A Once and Future Love
I’ve only read a handful of time travel books, but one thing I’ve noticed about those I’ve read is that some strange occurrence always sends the traveler either backward or forward in time. Some weep over crypts or touch standing stones. In the case of Anne Kelleher’s A Once and Future Love, the hero falls down a crumbling stone staircase in 1994 and wakes up in 1214.
Richard Lambert is still grieving the loss of his beloved wife, Lucy, when he travels to England. It was a trip they had planned to take together. Alone, he travels to the ruins of Barland Castle, the site where Lucy believed his ancestors once lived. There, he falls down an old staircase. Before everything goes black, he prays to be reunited with his Lucy.
Richard wakes up in 1214 – in the body of Richard de Lambert, a fierce warrior wounded in battle. This really doesn’t seem to upset him very much. He seems to take it all rather well, as he does the fact that the woman tending him looks exactly like his dead wife. His only worry seems to be mastering the language, which he does with surprising quickness, as his historian wife specialized in medieval culture and shared much of her knowledge with him. Now that he has been given a second chance with her, he is determined to make it work.
Eleanor, wife of the cruel Richard de Lambert, wishes her husband had died in battle. She even tries to suffocate him before he can recover from his wounds, but someone stops her. Soon, she begins to realize that his injuries have changed him somehow; he is no longer the monster she was forced to marry. When her half-brother is taken hostage by a warring sect, she is astonished that her husband wishes to help her, and slowly she begins to fall in love with him.
Together, he and Eleanor face conspiracy, murder, and other kinds of intrigue. Richard gradually learns to act and behave as his ancestor would, without the cruelty. In fact, he often finds that his 20th century knowledge aids him in his struggle for survival, even more so than the warrior skills he acquires. Often, his recollection of historical detail comes in handy for figuring out how or when to act.
A Once and Future Love had a very interesting premise. Set just before the signing of the Magna Carta, it captured the strife and hardships of medieval living. What it didn’t do however, was make me want the hero and heroine to live happily ever after. I didn’t like the fact that Eleanor looked so much like Lucy. I just couldn’t shake the feeling that Richard continued to love a ghost and not the real woman. It hardly seemed fair to Eleanor. I also didn’t like how easily he seemed to accept his fate. I don’t know about you, but if I woke up in 1214 I’d be a bit of a basket case for a while. Richard just took it all in stride.
There was attraction and passion between the two characters – even before the Richard from the future arrived. Eleanor had never been able to resist her husband, and it had always been a source of shame for her. The love scenes were short and to the point, but the first encounter ruined any others for me. It was clear that Richard was making love to his dead wife – not Eleanor. I found this quite unsettling. I can understand his grief and his wanting to believe, but there is no indication that this woman would be Lucy in a future life. This just added to the feeling that Richard never really saw the woman beyond the face, even though they eventually became, as he put it, “friends.”
If you enjoy time travel or medieval romance, you might enjoy this book, especially if you are willing to over look the lack of emotion on Richard’s part and the whole dead wife issue. I couldn’t get past either, however, and it really detracted from my enjoyment of what would have been an otherwise interesting read.