A writer of historical fiction travels back in time—and into the world of her characters—in this romance novel.
With her last two Regency romances not selling well, Claire Channing is desperate to turn things around with her new book, set in 1816, that follows the fortunes of reformed rake Julian St. John and “wicked, seductive” Clarissa Andrews. Claire’s grandmother disappeared about a year ago, leaving her Maine cottage empty—the perfect place for some peace and quiet, except for Adam Winthrop, who’s been constantly pestering Claire to sell the place to his resort-owning family. When Claire wraps her grandmother’s tallit (Jewish prayer shawl) around her, she finds herself in an 1816 ballroom, correctly dressed and with an English accent. Not only that, Claire’s characters are here in the flesh. St. John is even handsomer than she’d written him, and Clarissa strongly resembles the novelist. Claire’s first visit to the past is short, but she soon returns to the 19th century. At first, she only hopes to garner details to boost her novel’s verisimilitude, but her roots in Regency England are stronger than she knows. Claire finds herself falling in love with St. John—and incurring Clarissa’s dangerous rivalry. In both worlds, Claire must race to prevent a tragedy. Burkard (Three French Hens, 2019, etc.) ably combines time travel, romance, and thriller elements in this latest outing. With problems to solve and antagonists in both past and present, Claire has many opportunities to prove her mettle—while St. John has several chances to demonstrate his reformation. The past is skillfully evoked in speech, dress, food, and drink, with only a few questionable turns of phrase (“St. John really has feelings for me”; “Good show, old boy”). It’s not easy to see why Claire and St. John fall for each other so hard so quickly, although it helps that she’s been engaged with his character already in writing her novel. Some readers may be offended by the idea of the tallit, a Jewish religious ritual object, being used casually as a shawl.
An enjoyable and dramatic era-spanning love story.