless warms to Panna, and pulls her into his escape while both their hearts pull the other headlong into their soul-stirring secrets.Very quickly Panna is thrown into a whirlwind of high-stakes intrigue that sweeps her from Hadrian’s Wall to a forbidding stone castle in Scotland. And somewhere in the outland, Panna must decide if her loyalties lie with her dead husband, or with the man whose life now depends on her.
Stella: I am a big fan of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series and have been on the lookout of similar time travel/historical romances, so when I heard of Timeless Desire I was excited to read it. I think the biggest disservice but also what gets people’s attention is that it is marketed as “an Outlander love story”, and the comparison arises, and unfortunately it’s not in Timeless Desire’s favour.
Marlene: I am also a fan of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, so when I saw the subtitle of Timeless Desire, I jumped on it, and for the same reasons you did, Stella. I wondered if it was anything like Gabaldon’s classic. It’s not. The closest one could say is Outlander-lite, in size, scope and depth.
Stella: I agree Marlene. When I saw that Timeless Desire was “an Outlander love story” I was expecting an epic love story just like Claire’s and Jamie’s, but Panna and Jamie’s (yes, the hero is Jamie as well) romance lacked the depth and heart-squeezing intensity Outlander delivered. It was fluff. No problem with that if it is not compared with its namesake predecessor. I found both Panna and Jamie’s character lacking depth and development, they remained sketched, neither really went through any character evolution, and their love was lukewarm. Nice but nothing sizzling or memorable. And speaking of the main characters, Panna is a librarian just like you Marlene, what was your take on her, was she really an authentic one?
Marlene: First, there are two names in romance that probably authors just shouldn’t get near with a barge-pole. Any barge-pole. It’s probably going to take two or three generations before it’s safe to name a romantic hero Roarke, especially if he’s Irish. And never name a Scotsman Jamie, especially not if his wife is a time-traveler. Just don’t go there. Jamie Frasier is going to stand very tall for a very long time.
Stella: Couldn’t agree more. It’s really an author-suicide, or at the least crazy brave…
Marlene: However, Panna sounded and talked like a librarian. I read her inner dialogue about her work, and she sounded like “one of us”. The budget problems and service issues and the balancing act she had to do were very real. And I have library stories to match hers. I’ve even worked in a Carnegie library, and I worked in a town that had an old Carnegie donation story almost as strange as the one she told.
Stella: That part then must have been fun for you Regarding the plot I found that there was too much happening: the historical plotline combined with their romance and all the secondary characters and their happenings, Jamie’s parentage story, the rebellion, etc. was too much for the 380 pages (no wonder Diana Gabaldon needs 1000 or so for everything she wants to pack in one novel). I found the story fractured as the narrative jumped around, each chapter bringing a change of scenery as we witnessed different characters and their POVs.
Marlene: There was a LOT happening, but I only felt like I was following three characters; Jamie, Panna or Adderly. What was hard to follow was the shift to to the Scots side of the border. That entire storyline wasn’t resolved until the very end.
Stella: Besides Panna, Jamie and Adderly there was Clare and Undine that I can also remember. Would have preferred to stick to just the hero/heroine’s POV. As to the writing, while it flew smoothly, I had a problem with the ton of quotes. Although at first I found it an entertaining quirk, soon I found the many quotes peppered in the story were too much and made me lose interest.
Marlene: Panna’s self-talk did come out as a bunch of quotations, but it didn’t really bother me. There were times when I felt like she was talking to herself as a way of keeping herself sane, or because there wasn’t anyone else who could understand her frame of reference. (Or maybe I talk to myself in my head a lot, too. Mmm, that’s an odd thought. I’ll have to think about that one some more…)
Stella: I didn’t mind her inner monologues or even out loud pep talks, those were just a part of her characterization, what I meant was that her monologues were often full of quotations from poems or famous plays: Pope, Shakespeare, etc. Maybe I noticed that because I tend to note down quotes from books I like and it really popped out to me how many she referenced. And if I already mentioned the quotes I found too much, let me tell you about my other complaints about the plot. I felt that the attempted rape scene felt forced and even improbable, as I wouldn’t imagine guards in a castle attempting to rape the wife of their employer’s grandson.
