You all know I have a hefty appetite for books…I read somewhere that reading helps writers, so instead of giving up my favorite hobby while pursuing my publishing goals, I’ve pretty much just increased it. And while I mentioned in my last book post that I wasn’t going to be doing formal book reviews anymore, I couldn’t resist one last one, courtesy of Dutton*. A publicist contacted me directly (after seeing I had read The Time Traveler’s Wife and A Discovery of Witches) and asked if I would be interested in reading the release of first time author Bee Ridgeway. I seldom reject the opportunity to read, so I heartily agreed. Not long after our return trip to Alaska , I received my copy of The River of No Return to read at my leisure. At first the hardback looked terribly daunting, a whopping 452 pages of historical fiction and time travel. But nevertheless I was intrigued and dove into The River headfirst.
The story begins in both 1815 and 2013 with Julia Percy, at her grandfather’s deathbed before her toadish cousin officially takes the title of earl, and Nicolas Davenant, trashing illegally produced cheeses at his farm in Vermont before the arrival of a new inspector. They seem two worlds apart, yet Nicolas is from Julia’s time, transported to the future at his almost time of death in 1813. At the mercy of his enemy’s weapon, Nicolas’ instinct to flee sent him whizzing up the river of time, stopping in twenty-first century London with the Spanish battlefield fading from his memory. When he comes to, an establishment called The Guild greets him and educates him on his talent, and informs him he must reject his past and learn the ways of modern man in a new American life. Although he yearns to go back to his family’s estate where he ruled as marquess, he is told there is no return to that life. Reluctantly he obeys The Guild, believing their rules, yet holding onto the memory of a pair of brown eyes that saved him through many battles and trials. He gets along just fine and believes what he has been told, until someone of great importance tells him otherwise.
After over ten years of managing in the millennium, Nicolas is ripped yet again from his comfortably ignorant life upon meeting the Alderwoman, who has cast him into a role for The Guild that he does not fully comprehend. What is extremely clear however, is that playing along allows Nicolas the chance to return to his real-time in nineteenth century and his homeland of England. After reluctantly agreeing and the help of a time-traveling Russian, he is transported to his estate two years after mysteriously vanishing from the battlefield…to a time when England is barely sustaining its entire social order and snubbing the livelihoods of the lower class. Upon his return, Nicolas finds he is rusty on the ways of the nineteenth century, but he knows he would rather see out the rest of his life in that time, the time he was born in, however comfortable he finds the twenty-first fashions to be. But the Russian and The Guild had other plans.
While filling his role as the marquess returned from the dead, Nicolas finds the pair of brown eyes he has clung to his entire adult life in Julia Percy. But Julia has enough to deal with in the way of her loathsome cousin and her newly discovered power to alter time. Meeting Nicolas in the woods where they had met as children only further complicates her life, yet she has no choice but to fall helpless to his touch. Together, Nicolas and Julia break the rules of not only The Guild, but also society, secretly linked by a power neither one knows the other has. When their journey takes them to London for work and play, both Nicolas and Julia learn more about their talents, the lies of The Guild, and a rising alternate power called the Ofan. Will Nicolas stay faithful to The Guild when he learns about the Ofan? Will Julia ever harness her power, the power her grandfather refused to educate her on? And if Nicolas can travel back to his former life, does he have the ability to change history itself?
I found myself oddly captivated by the novel, going above and beyond just reading by googling references I did not fully understand. I continually grabbed for this book, eager to keep reading no matter the day or hour. Although the end left me a little disenchanted with ends only loosely tied up, I finished the book questioning various subtleties and sure that it hinted at a possible sequel. Who knows. What I do know is The River of No Return was an interesting mix of romance, history and science fiction– it did not disappoint. I do wish she would have taken a few more pages to flesh the climax, but no matter. Original and enjoyable, Ridgeway tested the confides of time and had me rooting for her love story the whole way through. If you like realistic yet fantastical plots, empowered lovers, and coolly placed cultural references, read Bee Ridgeway’s The River of No Return.
* The River of No Return was gifted to me by Dutton, of The Penguin Group. All thoughts are my own.