Then and Now
Then and Now is a perfectly pleasant but perfectly bland time-travel romance. There is nothing at all offensive about it, but there is nothing to make the reader sit up and take notice either. I kept waiting for the book to catch fire, but it never did. At the end of it I felt like I had gorged myself on vanilla pudding while what I had really craved was spicy salsa.
In December of 1899, Virginia (Ginny) Thornton is living with her husband Thomas in her family estate, Malmaison. Things are not perfect in the Thornton household. Thomas has been preoccupied and worried lately and the bills have not been paid for some time. Ginny secretly pawns some of her jewels to pay the household accounts so that the annual Malmaison party can go on.
But before the party, Thomas unexpectedly shoots himself. When Ginny meets with the lawyer, she finds that Thomas has suffered severe financial reverses and has sold Malmaison to the Sutter family. Ginny is devastated. Malmaison has been in her family for a long time and she loves the house dearly. Sick at heart, she wanders to the conservatory, sits down and falls asleep. When she wakes up, it is December of 1999.
Dr. Samuel Sutter is not happy to have been left in charge of the annual Malmaison party, but since his parents are leaving on a much delayed vacation, he has to see to the preparations. Mr. and Mrs. Sutter are hoping that the party will generate some donations since they plan an extensive renovation of the Malmaison home and grounds. As for Sam – he is a research botanist and would rather be working than schmoozing with patrons.
Elena wakes up in the conservatory and is mistaken for the new curator. She is at first baffled as to where she is, but soon sees that this is a perfect opportunity for her to find out why her husband killed himself and why he sold Malmaison to the Sutter family.
Sam Sutter is one of my favorite type of heroes – a scientist. But Sam wasn’t very interesting at all. He wasn’t vague, or absentminded or anything else. Actually he had no distinguishing characteristics at all. When I can’t “see” a character in my mind’s eye – I know that is not a good sign and I have no idea what Sam looked like. Also, for a scientist, Sam was remarkably unskeptical. When Ginny told him she was from the past, he accepted it far too easily.
Ginny was a more distinctive character. She was remarkably adaptable and she wasn’t terribly in awe, frightened, or repulsed by most 20th century wonders.. She had a wonderful sense of loyalty to her husband and home but carried that loyalty too far, to the point when it became annoying. When Ginny goes back in time and discovers that Thomas has betrayed her, she at first decides to stay there in the past out of loyalty to him and her home despite the fact that Thomas is dead and Sam is there in the 20th century, in her home and he loves her very much.
The mode of time travel is also quite vague. Ginny seems to have traveled to the future because of stress. Later, she and Sam travel back to the past by simply re-creating the setting of Malmaison as it was in Ginny’s time.
There is one scene where the book briefly catches fire. Sam takes Ginny to a college basketball game. To see the game through the eyes of a 19th century woman who has no idea what is going on is funny and sweet as well. If only the whole book has been as charming as that scene.
Then and Now will probably appeal to fans of time travel romances, but the characters were too indistinct and bland to engage me and the story never came alive. Even if you are an ardent lover of time travel romance, should think twice about adding this one to your collection.