Providence, Rhode Island, 2017. When doctoral student Cameron Coelho, 28, opens a package from Indiana, he finds more than private papers that will help him with his dissertation. He finds a photograph of a beautiful society editor murdered in 1925 and clues to a century-old mystery. Within days, he meets Geoffrey Bell, the “time-travel professor,” and begins an unlikely journey through the Roaring Twenties. Filled with history, romance, and intrigue, Indiana Belle follows a lonely soul on the adventure of a lifetime as he searches for love and answers in the age of Prohibition, flappers, and jazz.
Publisher and Release Date: John A. Heldt, April 2016
Time and Setting: Indiana & California, United States, 1925 and 2017
Genre: Historical/Time Travel with Romantic Elements
Heat Level: 1
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars
Review by: Heather C.
Indiana Belle has so many things going for it that it really defies a distinct categorization. It has a romance thread that runs throughout. It is packed with a little mystery, intrigue, and adventure from the earliest pages. There is the historical setting and some significant events. Oh, and let’s not forget the very critical element of time travel!
I have been a fan of John Heldt’s works since I first read back-to-back The Mine and The Journey in 2013 (both are from his other book series, The Northwest Passage). All of his books include an element of time travel and that was one of the elements that originally drew me to them. In Indiana Belle, the time travel element involves some tunnels, some gypsum crystals, and some scientific formulae. While the time travel element does require some level of suspension of reality, and maybe it’s presentation here isn’t what most would expect for a method of traveling through time, I found it creative and plausible. The novel also tackles the age old idea that if you travel back in time you must be careful to not change the past or it could affect the future. Cameron wrestles with this premise as he does not wish to let a historical murder happen on his watch. Seeing how he struggles with this and what decision he ultimately makes is one of the central concepts of this novel. Some of the best scenes of this book deal with Cameron’s making continuity mistakes while back in 1925 – some were things that I would never have even thought of.
The romance is a very light, but critical, part of the story. What happens if you fall in love with someone who isn’t from your time? It served as more of another obstacle to time travel and the completion of Cameron’s mission than anything else. The scenes were sweet and grew from a natural place.
Mr. Heldt does an excellent job here of bringing to life the Roaring Twenties; from the quiet mid-west town, to the speakeasy parties, to the big church revivals, it has it all. Cameron sees it as a simpler time initially, but it is full of its own problems, like the KKK and women’s struggle for rights. Some of these elements are obvious while others are atmospheric, but all contribute to a well-formed sense of time. The author also tends to cover an event of significance in most of his novels and here we get a little bit of the Tri-State Tornado of 1925. Having survived a tornado myself, his descriptions felt very real.
There was only a small element that I questioned while reading, which I’d thought might be resolved at some point in the novel; but ultimately it wasn’t. Cameron comes from 2017. I wondered at the choice to set the book in the near future instead of the current year. I wondered what difference it could make for anyone reading the book in a couple of years’ time – the entire novel will occur in the past. After reading, I concluded it didn’t have an obvious purpose.
While Indiana Belle is the third book in the American Journey series, it certainly is successful as a standalone novel. I have not read the first two books yet (September Sky and Mercer Street), but did not feel like I was missing out on anything. I have a feeling Geoffrey Bell, the professor referenced in the book description, probably has connections to the first two books based on some allusions to other time travelers and maybe we learn more about him there, but you still come away with a full understanding and appreciation of Indiana Belle on its own.
There is a little something for everyone here and would appeal widely to both men and women!