This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Genres: Time Travel Romance, Young Adult Romance
Released on November 19, 2013
A mysterious waterfall acts as a time rift and connects a modern day boy to a girl from Colonial America. The cover drew my attention and the premise sounded delicious so I gave it a try. I’m glad I did because this was one of my most engaging reading experiences of late.
The story is told with each main character taking turns narrating the chapters in first person point of view. Seventeen year old, Mark Lewis comes from an upper middle class background and he is off for the summer before his senior year. His family is warm and loving, but his parents are going through the beginning of empty nest with his older sister now living in Colorado and his mom switching up her nursing jobs to go from trauma to hospice. His parents balance care with allowing a certain amount of independence to him. Growing up overweight and picked on by bullies in junior high until he worked hard with his family’s support has also tempered him, but left him on the edges of the teen social scene with just one good friend who is away for several weeks staying with his dad. His focus is on training for the biggest mountain bike race in the state. He has his summer lawn care job to earn the fees and pay for his biking equipment as well as personal money establishing he can earn his way and not just mooch off dad and mom. He no longer has to worry about a girlfriend since the very popular, but high maintenance Alexis dumped him right in the middle of prom and other than the humiliation that night he doesn’t miss her presence. It is on one of his training runs that he first sees and hears the oddly dressed and mannered girl in the waterfall.
Susanna is an indentured house servant for the mill owner and his large family in her small village. Her father died and when her mother remarried, Susanna’s step-father indentured, or more accurately, sold her to the Pratts so he wouldn’t have her in his care. It has been many years, but she nears the end of her service and plans to leave her village to find work in the nearby capital city of Raleigh. Pratt is a hard abusive man and his wife and children tread carefully around him. Susanna takes the fallout from his anger. He beats her for every little thing and tries to beat any spark of resistance or independent thought from her head. This is why she escapes the house for an hour each evening for her break to be taken in blessed solitude down in the cave by Whisper Falls. Her master sends his son to spy on her and make sure she isn’t stepping out to see a man, but she eludes the boy so that she has one moment of privacy. It is there at the falls that she sees the young man with his fascinating clothing and the unique two wheeled transportation.
Mark and Susanna both treasure this connection through the falls after they figure out that they really are encountering a person distanced from them by 200 years. Mark is Susanna’s friend and escape she needs from her dreary life, but the knowledge he gleams from his research about the future of herself and those she cares about changes everything. She is determined to alter the future to save those she loves and in the process she may still lose it all. Mark is right there doing his part to help Susanna succeed and he is more vested in her life than his own so when the ex-girlfriend renews her interest, his best friend gets distant and a bully from his past threatens none of it seems important. Mark’s priorities are realigning, his perceptions are changing and he is determined to succeed where Susanna is concerned even if it means putting his own life in danger.
There are a few things that really caught my attention during this story and all of them I liked. Time-travel stories can get tricky for me. There is always a certain balance between moving the story forward and need to satisfy my curiosity of how it works. The short of it is that the author didn’t try to explain. It was like magic in that one ponders how it was done and then end up just enjoying the results anyway. Because of the strength of the story’s other components, I didn’t care that my curiosity was left unsatisfied. The magical and mysterious waterfall is almost a third major character the way it plays its part in the story as it is there during all major events and causes some of the tension.
Speaking of other components. It’s a time travel story so setting is huge. In this instance, I was transpired by how well Susanna’s Colonial American world was drawn. It all rang true and balanced well with her character development and story. It was there without taking over. The life of an indentured house servant was fascinating and not boring. I now want to know more about the period.
But, the author didn’t chintz on Mark’s setting either. Yes, it was modern so description wasn’t as detailed, but it was uniquely revealed through Mark’s eyes and his interests. I liked how not only is their time period a separation for them, but their class in their respective societies is different too and they have both gaps to bridge with their friendship and growing relationship. It was nice that neither make apologies for their roots, but learn to appreciate the other.
I thought the presence or lack of presence of family was interesting too. Surprisingly, it is Susanna who deals with the parent who checked out and leaves her to go it alone and try to watch out for her sister and herself and it is the modern Mark who has the attentive caring parents even though they both have careers. The extra scenes with the people in their daily lives was good so that Mark and Susanna were part of a larger story and not just isolated in their own little world.
Mark and Susanna’s characters were interesting and engaging. Susanna had a hard life and it tempered her into who she was. She tends to be focused, contained and takes charge. The taking charge attitude is what causes the most tension between her and Mark when they bristle over each other doing it. She hides her feelings and thoughts as the one thing that she can control since the rest of her is subjected to the whim of the Pratts. She has managed to find contentment in her circumstances by caring for the younger Pratts as her own even while dealing with the parents and old children circumspectly. She’s not a whiner and she makes the best of things. Her circumstances do lead her to assume the high road with Mark until he starts to prove to her that he has her back and he is worthy.
Mark has the ability to see beyond the surface with people and he values what is on the inside which is why he is drawn to Susanna and was always cautious around the modern-day kids. He respects Susanna and he wants to protect her when the people who should have protected her don’t. She brings out the best in him and those around him might not know his secret, but they see the changes in him. Helping Susanna causes a paradigm shift in his life and the fast track to adulthood. Being inside his head to experience his view of his family, his friends and acquaintance and his daily activities was fun. I loved experiencing stuff with Susanna, but there was just a little something about Mark that drew me more.
The story is part of a series so that even though it wraps things up in a realistic happy for now place, it was obvious that the end was just a bookmark for the next segment of Mark and Susanna’s adventure. The important stuff in the story does get answered and the reader isn’t left dangling in frustration. I had a few questions and things left outstanding, but I assume it gets dealt with further on. I look forward to what happens next.
As to YA warnings, there is a moderate amount of strong language and violence in the form of abuse to Susanna. Mid-teens to adults would probably be best.
I would definitely recommend this to those who enjoy Time Travel Romance, but both Contemporary and Historical Romance fans would possibly enjoy it too. It is YA, but the themes and plotting make it have a more adult feel.
My thanks to Net Galley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for my honest review.