A Time for Dreams
Crafting a love story set amidst tragedy is always a chancy proposition. In A Time for Dreams, author Jen Holling succeeds, to a degree. Although I had some difficulty with the writing style, and found the hero and heroine less than totally engaging, the story was compelling enough to keep me going to the believable HEA ending.
Air Force captain Audrey Williams has been haunted by dreams since she was ten and visited a Scottish castle, inadvertently stumbling upon a corridor into the past and encountering an intense young man. Now, in an effort to find some peace of mind in the wake of her husband’s suicide, she returns to the castle and steps into the corridor, only to find herself in the year 1585 – and confronted by her dream-man.
Lord Brenden Ross has spent most of the last ten years plotting the escape of his queen, Mary Stuart, imprisoned by her cousin Elizabeth. He, too, has been plagued by strange dreams, and he’s astounded when the woman he sees in them suddenly appears. He senses that her arrival is tied up with his efforts to save Mary, and completely against her will, Audrey is drawn into Brenden’s schemes. She knows his efforts will be in vain, but he refuses to listen to her, even after she confesses she’s from the future. The longer she stays, the deeper becomes her involvement, and the stronger her attachment to Brenden grows, until she is forced to decide: should she remain here with this man and the dangerous life he’s leading, or should she return to her existence in the twentieth century?
This was a frustrating read for me. Part of the problem was that many of the secondary characters were more likable than the leads. Audrey and Brenden never clicked for me, as individuals or as a couple. Given the time in which she found herself and the lack of effort on her part to do a better job of blending in, even after she’d decided to stay, I was surprised that Audrey drew as little suspicion to herself as she did. Aside from a few comments about her strange accent, she roused very little attention. Brenden, though, was way too suspicious of her – but for the wrong reason: he thought Audrey was consorting with his brother Camden behind his back.
The author also used a plot device guaranteed to set the teeth of many a reader on edge: the first time they made love, it was an “I hate you, let’s do it” situation:
“Let me go!” she cried. “I hate you!”
He gripped her arms and shook her. “I hate you as well! All those years I thought you an angel and when I have you here, you’re the devil himself!”
Her anger and hate transmuted into an overwhelming need to be closer to him.
Later in the book, the process was reversed: they made love, then Audrey told Brenden she hated him. These scenes did not endear either of them to me.
On the other hand, Holling did a fine job of painting a portrait of Mary Stuart in her final weeks, evoking the tragedy of her story and showing the dignity with which the doomed queen met her fate. Brenden’s brothers, Camden and Gavin, were well drawn, especially Camden. It was brotherly loyalty that compelled him to go along with Brenden, even when he knew his brother was committing treason. And the method of getting Audrey from present to past was beautifully simple, although Holling never explained why Audrey and Brenden were the only ones who could see the time-corridor. But I could buy that, for some reason.
My main difficulty in reading this book was that it didn’t flow well. Short, choppy sentences and confusion in verb tenses accounted for most of this. Some of the anachronistic dialogue didn’t help, either. I can understand Audrey using modern words and phrases like “okay” and “gold digger,” but what bothered me was that it didn’t bother any of her 16th-century companions, who seemed to understand her perfectly. It kept jarring me out of the story, and the story was good enough that I really came to resent it.
Jen Holling is a new-to-me author, and I’d welcome the chance to try something else of hers, in spite of the flaws in this release. If her stories continue to be this strong, I might even be tempted to overlook the elements I don’t like, and concentrate on the positive ones.