Footprints in the Snow
Footprints in the Snow is another example of Harlequin’s willingness to publish a book with an unusual storyline while simultaneously trying to hide that fact from the consumer. The back cover copy is bland and nondescript, revealing little about the actual story. The information the copywriter worked so scrupulously to conceal comes out at the end of the second chapter, a little more than thirty pages in, so it’s not like it’s a huge spoiler. As that’s the case, I have no problem revealing that this is a time-travel story set in 1945. Of course, it could just be the copywriter was trying to do the reader a favor, because this is also another series romance where the premise is much more interesting than the final product. The story is ultimately as bland and nondescript as that back cover summary.
Shana Parisi’s Colorado vacation takes an unexpected turn when she’s caught in a sudden blizzard while out skiing. She’s rescued by a man who introduces himself as Sergeant Luke Rawlins of the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division. He takes her to a nearby cabin to recover from the cold, they talk a little, and ultimately share a kiss. The next morning, he leaves her to report back to the army base, telling her he’ll be back soon, but not before revealing that the year is 1945. Deciding he must be crazy, Shana leaves the cabin to make her way back to her hotel, only to wind up at the military base he mentioned, which doesn’t exist in her time.
Quickly apprehended by the guards as a possible spy, she has no way of proving her innocence or that she’s who she says she is, especially since her only ID says she was born in 1974. Luke manages to rescue her, though he now has his own suspicions of her and what she’s doing there. Shana soon learns that Enrico Fermi, the legendary physicist who was working (is working?) on the Manhattan Project at the time, is at the base. A geologist by trade, she (rather implausibly) manages to talk her way into helping him with some geological research he’s conducting. But it soon becomes clear that there really may be a spy on the base, perhaps someone working with the NKVD, the Russian secret police, to obtain Fermi’s work. Shana joins forces with Luke to protect Fermi and apprehend the traitor.
It’s an intriguing premise. The plot is reasonably fast-paced with plenty of action. Miles displays enough knowledge of the history to show that she’s done her research. She also has some interesting ideas about the time-travel concept, and I liked the way it was resolved in the end. Actually, the ending may have been my favorite part of the book.
Ultimately though, the story is too short and too shallow to be more than an acceptable read. I liked the characters in theory, but they’re terribly wooden. Each has a perfunctory back story that passes for characterization. She has some token daddy issues; he met an orphaned boy in Italy that he was forced to leave behind and is determined to return for. That’s really all there is to them. I liked the fact that she was capable of fighting off attackers and seemed reasonably intelligent, but there was too little to her for me to say I liked her one way or another.
One of the pleasures of a time-travel story set in the past or the future (as opposed to one where a character from either comes to our present) is to see another time period brought to life. Miles never really captures the world circa 1945 in a way that the reader can experience it. A few offhand references to Rita Hayworth, Studebakers and “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” do not a convincing atmosphere make. I also have to say the suspense plot really wasn’t all that interesting. There’s little real urgency about the huge global stakes involved. The traitor is the most obvious person, so the revelation fell flat.
Footprints in the Snow had potential, most of which went unfulfilled. Though readable enough, it’s simply an average book.