Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Margaret Locke - A Matter of Time

Nobody would blame widowed doctoral student Eliza James for giving up on Happily Ever After; at twenty-nine, she’s suffered more loss than most people do in a lifetime. But Eliza’s convinced her own hero is still out there, waiting for her, just like in the beloved romance novels she devours. Every girl deserves a Darcy, right?
Only Eliza doesn’t dream of a modern-day affair: she wants the whole Regency experience. When a magical manuscript thrusts her back two hundred years into the arms and life of one Deveric Mattersley, Duke of Claremont, however, Eliza soon realizes some fantasies aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, especially when her duke proves himself less than a Prince Charming.
Deveric Mattersley has no interest in marriage. Determined to atone for his sins after convincing himself he's at fault for the death of his first wife, he decrees himself content to focus on running his family’s estates, and on raising his son–until the mysterious Mrs. James appears. Who is she? What does she want? And why does she make Dev’s blood run hot in a way no woman ever has?

Comment: This was another Christmas gift and finished the reads I had planned for January, I also read this one, to not let it languish too much in the pile. Plus, I was curious since I like both historical and time-travel novels in general.

In this book we meet Eliza James, a 29 year old woman in contemporary times who asks her friend Cat to write her a plot guide so she an go back in time and meet a duke who will like and fall in love with her, so she can have her much desired HEA.
Accomplished this (unbelievable) task, Eliza sees herself in Regency England, trying to fit all her fan dedication of all things Regency into actual behavior and rules of conduit. The duke also seems a great guy and likes what he sees but will they have a love story like in the books?

After reading the little plot summary above, I must say the story caught me unawares as I imagine the summary must make you feel. This story is included in a trilogy and although it has all the necessary elements (beginning, development, conclusion) to make it work as a novel, it's certainly complicated to accept some things not having read the previous book.
I didn't read it but going through some goodreads comments and some scenes in this book, it became possible to get an idea of how the whole thing happened, so I'd say this is a book best read in order, since some things don't make a lot of sense without previous information.

This aspect aside, though, I have to say the story line itself wasn't easy to always accept as believable.
Basically, Eliza and her friend Cat in the first book discovered Cat could write fictional things in a manuscript and those things became reality, but Cat couldn't change or influence real people's lives on paper, only bring to life her creations. Cat's HEA happened int he first book and, I assume by some passages, Eliza knew about that and asked her to give her the possibility of a HEA in Regency England, her favorite time in literature.

This is how the story begins, Eliza goes back in time because of a manuscript and she was also given an out in case things went wrong.
Then the book is about how Eliza, a modern woman from America, adapts to life during the time Jane Austen (her favorite author) was probably writing Pride and Prejudice and how she reacts to things she had only read about while captivating her duke to fall in love with her.

I find that there are many things I could comment on that would make someone reading this think I disliked the book. Some things are just so... badly presented, I can't ignore them. But if I were able to suspend belief, some things are cute and Eliza does get her expected HEA so... not only bad things and the overall vibe is one of positivism, making this an easy story to read. 
The problem for me is that I just couldn't ignore all the little things that don't work out and that make this a somewhat poorly executed novel. The ideas are cute and great but the way things happen just don't seem to be well done, as if the author didn't plan them properly.

Just two examples: Eliza is a fan of the Regency period but she keeps making mistakes. I can accept she is much more overwhelmed than what she thought but she keeps voicing things as for granted at the same time. So, is she confused because she is out of place or is she conveniently smarter only in certain moments?
Eliza is aware of what happens to her and the hero too but none of the other characters understand why she is there. I can't understand they would fall for the silly explanations given. Couldn't the author plan this going back in time situation a little better?

I'd say the whole vibe seems to be one of what we would find in historicals but with dashes of attempted humor. However, there are many inconsistencies, unlikely and implausible situations, and I can enjoy the fiction for what it is but the characters, namely Eliza, didn't really act in a way I'd be willing to care about them.
I think that, if Eliza had been a little less "manipulative" in what she wanted out of going back in time or if she had ended up there unwilling and had to adapt, I'd be more likely to accept all her mistakes and root for her. The way things were, I just don't care about her, even if at the same time I quickly turned the pages.

All in all, better planning could have improved the story that, like I said, wasn't bad, but the details made it into something a little confusing.
Grade: 5/10

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