Time Enough for Love
I’ve always loved Suzanne Brockmann’s books. Impressed by her Navy SEAL heroes, I went on a glomming rash of her lesser known Loveswept titles. Because it garnered positive reviews elsewhere, Time Enough for Love made it to the top of my TBR pile in no time at all. Now that I’ve read it, my verdict is that it’s certainly … unusual.
“There was a naked man pounding on Maggie Winthrop’s backdoor.” This is the beginning of a riveting sequence of events, during which Maggie discovers that the naked man is Chuck Della Croce, her friend from seven years into the future. He’s developed a time machine that a terrorist group, Wizard-9, used to assassinate the President. To prevent this disaster, Chuck has gone back in time to ask the woman who doesn’t yet know him an outrageous favor: to convince his past self to abandon the time machine project.
Maggie is understandably skeptical about Chuck’s story, and wonders why he himself couldn’t try to communicate with his past self (who is called Charles, because “Chuck” is a nickname that she bestowed on him only after they became close). But Chuck is afraid that once Charles meets him, Charles would be even less willing to stop working on a potentially successful time machine. Maggie is therefore in the best position to seduce his past self from making his scientific discovery, especially because he’s destined to fall for her.
However, Chuck has overshot his temporal destination; he’s gone back to a time when Maggie still hasn’t met Charles. And instead of falling for Charles, she falls for Chuck. To complicate matters, Wizard-9 agents also come back in time to prevent Chuck from setting things right.
My main problem with this book is that although Charles and Chuck are technically the past and future selves of same person, it felt very weird to witness their simultaneous appearance in different scenes. I was as confused as the heroine, whose angst-filled thoughts about being torn between the two men saturate the story. When I read a romance, I prefer to know which guy I should root for. Or if the heroine has to make a choice, her choices shouldn’t constitute the same person – it’s bewildering. Reading Charles’ and Chuck’s jealous thoughts, I half-expected them to wonder, “Am I jealous of my selves?”
The book comes with its own assumptions about time travel, but its length is not enough to sort out all their implications. Brockmann spends more time analyzing time than getting on with the story. It’s hard to see why Maggie and her hero (Chuck or Charles – take your pick) are attracted to each other. Their relationship does not really develop beyond Chuck’s recollections of a shared future time, his foggy lectures about the rules of time travel, and frantic run-ins with the terrorists.
What suffered due to all this intricate pseudo-scientific speculation is characterization. Chuck and Maggie’s friends – important though they are – exist only in their conversations or memories. The villains are cardboard thugs. And whatever happened to the man who will become Maggie’s future husband? She’s supposed to have had one, as explained in the first few chapters, before Chuck went back in time and completely derailed her life.
The book’s only saving grace is the thrilling moment when Maggie seeks out Charles for her seduction attempt. This is the point when you expect her (knowledgeable of future events) to convince him (enthralled but skeptical) that they are destined to become lovers. And that, by the way, he should do something very important to save the world. I loved that part.
But at this point you expect Charles’ future self to go away: Chuck, you’ve done your job, you’ve told Maggie what to do, now disappear into the ether and give her and your past self room to fall in love. But instead, Chuck’s persistent presence creates a love triangle that is about as annoying as… well, as Star Wars’ Jar-Jar Binks! For a better written-time travel where the heroine falls for the hero’s future self, and then is forced to meet and enlighten his past self, try Karen Marie Moning’s Kiss of the Highlander.
Not every time travel requires the space of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series to succeed. But in the case of this book, there just isn’t time enough for its own love story. For this reason, I’d had no choice but to give a favorite author’s book an average grade. Because it’s Brockmann, it almost feels like sacrilege.