A Moment in Time
Bertrice Small’s A Moment in Time has some of the elements common to her other historical romances – the gorgeous heroine, the lush atmosphere, the sex, sex and more sex. On the other hand, it’s an odd duck in a couple of ways. For one thing, there’s the reincarnation angle, and for another, it’s… not really a romance, not by my definition of the term. So fair warning, ahead be spoilers.
At fifteen, Wynne of Gwernach became the head of the household after her father’s death. Beautiful, brave, “pure of heart” and devoted to her family, she also has the love of her people thanks to her wisdom and talent as a healer. Naturally, she dreams of marrying for true love, rather than for financial gain or political reasons.
Enter the hero, Madoc, who’s almost as flawless as she is – handsome, strong and passionate; though he’s hiding a secret or two. First, he’s a magician who takes the form of a raven and who’s been hanging out with her for some time in his bird form, Wynne being the kind of person who talks about her problems to wildlife. Second, after they’re married, he reveals that they are actually two souls who were in love a long time ago but were separated after a terrible betrayal.
The reincarnation aspect of this story weakens the romance a lot. The story then shifts to Rhiannon – one of the Fair Folk – and Pwyll, the mortal man with whom she falls in love, despite their being from different worlds. Unfortunately, once Rhiannon is in the mortal world, she’s at the mercy of every prejudiced or jealous person in Pwyll’s household, and he turns out to be a jerk who’s only too ready to believe false claims about her.
This could have been an interesting twist – it’s like a Little Mermaid tale gone horribly wrong – but there is little room to develop the characters. A victim to the end, Rhiannon has to be rescued by her sister, the Queen of the Fair Folk, who curses Pwyll. He’s going to be reincarnated over and over again, knowing what he did to Rhiannon but unable to have peace until he finds her present incarnation and earns her love.
And so – Madoc and Wynne. Naturally, she forgives him, and everything would be wonderful except there’s half a book more to go. So Wynne decides she’ll singlehandedly patch up a feud between Madoc and his brother. Madoc warns her of the brother’s evil, but Wynne knows better. Besides, she’s pregnant now, and a loving united family is just what her baby deserves.
Seriously, this is the textbook definition of TSTL. Naturally, the brother has Wynne kidnapped and sold into slavery. After that, she’s collared, raped, married off to another man, widowed, almost raped, reunited with Madoc, almost raped, etc. Yes, even her husband gets in on the action, by disguising himself as an ugly lecher so he can infiltrate her new owner’s household. It’s fully as over-the-top as it sounds, but still, Madoc and Wynne get back together.
Then their story ends with an accident that comes out of the blue, separating them for good. I wasn’t in the least emotionally invested, but that was just as well, because I like romances to leave me with a happy sigh rather than a nasty shock. Finally, there’s a ‘But wait! There’s more!’ epilogue, where the souls of the reincarnated lovers meet again centuries later. It’s a forced, artificial scene where two strangers (one named after the author’s son, for some reason) take one look at each other and not only fall in love, but propose and accept marriage, since somehow they know they’ll be “marvelously happy” together. Unless they get separated again and she’s sold off to a sheik, but I’ve checked and there is no sequel.
And now that I come to think about it, Rhiannon is being reincarnated again and again, sentenced to find happiness with a man who betrayed and abandoned her once already, without even having any magical powers of her own. Isn’t that more of a curse for her than for her husband?
A Moment in Time might work for readers who love reincarnation romances and who enjoy Ms. Small’s storytelling, but I can’t recommend it to anyone else.