Catherine Anderson books are some of my favorite comfort reads. Her typical heroine displays tough survivalism in the face of hard times, and often finds help and a second chance with a strong country hero. Unfortunately, this book had none of the things I typically like about Anderson’s books, and plenty of things I don’t like anywhere. The number one word that came to mind to describe this book was “silly.”
Ceara O’Ceallaigh has traveled forward in time from medieval Ireland to save the Harrigan family from a terrible curse, in which the first wives of Harrigan men die tragically and young. The curse can only be broken if she marries the sole remaining bachelor, Quincy Harrigan, whose beloved sister-in-law Loni has contracted a rare blood cancer and has mere days to live. Pressured by his family and his love for Loni, Quincy agrees to marry Ceara (the curse is very specific that this must be a “real” marriage – no divorce, no abstinence), and then must see what he can make out of this marriage with druid from the past.
As someone who’s read some of the previous Coulter-Harrigan-etc. books (but not the Loni book, which introduced paranormal elements), I found the random insertion of time-travel to be jarring. As with Lori Foster’s SBC Fighters series, I felt that the rules had been changed on me partway through. If Anderson wants to write time travel, she has the right to do so, but I also have the right to find it irritating when it shows up in a series that I thought was going to be about Western rural life. Seeing my old rancher buddies in (endless) cameos with a time-traveling Irish druid was like waking up in a bad fanfic.
If you’re new to Anderson and don’t bring that baggage, will this book work for you? I doubt it. My favorite Anderson books have vengeful ex-husbands or high-stakes custody battles lurking menacingly around the edges until the climactic resolution; Perfect Timing has zero conflict post-wedding. They fall in love about halfway through the book. Then Ceara gets pregnant, and they’re really excited. If you enjoy a meandering 125 pages with a couple that’s already in love (“It’s so cute how she set fire to the kitchen and knocked herself out with a champagne cork!” or “I can’t wait to show him my new gold vibrator Mr. Midas!”) this may not annoy you. I just found it hard to care what happened next.
But then, just to keep the book going a little longer, there’s a random plot device that Ceara using her healing magic while pregnant triggers premature delivery. (Of COURSE Ceara has healing magic; what kind of a druid doesn’t?) According to the glorious time-suck web site TV Tropes, a Deus ex machina sweeps in out of nowhere to save the characters, but a Diabolus, or Demon ex machina sweeps in out of nowhere to make things worse. So at least I learned something new from this book.
And now for the plot holes. The many, many plot holes. If Ceara can travel through time, why did she wait until now, allowing dozens of Harrigan first wives to die tragically in the interim? I can understand the in-the-moment emotionalism that would lead the family to pressure Quincy to marry, but nobody feels the slightest bit guilty afterwards that Quincy not only has to give up control over his life, but also has to have sex with a stranger to save Loni? Isn’t that rape, or at least some weird permutation on prostitution? (It’s also true for Ceara, but at least she had the chance to make the choice before she decided to time travel; it’s basically forced on – pardon the expression – Quincy when Loni has hours to live).
And another problem: Loni has a psychic talent, which she uses to help the FBI locate missing children. Ceara mystically saves a character and nobody ever wonders about the ethical implications of this power? Shouldn’t the sort of woman who would sacrifice her family and entire world to come forward and save strangers want to at least train as a nurse and hang out in clinics? Once she does this, what about the scientists and lab techs who will want to poke and prod her for all time? Nothing, that’s what. Nobody even thinks about it.
I didn’t hate this book. As always, Anderson’s prose is solid and her world is full of good people winning over evil, but her strong technical writing couldn’t overcome a plot straight out of an amateurish fanfic. Give this one a miss.