Marlene: If you mean the scene I’m thinking of, by that time his grandfather was out of power, and the English and Scots didn’t think of each other as the same people. The family ties don’t seem to have been too strong. I think the real problem, as you point out Stella, is that the scene was just plain unnecessary. It doesn’t seem to serve any particular purpose in the story.
Stella: Exactly Marlene. The guards are working for the grandfather, who as their employer gave them an order to bring him his grandson and wife and besides this family tie, there was also the time restraint: the guards only had a couple of minutes to take them upstairs. I just felt that this scene was forced into the story to draw another parallel to the attempted rape scene in Outlander. And I wasn’t too happy with the resolution of most of the plotlines, I especially found the way Jamie’s parentage was neatly tied up way too convenient and rose-y…
Marlene: I had an entirely different issue with this resolution–I’ve read it before. There’s another very long saga of historical fiction about the Scots border country, The Lymond Chronicles, written by Dorothy Dunnett. One of the major plot points concerns the hero’s parentage, and is resolved (after 6 very long books) in extremely similar fashion to Jamie’s. In the Lymond Chronicles, that resolution has a LOT more emotional weight than it did in Timeless Desire, but it takes an enormous amount of reading to get there. But if you love historical fiction, Lymond is definitely worth the investment (sorry, no time-travel). Start with The Game of Kings.
Stella: Thanks Marlene, I’ll take note. There were plenty of similarities/references to the original Outlander by Diana Gabaldon: both heroes are called Jamie, a secondary character is named “Clare” as clear reference to Gabaldon’s heroine who is “Claire”, the forced marriage for political reasons, the attempted rape scene, the strained relationship between Jamie and his family/kinsmen, his forced oath, etc. and though these could have been like a tongue in cheek humour for the Gabaldon fans, I find it rather disappointing that Gwyn Cready didn’t go on a completely untravelled road but instead chose to follow exactly in Outlander’s footsteps. Any others that jumped out at you Marlene? And how did you feel about them?
Marlene: I also saw the similarities to Gabaldon’s Outlander, and whenever they came up, I could generally predict that Cready would take the opposite tack from Gabaldon. There was a sense that she wanted to explore some of “the road not taken”, but not go too far down the path. Undine the witch is good instead of evil like Geillis Duncan. No virgins on the wedding night (hallelujah!). Panna is a widow, and is not leaving a husband behind. Jamie comes forward in time instead of Panna going back. At least Cready did not use the standing stones as her time-travel device (Double hallelujah on this one)
Stella: Hm.. I still found too many similarities to the “original” one.
Stella: I expected an epic love story and instead got fluff. The characters remained flat and two dimensional, and though the story was nice it remained rather lukewarm and forgettable. Timeless Desire though marketed as “an Outlander romance” is a very different kind of story: even though the premise sounds similar, Timeless Desire is a lighter and less layered story. If I hadn’t read Outlander first I might have enjoyed Timeless Desire more, but as it is I found it a light and average romance.
I give Timeless Desire 3 stars.
Marlene: I expected fluff, so I wasn’t surprised when I got it. Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander is 688 pages, and you need the first three books to complete the initial saga, so Outlander plus Dragonfly in Amber plus Voyager equals 2320 pages, I just checked. Timeless Desire is very, very lite, and very, very fluffy. But I found it a lot of fun for what it was.
And as a librarian, I loved the shout out to libraries as places where you really can travel in time and space. Admittedly, you normally do it through the pages of books using your imagination, and not by walking through a door into a rip in time. But what the heck. I adored the concept. I always wanted the TARDIS to stop in my library. Still do.
I got caught up in Panna’s story. I give Timeless Desire 4 stars.
ps. Marlene has already reviewed Timeless Desire at her blog but we couldn’t resist the idea of having a duelling chat here, so if you’d like to check out more of Marlene’s thoughts click here.