The Once and Future Fling
Grade : C+

I’m a romantic at heart, so my love of the romance genre comes as a surprise to no one. Romantic suspense and contemporary are my go-tos, but I read everything I choose to read, romance-based or not, because what I really enjoy is just a great story. Based on the unique plot description, I thought Leigh Heasley’s début, The Once and Future Fling, would be the start of a great new literary relationship for me … but sadly, that is not the case. I fear the best part of the book was the blurb that caught my attention to begin with.

Let me explain. Heasley has built a high-concept world in which people of the future can turn to the Kairos Temporal Matchmaking Service, a time-traveling matchmaking service that spans centuries, for finding their one-in-a-million soulmate. That whole concept is so cool, and the possibilities for success seemed endless. So why does Ada Blum of the Future of Possibilities find herself struggling to pick between two men who are kind of like the consolation prize on a reality TV show? Perhaps in the millennia of possible pairings, there really is only one true soulmate, warts and all?

While I love engaging plots, I’m firstly drawn to character-driven stories. Ada Blum fancies herself a modern woman born in the wrong time, as said often to her by her grandmother. She’s plucky and overweight, upbeat and hopeful that she’ll find The One, one day. Most recently, she’s been the unwitting mistress to Senator Sam St. Laurent, who happily made her the scapegoat for their affair, and draggedher name through the social media mud. Thanks to her brother Teddy and his employee discount at Kairos, she has a new hi-tech approach to get over Sam and find someone new.

That someone is Henry Levison, 1920s-era gangster and smalltime hoodlum. Henry is brash and oafish, thinks Ada is a typical “broad” who’s attractive enough, even though he thinks she’s got visions of white picket fences and diamonds on every finger. He’s handsome and plays the violin, but Ada quickly discovers that a pretty package does not guarantee a pretty present.

There’s a lot going on in this story that gave me pause – a lot of characters, most of whom have nicknames to jumble up the cast list; time jumps that are often difficult to track; chaotic twists that come out of left field; and the repeated allusion to Ada’s weight. But perhaps the biggest speedbump for me was Ada’s abysmal choice of love interests. For a story about interdimensional matchmaking potential, there was very little romance. And when being given a choice of partners across time, why on earth would Ada choose to stay with someone so crude and obsolete in his treatment of her?

This story was originally written on Wattpad and has “more than 826 thousand reads” and “22,762 upvotes”. I mention this because the future is now, people, and crowdsourcing novels once seemed as futuristic as time-hopping matchmaking services. While this début didn’t strike a chord with me, I’ll definitely keep my eye on Heasley because I love her concept. Time should help her smooth out the rest.

Reviewed by Dolly Sickles

Grade: C+

Sensuality: Kisses

Review Date : November 20, 2023

Publication Date: 11/2023

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