When unemployed San Francisco reporter Chuck Townsend and his college-dropout son, Justin, take a cruise to Mexico in 2016, each hopes to rebuild a relationship after years of estrangement. But they find more than common ground aboard the ship. They meet a mysterious lecturer who touts the possibilities of time travel. Within days, Chuck and Justin find themselves in 1900, riding a train to Texas, intent on preventing a distant uncle from being hanged for a crime he did not commit. Their quick trip to Galveston, however, becomes long and complicated when they wrangle with business rivals and fall for two beautiful librarians on the eve of a hurricane that will destroy the city.
Filled with humor, history, romance, and heartbreak, SEPTEMBER SKY follows two directionless souls on the adventure of a lifetime as they try to make peace with the past, find new purpose, and grapple with the knowledge of things to come.
Publisher and Release Date: John A. Heldt, January 2015
Time and setting: 2016 Los Angeles, California, 1900 Galveston, Texas
Genre: Historical fiction/Time-travel romance
Length: 412 pages
Heat Level: 1
Reviewer Rating: 4 Stars
Review by Vikki
I discovered John A. Heldt’s fascinating time-travel stories a couple of years ago when I reviewed The Mine. I fell in love with that story and went on to read every book he had published, so when the chance came to review September Sky, I jumped at it. Once again, Mr. Heldt has written an intriguing tale of adventure, mystery and romance.
Charles Townsend finds himself unemployed when his newspaper downsizes. He chooses to join his son, Justin, and take a cruise to Puerto Vallarta before finding another position. While on the cruise, father and son begin to repair their estranged relationship and develop a close friendship. They meet an unusual professor who does a presentation on time-travel. When asked to fill out a questionnaire, they both participate.
Shortly after their return to Los Angeles, Justin receives a call from Professor Bell explaining that he had liked their answers on the questionnaire and asking him and his father to come for an appointment at his office the next day. The following afternoon the professor offers them the chance of a lifetime – to travel back to 1900. After taking time to discuss it, Justin convinces his skeptical father to agree.
When they arrive in 1900 Los Angeles, the pair are supposed to travel to Chicago as they had agreed to do, but instead, Charles – Chuck – wants to go to Galveston and try to right a wrong by saving an innocent man’s life, all the while making sure they leave Galveston before the great hurricane of September 1900 arrives.
Will Chuck and Justin be able to change this piece of history, or will two lovely ladies distract them from their goal and put them in the path of the most deadly hurricane known to mankind?
This is definitely a plot-driven story and a very intriguing one to say the least. Mr. Heldt gives a detailed account of the horror that occurred in Galveston on September 8, 1900 and his vivid descriptions kept me on the edge of my seat for the last quarter of the book. There is no doubt that he must have done a great deal of research, which gives authenticity to this amazing event in history. This is what I love about his books.
On the down side, however, I never became fully invested in the characters and felt that the emotional element of the story was somewhat lacking, as they didn’t seem to be feeling the emotions they should have been feeling. There are actually three romantic relationships going on in this book; between Chuck and Charlotte, Justin and Emily and Wyatt and Rose. Of these three, the one between Rose and Wyatt should have been heart-wrenching, but I never felt a deep connection to their characters. That may be because the book is told from Chuck and Justin’s point of view.
For most of the story, I felt as if I were sitting on the sidelines and was not a participant. That kept me from becoming emotionally involved with what was happening to the characters, especially Rose and Wyatt’s sub-plot. I did become more engaged with the happenings between Justin and Emily toward the end of the book. In fact, I held my breath as the final act of their story played out and found my eyes tearing up. The ending definitely redeemed the story for me.
I do recommend September Sky to anyone who enjoys a well-written adventure story with lots of historical detail, a decent romantic storyline and plenty of action toward the end. I will definitely read future books by Mr. Heldt because his stories are always compelling and enthralling, as well as filled with accurate historical background, and this one certainly satisfied the history buff in me quite nicely.