Book Review: Shadows in Time by Julie McElwain
Kendra Donovan, FBI agent displaced in time, is visiting the Tower Of London with her friend Lady Rebecca Blackburn when an altercation captures their attention. They come to the rescue of Horatia Gavenston, a well-to-do middle-aged brewster, who was set upon by an unpleasant old acquaintance but insists it wasn’t anything she couldn’t handle herself. When she learns the identities of her deliverers, however, she immediately asks for Kendra’s help with something quite different.
Over the course of almost a year now, Kendra has developed a reputation in Regency England’s Beau Monde for her skill at detection. Polite society finds her quite the thing, though it helps a lot that the wealthy, influential Duke of Aldridge has taken her on as his ward. This privileged position allows her entree to all manner of situations that might be barred to her otherwise, but even her connections can’t overcome the suffocating restraints placed on women in her place and time:
There were a lot of things that grated on her nerves about living in the early 19th century. Chamber pots. The lack of central heat. No Internet. How damn slow everything was. No chocolate candy bars.
But nothing, nothing chafed as much as losing her independence.
She was twenty-six years old, an Ivy League graduate. An FBI agent for Christ’s sake. And yet in this world, she needed a guardian. It made her want to scream.
So when Mrs. Gavenston offers her a case, she leaps at the prospect. It looks simple enough: Mrs. Gavenston’s business manager has disappeared after a disagreement. She claims that Jeremy Pascoe objected to her idea of mechanizing parts of Barrett Brewery, the ale-making company she owns, at the possible expense of retrenching employees, so walked off in a huff this past Saturday afternoon. When he didn’t show up for work on Monday morning, she was somewhat concerned but not overly so, for while Jeremy was generally a sober and reliable young man, he was also possessed of poetic sensibilities. As more days pass without word, however, she’s grown increasingly concerned, and wants Kendra to look into the matter.
Kendra has plenty of reason to miss the conveniences of the 21st century as she undertakes what she knows would have been fairly routine grunt work in her own time. It’s still more fun for her than any of the other “lady-like” pastimes the Duke’s sister, the formidable Lady Atwood, is trying to impress upon her as being more suitable pursuits. But then Kendra’s search leads her to Jeremy’s murdered body, and any question of doing anything but investigating fly out the window.
Kendra’s absorption in the case is unexpectedly compromised when a young woman turns up at the London residence where Kendra is staying with the Duke and his sister, demanding an audience with the older man. Kendra is immediately skeptical of Carlotta Garcia Desoto’s claim to be the Duke’s long lost daughter, but is self-aware enough to realize that a lot of her antipathy towards Carlotta stems from her own insecurity:
As the Duke had pointed out, her own circumstance could be classified as both miraculous and improbable. What were the odds that the Duke would be connected to two improbable occurrences? Kendra didn’t need to do the calculations in her head to know that they were astronomical.
Of course, so was the possibility of being sucked into a vortex and transported to another time. But it had happened. If that could happen, who was she to say that a child presumably lost at sea had not been rescued and lived most of her life in another country? Really, which was the most fantastical? If Kendra was being honest with herself, Carlotta’s story made a hell of a lot more sense than her own.
This turn of events makes Kendra perhaps even more brusque than usual as she traverses London, questioning her mostly nonplussed suspects. When it looks like she’s coming too close to the truth and putting herself in danger, however, Kendra must utilize all her skills and training not only to save her own life, but the lives of those she loves.
Shadows In Time was another clever installment of this wholly original series that blends a Regency romance with an FBI procedural via the medium of time travel. The attention to detail is terrific, as always, and it’s easy to sympathize with Kendra as she works through her complicated emotions regarding her place in the era as well as in the Duke’s affections. There weren’t quite as many mystery-solving surprises as in previous installments but the developments in Kendra’s personal life will delight fans old and new. I’m already looking forward to reading the next book and seeing what lies in store for her and the rest of this wonderful cast of characters!