Heartfield (Armed in Her Fashion, 2018) takes readers on a short jaunt between the 18th and 22nd centuries—with a few stops in between—for a tale of time travel, love, war, and courage.
In 1788, Alice Payne is the daughter of an English nobleman who returned from the Revolutionary War a broken man. Alice quietly pays his creditors with money from her exploits as a mysterious, masked highwayman—assisted in her thieving by an automaton invented by Alice's companion and secret lover, Jane. The two dream of a life free to pursue their passions and each other, but the future has other plans. More accurately, Maj. Prudence Zuniga, from the year 2145, has other plans. Prudence serves in a devastating time war between two groups of time travelers trying to change the past for the better—but their meddling is corrupting history. A wasted decade spent in 1889 trying to avert World War I has left Prudence ready to go rogue and try to end time travel for everyone. But she needs a chronological native to carry out her plan in the past. Enter Alice. A chance encounter between the frustrated, cynical Prudence and the clever and audacious Alice results in a makeshift alliance, but trust is hard to come by across a gulf of centuries and vastly different lives. The story's delightful premise and host of interesting details (Jane's automaton, Jane and Alice's feminist justice crusade, Prudence's sister, who only exists thanks to time travel, refugees seeking to move to better times) are given too short a shrift by a rushed ending that seems to grasp it can't do everything justice in the pages remaining and, therefore, doesn't even try.
A fascinating novel laden with fine ideas but with too much left sketched in to be satisfying.