As a plot device time travel should be used very carefully. The author’s job is made more complicated by the necessity of explaining the rules and conventions of the traveling done by the characters. To be effective, the time travel must also serve the purpose of furthering the story. Traveling through time, for its own sake, is not interesting. Why a character moves through time, how they make the trip and how it affects them, is key. These are all factors that were missed by this author.
Time Lapse combines romance, mystery and time travel in a novel that, well, lapses, for want of a better word. The introduction of the characters to the reader and to each other works. The hints about mysteries in their lives grab your attention. These are effective as individual elements, but when they mix with each other and the time travel factor, they stop working.
Reporter Jake Anderson regains consciousness at night. He doesn’t recognize his surroundings, has an injured leg and head, and can’t remember how he got them. All he remembers is the gunshot and a green circle. He staggers to the only visible light and falls at the feet of widow, Molly Barnes (nee’ Malone). Although wary, as any woman living alone would be, Molly takes him in and tends to his wounds. She quickly realizes that he has traveled back in time twenty years, just as Molly did two years before. At this point, the author begins to drop hints about Molly’s past. We’re led to believe that Molly has a deep dark secret. She doesn’t even want Jake to know the name she went by before she came to the past and married.
All well and good, but what they reveal about this secret is less then thrilling. She did have problems in the contemporary world – relationships that were not what she wanted. She’s justified in her wariness of her growing attraction to Jake. But there is no pay-off in her secrets, unless you count the fact that they are unbelievably connected to the murder that happened twenty years ago (and not in an interesting way). This murder occurs while Jake and Molly were in that time period. When they are suspected of the murder they go on the run, and conveniently enough, return to the present.
Which leads to a major problem. Molly’s experiences are so opportune that they are unbelievable. She was unhappy with her life in present day Ottawa. She took a leave from her job as a star on a Canadian soap opera, wandered into the woods and ended up in a time not her own. While this would throw some people (heck most of them), Molly simply marries the elderly man who has taken her in, cares for him when he falls ill, and takes over his farm when he dies. Though she has kept to herself since the death of her husband, her neighbor comes to her with information about a local mystery. That mystery leads to murder, leaving Molly and Jake to run from the police. Of course, since things usually go Molly’s way, the green circle appears again in the woods just in time for them to escape the police. Poof! The couple is back in their own time. How’s that for timing? Amazingly enough (or by this point, not really amazing anymore, since we’re talking about Molly) her condo is waiting, needing minimal dusting. The soap opera she left wants her back immediately (though the producers haven’t spoken to her in two years), and not one soul has ever wondered where she was.
Jake thinks Molly’s pretty perfect too. In the space of a few lines he thinks her kind, caring, tender, a good nurse, understanding, brave, loyal, morally strong, and last but certainly not least, passionate. Ah, you’re saying to yourself, what about the passion? They certainly have passion. Though the prose is a little purple at times (“[he] planted a kiss at the doorway to her center. The tip of his tongue found her nub of pleasure and softly teased it to tumescence,” which leads to Molly “searching for what only he could give her”), the love scenes are tender.
But tender loves scenes do not great romantic suspense make. Throw in inexplicable time travel and a mystery that relies far too heavily on coincidence, and you’ve got problems. Since the time travel involves only twenty years, it was unnecessary. Molly and Jake could have stumbled onto the mystery without doing any time travel and the story would have been better served. Even if you love time travel, this one is best avoided.