One Last Time
Over all, I found this book rather confusing and messy. I’m an old hand at time travel tales, I thoroughly enjoy them but in this case I felt like the author took too much of a laissez faire attitude towards her plot and it just didn’t work.
There’s a mass murder, a forbidden love affair, and a bunch of secret passages but not necessarily in that order since we’re dealing with time travel. Let’s start with the murder, which is both the beginning and ending of our tale. In 1859 at the Faulkner Plantation there is a party that ends with the guests and hosts all slaughtered around the dinner table. Fast forward 150 years or so to the start of our story and our heroine Averie finds herself working as a waitress/caterers aid at the haunted Faulkner Mansion. This is a big deal for her since she is a self-named coward and avoids all things spooky and scary. But she needs the money and the catering company is owned by her bestie’s mom so yeah, she’s working this gig come hell or high water.
It seems likely that she is going to experience both when the event takes a turn towards the bizarre. Seems one of the guests for the dinner party is a no show and the host refuses to sit down to a meal at a haunted mansion with only 13 diners. Averie, as the only pretty young thing available, is pressed into service as the fourteenth guest. A huge storm breaks out while all this is happening to add some ambience – or to fulfill the dark and stormy night quotient for a spooky story. Whatever. Cue electrical problems, weird behaviors, a treasure hunt and before you know it Averie and her fellow guest, hottie Quillan, are transported back in time to 1859, a few weeks before the massacre.
This is a huge shock to Averie but an unqualified success for Quillan, who was the master mind behind the time travel. The wrong people were accused of the murder and he wants to prevent all sorts of events that happen around that night to subsequently prevent numerous miscarriages of justice. He encourages Averie to try and blend in until he gets everything worked out and then he’ll be able to zap her back to her time and place.
That, of course, is a bust. From the start Averie is anxious to let everyone around her know how blasted wrong slavery is and how anxious she is to see everyone treated equally. From there we connect with the Underground Railroad, a bunch of evil runaway slave hunters, some bad poetry, and a star crossed lovers (or not) storyline for Averie and Quillan. They happen to be posing as man and wife, by the way, which gives them an excuse to spend lots of time together. And yada yada yada, there’s a happy ending for most.
With a time travel I will excuse a lot in the believability aspect of the tale. However, this one just crossed a line for me. For one thing, the poem used to find the contact for the Underground Railroad does everything but give a name and address. Unbelievable given that this was being sung in the fields in the presence of overseers listening ears. For another, there were two or three massive points about the ending that just screamed fairy tale. And finally, both Averie and Quillan were unbelievable characters. Averie is transported back in time and goes from being a quiet mouse to a lioness. She is a loud, in your face anti-slavery advocate in a time and place where that was extremely dangerous. Quilllan is unbelievable for lots of reasons but one of them was how easily he maneuvered between the two times. It didn’t seem realistic given his background.
There were a lot of other little details that kept pulling me from the book, which definitely marred the reading experience. And because the characters were so unrealistic, I never connected with them. So ultimately the book just really didn’t work for me. I did find a few things charming – Averie’s politics were something I could get one hundred percent behind, and there were a few funny moments – but I spent most of my time either rolling my eyes or thinking “meh”.
Time travel romances are an endangered species so I really wanted to love this one. Especially since it had a big mystery in a spooky house factor, something I absolutely love. The execution didn’t live up to the premise though so I unfortunately can’t recommend it.