Time for Love
I have always been a sucker for the old-fashioned “governess-finds-love-with-her employer” plot. Nothing fancy, you mind. Give me a plain governess, some kind of troubled aristocrat, a bit of forbidden love and chances are, I am a happily engaged reader (personally, I blame it all on Charlotte Brontë). Admittedly, this might not be the most innovative of storylines but somehow it just ticks the right boxes for me. Time for Love successfully plays up to this anachronistic penchant of mine – coming complete with a modern-day Jane Eyre, a surly Regency hero and a stereotypically deceitful first wife. Yet, what this time-travel e-romance lacks in originality and introspection, it compensates with a winning set of characters, a light tone and an engaging love story.
Plump Canadian nanny Cherri Neilson is on her way to pick up her newest charge in London when her plane starts getting into trouble. A crash seems imminent, when suddenly, courtesy of the mysterious “Controllers” (some sort of Fate representatives), Cherri is thrust back in time to the year 1817. Unaware of the new time frame, she awakens, battered and bruised, in a field in the English countryside. A scruffy “man-mountain” rushes to her assistance. To Cherri’s surprise, however, her churlish rescuer is not a simple field hand but the rather more illustrious Duke of Ashford. While the young nanny recovers in the Duke’s stately home, it does not take her long to realize that she has not stumbled into a historical recreation project but that she has actually time-traveled. Although confused and frightened by the circumstances, Cherri cannot help being enchanted by the Duke’s adorable daughter Dulcie and his kind aunt Maria. More than anything, she is drawn to the commanding Duke, recognizing that his boorish façade hides a sensitive and kind-hearted man who might just turn out to be her soul mate. Yet when the “Controllers” start invading her dreams, Cherri faces a difficult choice: she can either return to her 21st-century home or stay in Regency England.
Aaron Traherne, Duke of Ashford, has not had much luck with women. Unusually strong-built and scarred, his run-away first wife Eleanor always made him feel like a clumsy beast incapable of pleasing a woman (in and outside of bed). When Cherri Neilson happens to drop into one of his fields, Ashford is straightaway attracted to the voluptuous nanny (although her talk of planes, credit cards and cars leaves him in doubt of her sanity). Surprisingly enough, the unusual young woman seems to reciprocate his feelings. Before they know it, Cherri and Ashford are entangled in a tender romance, which suddenly turns bittersweet when the supposedly dead Eleanor returns, claiming her husband and home. Yet, is the beautiful first wife truly repentant…or does she harbor devious motives that will endanger Dulcie and Ashford? Cherri must quickly decide where her heart lies, even if this means sacrificing her own hopes of returning home.
If you think you have read a similar story before, you are probably right. In its essence, Time for Love has more in common with a traditional Regency plot than with the more modern time-travel scenario. True, there are time-related issues here, most prominently Ashford’s resentment of Cherri’s “scandalous” premarital sexual experience. But, overall, this novel is more about the timeless romance between two lovers who just happen to be perfect for each other. Time-travel romance is at its best when it plays with cultural differences (often with highly amusing results as in Deveraux’s A Knight in Shining Armor). Yet, here, Cherri almost effortlessly switches bras and knickers for Regency shifts and pantalets. The fact that she has just been tossed back in time 200 years by some shifty “Controllers” leaves her equally unimpressed. For most of the time, she decides to evade all metaphysical discussions and just get on with things. Call me broody, but I would certainly like to know a bit more about the secrets of the universe if they were to open up to me. But then again, would I really like to know more about weird time-controlling beings who speak in quizzical mumbo-jumbo and whose only characteristic is that they are wrong about everything they predict?
While the time-travel element of the story could be handled to greater effects, the romance between Cherri and Ashford certainly held my interest. Ashford may not be the sexiest of Regency heroes (the term “cuddly bear” comes to mind) but his erotic confidence issues somehow made him more endearing to me. His overcoming of these issues (when he finally does end up in bed with Cherri) makes for a good read as well. Plus-size Cherri is a delightfully realistic heroine whose sees beyond a scarred face and who forges strong bonds with the whole Ashford family. Irrespective of periods, Cherri and Ashford are a great match for each other and their love story is truly engaging, especially in those bittersweet moments when they seem to have run out of time (excuse the pun).
Although not the most successful of time-travel romances, this novel has a lot going for it: a nicely drawn, character-driven plot, a warm love story and a good old-fashioned feel about it. As homely as a cup of cocoa, Time for Love makes for a cozy comfort read that plays a clichéd plotline to rather good effect.