A quick-witted prostitute in 19th-century Copenhagen finds love in 21st-century London.
Charlotte Schleswig has many survival skills, which is a good thing. Since she ran away from the orphanage, she has been supporting herself and Fru Schleswig, the slovenly, illiterate cook who followed her, claiming to be her mother. (Charlotte doesn’t believe her.) Nonetheless, she does what she must to keep a roof over their heads, and she keeps watch for blackmail opportunities and other better money-making schemes. When the pompous widow Fru Krak advertises for a maid, Charlotte applies. Fru Krak instructs Charlotte (who negotiates the position for herself and Fru Schleswig) to make her house presentable for her intended, a Parson, but never to enter the basement . . . which is where Charlotte goes at the first chance. There she finds a strange contraption rumored to be a Suicide Machine. Before he disappeared, Fru Krak’s husband, professor Herr Krak, is said to have offered trips to the “great beyond.” And although his ghost has been spied around the city, his body has never been found. Charlotte investigates, but the hapless Fru Schleswig intervenes, and suddenly the two of them find themselves in 21st-century London. Professor Krak and a group of other displaced Dutch citizens greet them. After introducing Charlotte and Fru Schleswig to the wonders of modern times—Fru Schleswig is particularly taken with the vacuum cleaner—they enlist Charlotte to travel back to Copenhagen and help them protect the time machine from Fru Krak, who will surely destroy it before her impending marriage, cutting off their opportunity to ever return. Charlotte hopes to profit from happenstance, until she unexpectedly falls in love with a Scottish archaeologist—who thinks she is Croatian. She has a wee bit of explaining to do. Jensen (The Ninth Life of Louis Drax, 2005, etc.) has created a marvelous heroine in Charlotte, whose agile mind and love/hate relationship with the doltish Fru Schleswig give this Time and Again–esque love story a comic spin.
Great fun for any century.