When a bomb explosion thrusts Victoria Ashton backward in time to 1897, she’s forced to impersonate the Countess of Guildford. Despite Victoria’s attempts to convince the earl she’s not his wife, her counterpart’s infidelity, lies, and ill-tempered personality makes the task almost impossible. Worse, Victoria finds herself falling in love with a man who loathes her. Only when the earl learns to trust her does she realize her future lies in the past. But love always comes at a price, and she must make a painful sacrifice in order for them to be together.
Nicholas Thornhill, Earl of Guildford has been searching for his missing wife for three weeks. Rumors of him being guilty of murder make him unwilling to believe his wife’s latest in a multitude of lies. But the changes in Victoria continuously surprise him. Despite his best intentions, he finds the contempt he once felt for his wife turning into something deeper and stronger. But when danger threatens to separate them forever, he must forge a bond with her that crosses the boundaries of time.
Publisher and Release Date: Maroli SP Imprints, December 2, 2014
Time and Setting: Present Day and 1897, England
Genre: Time travel romance
Heat Level: 2.5
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 stars
Review by Maria Almaguer
This is a story of reincarnation or time travel, I’m not quite sure. In the present day, Victoria Ashton buys an expensive painting of a place called Goodman Cottage in an exclusive London art gallery. She meets Nick Barrows, one of the owners along with his sister Nora (recognize the names from The Thin Man?), and is immediately drawn to him. Nick has been obsessed with a painting in their own private collection – inherited by a beloved uncle – of the Countess of Guildford for many years, and his sister teases him of being in love with her. So when he meets Victoria, who happens to be a dead ringer for the countess, he can’t explain their connection nor his instant and intense feelings for her. Then there’s an electrical explosion injuring Victoria and sending her into a coma but also throwing her back in time to 1897.
In 1897, Victoria is known as Vickie, the Countess of Guildford, and has been missing for three weeks. Her husband, Nicholas, the Earl, has been searching frantically for her but only because he has been named a suspect in her disappearance. When he finds her, she has amnesia of course, as she cannot remember anything of her life in 1897 but rather, only recalls her present day life. She swears and talks in a coarse style language that is completely out of place and character for a countess of the Victorian era.
We learn that the Countess has not been a nice person. She’s promiscuous and has been cuckolding Nicholas ever since their wedding day. She was also prone to temper tantrums and was rude and cruel to everyone including Nicholas’ simple brother, Edmund.
But the Victoria Nicholas comes to know now is nothing like the nasty countess he married. She’s naturally confused and tough but she also has a very generous heart and genuine kindness.
Up to this point, the story is laying the groundwork but I found myself still confused as to how it would all work out. It alternates between 1897 and the present day, but it’s mostly set in 1897. Victoria and Nicholas (of 1897) come to know and love each other in a way they hadn’t before, but then again it seems that this Victoria is not the original countess. She couldn’t be if she’s this nice.
In the present day, Nick is beside himself at Victoria’s hospital bed. He loves her but can’t explain it. Nora helps him by giving him journals she found in their uncle’s possessions, journals that were written by the countess. They reveal that the Victoria he loves really did travel back to 1897.
There’s also a bit of a mystery/suspense element in the story with some old cronies of Vickie’s threatening her life. The slowly growing love story between Nicholas and Victoria (in 1897) is passionate and kind and I especially enjoyed the scenes with Edmund, Nicholas’ brother, with his child-heart of innocence.
I have to say that the ending is a bit dissatisfying as there are many unexplained threads, but I can’t go into them here without giving something away.
Monica Burns writes with a readable and romantic style, creating passion and heat between her characters but there isn’t as much in this story as in her other works. I admire her ability to try something new and different because I enjoy her writing very much, but this one kind of fell flat for me. Perhaps I’m such an historical purist that present day alternating with the past jars me too much into fantasy. But if you like unconventional romances that meld the past with the present, you will find much to enjoy here.