Every once in a while I'm in the mood for a story that has a touch of magic but isn't quite a paranormal. For example a ghost story or, like this time, a time travel adventure. J.L. Merrow's Trick of Time is a historical time travel story, in which the main character, Ted, travels back to the 19th century. At first there's no explanation how this is possible, Ted just steps out of the back door of the theater and is suddenly in Victorian London. But slowly Ted starts to figure out the right conditions for the door to the past to open, sort of by trial and error and with the help of a little bit of research and common sense.J.L. MerrowTrick of TimeCarina Press, January 28, 2013 | 27,000 words
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A lover from another time
When Ted Ennis steps out the doors of the Criterion Theatre for a cigarette and finds himself in Victorian London, he begins to doubt his sanity. At first he thinks it's all a film set, and is sure that the strikingly handsome young man leaning against a lamppost must be the leading man…
What starts as a sordid transaction with a beautiful rent boy quickly turns into something much deeper, drawing him back again and again as he gets to know Jem and craves meaningful encounters with him.
But Ted doesn't understand the exact conditions necessary for his trips through time—and for Jem, time may actually be running out. Now Ted has one last shot to get back to Jem and save their relationship, before it's too late…
Genre & Keywords: M/M Romance, Historical, Time Travel, 1886, Theater, London, Grief, Rent boy, Poverty
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Heat level: 1.5 out of 3 flames
I liked how Merrow handled the time travel topic. There's a plausible explanation that is not too simple and has more than one or two twists and turns to it. Merrow has woven some suspense into it that made me curious and invested enough to go with the magic. Of course it asks for some serious suspension of disbelief but that comes with the genre. Within the setting, the time traveling is believable and the build-up is done very well.
Besides the entertaining time travel arc this story has an engaging romantic plot line. When Ted steps out of the door into the streets of 1886 for the first time he sees a young man leaning against a lamppost. His name is Jem and Ted soon finds out that Jem is a prostitute, after he's let Jem coax him to a dark alley where he receives a blowjob. Realizing he doesn't have money to pay the boy, since he's from another era, he promises to come back the next night. Ted hasn't been interested in any man since ages. He's been recuperating from a car accident and mourning the loss of his husband and parents who didn't survive that accident, for the last one and a half year. He's surprised that he can't stop thinking about Jem, even though he realizes that the guy might be a figment of his imagination, due to his previous head injuries. At the same time he feels guilty towards his deceased husband.
So, Ted not only has to deal with solving the puzzle of the time travel mystery, but he also has to address his feelings for Jem, while taking those concerning his husband into account as well. This makes for an engrossing combination of action and romance.
This is all written in a pleasant and lucid style. Merrow evokes with few words a vivid picture of the world she's describing. I liked being taken to the world of theater productions as much as to that of the streets of London. And the view on historical London society was very interesting, especially from the perspective of a contemporary character. I would've loved seeing her describing more of modern day London from Jem's 19th century perspective. Since she choose to write this novella solely from Ted's POV (and also because the MCs are the main part of the story together in Jem's century and not in Ted's) we only get a few secondhand glimpses of Jem's view on modern life.
I enjoyed this novella a lot but I felt that Ted and Jem's romantic feelings were a little bit underdeveloped and maybe even snowed under by the time travel plot line. They fell in love rather fast, and especially taking such a big step as they did to be together felt rushed, given where they were in their relationship. I can't shake the impression that 'the big step' was fueled more by external circumstances than by their feelings for each other. The epilogue did help me feel more convinced that their happy ending is going to last, but maybe a sequel will be more helpful. ;) It would also bring an opportunity to learn more about Jem and his perspective on things. Basically, I like to see more of these guys.
Overall, Trick of Time is an engrossing, well-written and heart-warming novella that combines romance and time traveling in a compelling way. It’s a memorable read that I can recommend, especially if you like plausible and interesting time travel stories.