Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Gift of Time

Robin Alexander
Intaglio Publications
9781933113821, $16.95

For practical, grounded, thirty-something CPA Leah Marks, time is about to become far more complicated than she ever imagined possible. A chance stop into a local antique shop introduces her to Reagan Montgomery, a woman that Leah feels very attracted to and results in her acquiring an unusual, lovely, antique snow globe. The globe is one of a pair created by a local craftsman nearly 100 years ago. No ordinary globe, it would seem, as Leah discovers that its image changes while she watches it. A tiny woman who looks very much like Reagan appears from within the elegantly wrought Victorian house in the globe. Investigation of the artifact reveals they once belonged to two women who bear a striking resemblance to Leah and Reagan.

The story takes a remarkable and fanciful turn when Leah is propelled back in time to 1907 via the globe. In 1907 Leah becomes Leanne, a young woman who is in love with Elizabeth, who looks like a younger Reagan. Returning to 2004, Leah finds herself compelled to discover all that she can about the women, who for some magical and unknown reason, appear to be herself and Reagan in another lifetime. Leah decides the only way to understand the full story is to return to 1907. When Reagan joins Leah in the past, the women find they have set in motion a complex set of events. When Elizabeth's mother discovers the young lovers in a compromising position, they both experience the horrifically violent attitude toward lesbianism at the time. The situation looks dire. Still, Leah's humor is engaging, as she recalls, "I had been clawed, dragged, slapped and choked in less than twenty-four hours. This was the most action I'd seen since I tried to put the neighbor's cat in a grocery sack as a child" (110).

Gift of Time evolves from a "simple" time-traveling romance to a complicated, layered tale with several plot twists. The women struggle to minimize the impact of their actions on the future--and still win a life together in the 21st century. As Leah observes of the early timeline, "There was no central heat, the cold chilled me to the bone, no Internet, and heaven help me, no Mountain Dew, the main staple of my diet" (110).

Alexander has given readers a charming romance with some fast-paced action. Leah's internal voice is often funny and self-effacing; the romantic interludes are sweet and sexy. The first portion of the story was not quite as engaging to this reader, however, perhaps because some of the characterization seemed unsettled and forced. Within a few chapters the characterization improves as the action picks up and the surprises unfold. The result was engrossing and enjoyable. Alexander makes observations about racism and human relationships in the South, then and now, which are thoughtful, hopeful, and earnest. The settings of historic and pre-Katrina Gulfport are carefully realized. Give yourself a Gift of Time and enjoy every minute.

-MJ Lowe