Desert Isle Keeper
Flashback may not be the best-written time travel romance I’ve ever read or the deepest, but it is my favorite. It’s a simple story, one which takes a different approach to the material than many others. It’s not concerned with the mechanics and complications of time travel. It doesn’t spend time showing how someone from one time period has to adjust to a new one. It doesn’t even paint a vivid picture of a different period of history. It is, simply, the story of a man and a woman from two different times who fall in love and are willing to sacrifice anything to be with each other.
Photographer Sarah Reinhardt didn’t get a chance to question the old man who’d been following her before he died, to find out why he’d been watching her, or even his name. Haunted by the sadness in his eyes, she determines to find out everything she can about him. She learns his name was Marcus Stephens, and he used to live in her house. This strange coincidence fuels her obsession, until some digging in the attic of the house unearths an old camera. Her attempt to use it has an unexpected effect, when she finds herself thrown forty years into the past.
Suddenly she’s in the 1950s with Marcus Stephens still a young man in his prime. A physician disillusioned by his experiences in the Korean War, Marcus gave up his practice and lives a solitary life, until Sarah appears in his home with a story too incredible to be believed. The connection between them is fierce and immediate, but just as they’re beginning to grow closer, Sarah is pulled back into the future.
The brief encounter isn’t enough, though. She begins to use the camera to travel back to him for as long as she can, stealing as much time with him as possible before she’s pulled back into her own time. It’s a dangerous endeavor, one that increasingly puts her at risk – because the trips between the past and her present are slowly killing her, wearing down on her body. And soon Sarah has to decide just how much she’s willing to sacrifice to be with Marcus.
Flashback is not the kind of story for anyone who needs plausible explanations for the time travel premise. The camera motif here is not explained. It’s simply a plot device, and an effective one. This is the kind of story that could only be done in a series romance. A longer book would require subplots and more characters to avoid seeming drawn-out and needlessly padded. It would spend more time expanding the interactions between the characters, when this story gets its urgency from these two characters stealing every moment they can get, the shortness of time they’re forced to work with, and their growing desperation to be together. It’s the kind of story I can’t imagine working better just because the romance has more room to develop. This is a book about a man who lived the rest of his life alone for the chance to see the heroine one last time and a woman willing to risk hers to be with him. I never doubted the seriousness of their feelings.
There aren’t many characters in Flashback. It’s essentially a three person story, with a hero, a heroine, and a third character who serves as an unwitting antagonist. It works because of its simplicity. We’re allowed to focus on these people, each facing huge odds, all trying to do what they think is right. Their desperation builds as the story goes along and the stakes are raised. It’s a good example of why I enjoy paranormal stories so much when they’re done right. It’s a story of big emotions and big obstacles. These are people who have to fight for their relationship. The ending doesn’t come easy, not by a long shot.
I once heard the events in a movie described as inevitable, rather than predictable. Flashback is one of those kinds of stories. The ending isn’t really a surprise, not because it’s too obvious, but because it’s simply the way it must be. It’s impossible to imagine another ending for this story and these characters. The closing moments are incredibly moving and memorable. I can count on one hand the number of romances that managed to really get to me. This book did.
It’s the perfect ending for a book that may not be perfect itself, but still tells a story with a big impact. It’s a romance that delivers what a love story should: urgency, poignancy, and emotion.