REVIEW: Now and Then by Jacqueline Sheehan
Note: There are going to be some spoilers later on.
Dear Ms. Sheehan,
I’m glad that your publishers have figured out how to spell your first name. On the arc I received, it is spelled without a ‘c.’ When I checked the spelling to make sure I had your first name correct, I noticed it should have a ‘c’ in it. Such things make me think your publisher doesn’t love you. I hope that isn’t the case.
Anna O’Shea has hit what she thinks is rock bottom. After three miscarriages, her husband has left her. After a trip to Ireland, she arrives home to discover that her nephew is in trouble with the law in New Jersey and her older brother has been in a terrible car accident on his way from Massachusetts to get him. After driving to get Joseph herself and falling exhausted into bed, she awakes to discover her nephew going through her still packed suitcase and opening a package given to her in Ireland by a strange woman. And then the really weird stuff starts to happen.
Anna has never given much thought to the possibilities of time travel but it’s the only explanation that makes sense after she feels like she’s been turned inside out and sucked through the ocean. She’s pretty sure Joseph was along with her but now she’s alone on a cold, rocky shoreline until a local couple rescue her. As a lawyer, Anna has been trained to weigh possibilities. Once she’s eliminated most of the ones she’s faced with, the only one that makes sense is that somehow, she’s been flung back 164 years in time.
Joseph finds himself in a strange situation as well. Wisely he keeps his mouth shut as he begins to settle into an existence totally different from his modern life. Anna and Joseph both wonder about the other but it’s Anna who actively seeks her nephew while Joseph revels in a world in which he’s finally on top of the heap. Will they ever find each other and their way back home? Or will discovering why they’ve traveled back in time force them to give up all they’ve found in the past?
After reading the back blurb and the info letter included in the arc, I still wasn’t sure if this was a traditional romance or something different so forgive me if I flipped to the end to see what would be in store for me before committing to read the book. I can stand bittersweet endings but would rather know ahead of time. Whether or not readers will like the ending for “Now and Then” will depend on if they feel that this is a romance that should come complete with a HEA.
I enjoyed discovering the two different strata of society as seen through the experiences of Anna and Joseph. And also watching as both characters were inverted from what they were used to in modern life. Anna’s been a successful lawyer with all the trappings who now finds herself living in an Irish blacksmith’s hovel among smugglers who must finesse their way through the harsh, repressive laws under which they’re forced to live. Joseph has always been on the bottom of the hierarchy in school but suddenly finds himself living the high life under the patronage of an English landowner. It’s a wonderful way to show, as you put it, the “political shennanigans” of the time.
You don’t spend much time explaining how the time travel works. Which is fine with me. I find TT books work better for me if an author just presents it as a fait accompli and then gets on with the story. The historical details are well done without being overdone. Anna and Joseph notice certain things that are especially important to them which adds a nice “fish out of water” feel to the story without bogging the narrative down with too many details.
Thank you for not forcing faux Irish brogue dialogue on me. One character mentions to Anna how Gaelic speech patterns are different from English ones and it appears that this is what you attempted to replicate at times. Though I’ll be honest and say that I wish you had done more with this. Most of the time, the Irish characters speak more like English ones than anything else.
The humor sprinkled throughout the book is delightful. The opening chapters are more wry, black humor whereas the exchanges between Donal and Anna seem a little different in ways I’m finding hard to categorize. For instance when Anna tells Donal that “I’ve never ridden much,” Donal replies, “Both the horse and I have noticed.” And then there’s the tooth extraction scene. If anyone ever told me I’d laugh myself silly to read something like this, I’d have looked at them like they were demented. I also love the list of modern terms that Anna empties herself of like a burst balloon when she reaches the point that she can’t hold them in anymore. Fucking A, Anna.
Warning: Here Be Spoilers
End of spoilers
“Now and Then” is certainly different from what I normally read but different in a good way. The descriptions of nineteenth century Ireland are vivid, the people are believable, and I was totally caught up in their experiences. While I might have wanted a more romantic HEA, it’s not the book you wrote and truthfully such an ending would not have dovetailed with the reality of the upcoming Great Famine. My final grade? B
PS. loved the Irish Wolfhounds!