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REVIEW: Sundial by Carrie Lofty

Dear Ms. Lofty,

Wow, what a great way to start off my new year’s reading. Yes, I actually finished this novella in early sundial_w1663_300.jpgJanuary but took my sweet time actually writing a letter about it. Real life is a beotch, doncha know?

I want to congratulate you on a wonderful, inventive plot. It’s one I’ve never seen the equal of in TT stories though I did end up with a few questions about it. Your spare economy with words does a great job of painting a picture of not only the location of the story but also of the characters and their thoughts and reactions.

A bullet would’ve been kinder. Right between her haughty eyebrows.

She edged away, slender hands raised in self-defense. Flecks of gravel dented her palms. Lips scrubbed clean of color formed a hollow circle around the shock, while her baby blue eyes stretched wide.

Mark acknowledged those painful little details, a mirror to his past, but his brain clenched around one thought: I can’t do this again.

Anger pumped in his blood, the best drug. Cheap and easy.

“You people wear me out," he said. "It’s 1958. Deal with it.”

“You’re insane.”

“Go ahead." He tossed his chin back up to Piazza Tasso. "Ask them, since you seem to know the language. Ask them what year it is and see who’s crazy.”

She shook her head. "A bad dream.”

Throaty. Not quite British. A morning voice, warm like her coloring-‘all sticky caramels.

“No way," he said, fighting a flash of lust. "Dreams aren’t this lucid.”

“Was I kidnapped?”

“Sure. Why not?" He shrugged, took a drag. "Or maybe you’re having a bad trip. Maybe "just say no’ doesn’t do it for you.”

“This isn’t happening.”

“Use your eyes, goddamn it!" He smacked the metal rail, suffering her wounded flinch more deeply than the sting in his palm. "You don’t look like a ditz, so don’t act like one.”

Mumbling a numb mantra, she rocked like the boats moored far below in Marina Piccola. Those wide baby blues circled in search of help. Or maybe proof.

“Screw this." Mark stood and shook sensation into his legs. He stalked up the footpath, safe in the knowledge that he’d tried. The last thing he needed was another stupid protégé, one to pester him, blame him-‘abandon him. Better to make a clean break, or do them both the favor of that bullet.

But now he knew her name. He’d been an idiot to ask. Amber. Cool and warm together, like her. And she was from his future. Finally.

He turned back with a curse, using his anger to strangle a quiet voice of hope.

Fishing a card and a wad of lira from his shirt pocket, Mark forced her icy hands to take the offerings. "Come find me when you’re ready.”

Mark comes off as a putz at first but then we see why and it all makes sense – his loneliness and despair at ever getting home, his youth when he time traveled, his sexual inexperience and frustration though he has a good reason for it which actually shows that he was raised right, the hard edge from having to suddenly “grow up” and provide for himself while dealing with frightening situation he was in. I will admit to being squeemish about how Mark goes about supporting himself and wondered where he got his hands on what he sold.

Amber’s slightly older age shows in how quickly she accepts what’s happened to her and begins to make a life for herself in Italy. At first I wondered why you had made her older than Mark but after thinking a little, it all made sense. Amber’s vocabulary and phrases work well to make her sound ‘English’ to this American reader. I also liked that these two, though initially attracted to each other, hold off on any sexual relationship until their feelings have grown beyond the merely physical.

During the first part of the story, you didn’t really go too much into TT mechanics and it didn’t bother me until now when I’m thinking back and want to know why was Sorrento the “center” of the time traveling? Why did people go to there and not from there to other places? Since Amber did travel through stone in Istanbul it seems that it could be done. What was involved in being able to travel? Why were those certain people able to and not everyone?

I enjoyed watching you link everything together and can see that you put a lot of time into it. It was nice to remember and pick up on things such as the tie in with the bracelet. There were also certain mind twisting aspects — for instance when Amber asks how old the hotel is and Mark says the correct question is when was it built and do the math based on your time in history. I thoroughly enjoyed “Sundial” and am looking forward to your upcoming release. B+


available as an ebook

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.


  1. bettie
    Mar 15, 2008 @ 15:06:35

    Reading this review reminded me how much I liked this novella. I think I’ll open it up and read it again :) I liked the mystery of the time travel mechanics. (But, also, I’m one of those people who likes horror movies where you don’t see the monster or get a reason for it. Explanations make things small.) The thing that blew me away about this story was how “full” it was. Sundial is a novella that reads like a novel–a damn good novel. This is one of the novellas I would recommend to people who are iffy about shorter formats, who doubt novellas can be as rich and complete as novels. It proves my point, but it sets the bar pretty high for novellas you read after.

  2. Jayne
    Mar 16, 2008 @ 07:22:34

    Bettie, I love a well done novella and as evidenced by my grade for “Sundial” this one is worth checking out.

  3. Robin Bayne
    Mar 16, 2008 @ 13:33:30

    Sounds good!!!

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