REVIEW: If Only in My Dreams by Wendy Markham
Dear Ms. Markham,
I had seen a review of your book at another site which whet my appetite to read it. Imagine my surprise and delight when Jane sent me the copy we received from your publisher. I do wonder why the cover depicts a blue eyed blonde when the heroine is a green eyed brunette.
Actress Clara McCallum is already at work on the set of the movie which could be her break out role when she gets the bad news. And this is really bad news. She has breast cancer. Her grandmother had died of the disease decades ago when cancer was almost an automatic death sentence and Clara knows she has to start her treatment immediately. The good news is that the disease is still contained and with surgery and chemotherapy, her chances are good. Now she just has to break the news to her director and friends in the cast and crew of the film, something which won’t be easy. This film is the baby of the director and tells the story of the 11 men lost from his hometown during the D-Day invasion. Clara has a major role as the love interest of Jed Landry, all American boy and one of those doomed to die that day 62 years ago.
Clara’s next day on set involves blocking out the scene where she arrives in Jed’s hometown of Glenhaven Park, NY. As the period train chugs down the tracks towards the redecorated little town, Clara thinks to herself how wonderful it would be if this were real, if she was about to meet the man of her dreams, if she were healthy. When the train stops and she steps down on the station platform, she thinks how real it all looks. As she wanders down the street she begins to wonder where all the film crew members are. When she steps into the five and dime store recreated to look like it did when the Landry family owned it, she gets the shock of her life when she comes face to face with a man who looks like Jed. Not her costar actor Jed but the real Jed.
Jed had also been hoping for a change in his life. He never intended to get stuck here when his father died two years ago and Jed dropped out of Harvard Law School to come home and run the family business. Well, pretty soon his younger brother will finish college and take over freeing Jed to join the army, see a little of the world before he decides what to do with his life. And with the war getting worse in Europe, Jed can’t help but think that he might end up being sent there if America enters the war, something that gets more likely by the week. But for now during the early Christmas buying season of 1941, he’s stuck dusting shelves, stocking merchandise and wishing there were a special girl in his life.
Clara fights to hold in the panic she feels as she begins to try and figure out what’s happening. Is she really in Glenhaven Park in 1941? Is Jed Landry really is offering her a seat at the soda fountain and looking at her in confusion as she tries to deal with the reality of the situation? And if she’s really here, how can she get back to her own world and the treatment she needs? When she hears the whistle for the next train headed back to the City, Clara bolts for it leaving Jed to try to figure out who she is and how he can get back in touch with her. After she gets back to her apartment in Greenwich Village, Clara has to determine what really occurred that day. Did she go back in time? Could she go back again and change history? Should she try? And if she does, will her attempts to save Jed work? Or can the past never be changed?
I am interested in why you chose to use third person present tense in the book. It kind of reminded me of stage directions which would tie in with Clara’s career as an actress. Or am I totally wrong in this and there’s another reason? Because it’s a TT? I like how we get real feel for architecture of the buildings of NYC and Glenhaven without it being an info dump. You also give the reader a great period feel for both eras as well. I liked the insider feel to the movie set. I’m not sure how real is this but it felt right. And thank you for attempting to make the time travel aspect make sense by basing it in scientific fact.
The book was very emotionally intense. I think the back blurb of the book might do it a disservice and make people think it’s more fluff than it is. You lighten the mood with dry humor but certain scenes had me crying at points. I like that you didn’t pull punches when setting up the plot. There are real consequences for Clara and Jed in either time. Could Clara have had treatment then gone back? Would Jed have then had a reason to try to stay out of the draft? I guess there’s no real way to know as you’ve written Jed as honorable guy who will join up because it’s the right thing for a patriotic man of his era to do.
I liked the clever way you tie the different time periods together. And I loved the scene with Jed’s now grown up sister visiting Clara. I mentioned tearing up while reading some scenes and this was one of them. Now as to the ending. Some people are going to view it as romantic and others won’t. It works for me but time travel books are tricky.