Portrait of a Man
Welcome to a fantasyland where women are few, men are plentiful, and, although women are mostly cherished, romance is rarely a part of their existence. Portrait of a Man takes place thousands of years in the future, as well as in the present day and is obviously a part of a series that began with Portrait of a Bride and will surely continue.
Rourke of Calandor is a mighty warrior in the futuristic land of Blackfell and leader of the rebel group “Families for All”. For years he has struggled unsuccessfully against the ruling Patriarchy to give all men an equal chance to have a wife and family in a time where brides are awarded to only the most wealthy and influential of men and humanity is close to extinction. A plague long ago swept through the land and rendered woman incapable of conceiving female children and now only though the manipulation of time, space, and highly trained artisans are the men able to retrieve women for wives from the past, but even those time-traveling women are incapable of birthing daughters. The world’s supply of Prima Materia, the substance that makes time-travel possible, is running out and a cure for the plague must be found. Researching ancient documents, Rourke’s group uncovers a possible accident that may be responsible for the plague and he decides he must be the one to travel into the past and alter the outcome of the tragic accident. Knowing his travels will allow him to meet the woman of his dreams only adds further incentive.
Alexis Conner has always considered herself sort of an oddity. As a teenager, when other girls were hanging pictures of the latest teenage heartthrobs on their walls, Alexis preferred her Alien poster and thought more about ghosts than boys. Now as an adult, she hunts ghosts for the sheer joy of it and holds the title of paranormal investigator. In the past she has funded her investigations through educational grants, but the money and sponsors are running out and her team must discover something of significance soon to gain new sponsorship. Fully immersed in the love of her job, she works with her team to set up their next investigation one night in an old abandoned house with a history of murder and a likelihood for spirits. However, things go as never before and she watches in awe as the portrait of President Lincoln begins to flicker as it gives off the smell of burning coal and as a fog washes over the picture an apparition steps through it. But this apparition doesn’t float though the air – his big body is very real and this ghost knows how to lay a kiss on a woman she will never forget.
As Rourke steps through the portal of time, he senses the presence of the woman he is already half in love with, but knows it is not the time for her to meet him. Making his escape, he locates the home of the former Matriarch of Blackfell, who lives in this time and possesses extreme wealth. Sympathetic to the rebel cause, she helps Rourke develop a 2006 persona, complete with a job, to-die-for clothes, and a Porsche convertible. Alexis unknowingly is key to Rourke’s mission and, therefore, it is important for him to gain entrance into her life and deny the extreme attraction he has for her.
Immediately upon meeting Rourke, Alexis invites him to listen in while her team discusses their most recent investigation and shortly thereafter he begins helping the team with their ghost hunting. His participation with the group feels more like a bunch of kids on a ghost hunt rather than a professional endeavor since Rourke, who has absolutely no experience or background to speak of, is immediately accepted into the group as a leader of sorts. I guess his type of macho fits anywhere and anytime, but it did have a feeling of the ridiculous to it.
Of course when you modernize Rourke, he becomes a completely sexy contemporary hero despite his steep learning curve. His ability to adjust quickly to the many modern conveniences of this time did have a unrealistic ring that I was able to ignore given his developing relationship with Alexis. Although Rourke is from the future, his is a society that rides horses, warms themselves by the fire, and has no electronic conveniences such as televisions or computers.
Alexis is just plain nice – as I finished the book I couldn’t think of a better description for her and knew that as likable as she was, she fell into the slightly boring category as well. I was thankful for Alexis and Rourke’s honest communication as well as the absence of conflict. I am especially appreciative of a book that can keep my interest without misunderstandings to move it forward and Rourke’s failure to expose his true identity doesn’t seem dishonest as much as pure common sense.
I don’t read much time travel since I am easily distracted from the storyline by worrying over the leads’ inevitable separation and return to their own time. Therefore, when I actually read such a book, I recognize few overused time-travel plot elements but can still detect incongruous facts or events with ease and the details in Portrait of a Man do not stand up to close scrutiny. I found myself not even wanting to understand the complications surrounding their method of time travel or why it was so limited.
There is a ferocious villainous bounty hunter after Rourke who I fear will return at some time in the future – this is another one of those books that should have “to be continued…” as its final line. And although I could fuss a little more about some inconsistencies, overall I enjoyed Portrait of a Man and the romantic relationship between Rourke and Alexis. Its abrupt ending left me wanting more but I never doubted this couple’s HEA if society will only leave them alone long enough to enjoy it.