Friday, December 26, 2008

A Time for Dreams by Jen Holling

Book Description:
A Passion So Intense it frightened her...
intrigued her...
consumed her...
and called to her from another time.

What would possess an intelligent, self-sufficient woman to step into a world of magic and mystery, a dangerous land of intrigue and suspicion, a time far removed from her own?

After years of uncertainty, Audrey Williams could no longer ignore the beckoning from the man in her recurring dream. Brenden Ross, heir to an earldom, is about to embark on an ill-fated crusade to rescue Mary, Queen of Scots, and somehow Audrey must stop him.

Breaking free from the bonds of time, Audrey is plunged into the turbulent world of sixteenth-century Scotland where she will finally meet Brenden face-to-face. But once her eyes meet his, their hearts are bound as one, and their lives--and history--will never be the same.

Having read some of this author's more current romances that were kind of on the light side, I was pleasantly surprised to read this engrossing historical romance set in the 1500's in Scotland and England during the time just before Mary, Queen of Scots is executed. Although, this is technically a romance, I'd consider it heavier on the historical side than romance. Brenden and Audrey's romance is complex and frustrating, although neither of their characters were fully developed, in my opinion. I never felt like we really got to know them well. Brenden came across as distant and aloof, we didn't often get inside his head. Audrey had more substance to her, but I still found her bland. In fact, it seemed more like the side characters were more interesting than our hero and heroine!

Audrey seems to be the only person that can see an old corridor when she is 10 years old on a tour with her parents of an old Scottish castle. She walks down the corridor and meets a young lad of sixteen or so. They talk briefly and then she goes back to the tour which she had left. She realizes that she had somehow traveled back in time 400 years, and the boy she met grows up in her dreams. She sees him as a man and has the same disturbing recurring dreams every night for the next 16 years. Little does she know, but he has been having the same kind of dreams about her as well.

As an adult, she finally decides to return to the castle and see if by returning to that same corridor she can make the dreams stop, since they've been driving her crazy. She is able to go back in time and eventually finds Brenden, the boy she met before who is now a man and involved in a plot to try and save Mary, Queen of Scots from being beheaded. Brenden recognizes her instantly and they have a mutual bond - their dreams. They're also physically attracted to one another, but Audrey is hesitent to act on it for fear she'll become pregnant. But, Brendan takes her away with him to his family estate and she meets his family, numerous half-brothers, brothers, his father, his mother and various bad guys and innocent girls accused of witchcraft. It's a whole circus of characters of whom I found interesting - more interesting than Brendan and Audrey.

Audrey feels she was meant to go back in time to save him from trying to save Mary, yet even though she tells him the truth about herself, he still tries to save the queen and Audrey is forced to be a lady in waiting for her before she is executed. Their rescue attempt is foiled and there is tension and excitement, fleeing to avoid the charges of treason, and all the while Audrey wonders if she should return to her own time or stay. She has some honor bound reasons to stay as well, but she's unsure of herself and her love and commitment to Brenden. She has some baggage from a previous marriage that is dragging her down, and Brenden also feels great guilt about not being able to save the queen or one of his famiy members from dying (I'm trying not to reveal any spoilers here). It's all a mish mash and I found it irritating, but at the same time, I was riveted to this book and kept reading, mostly to find out if Audrey returns to her own time and how it is all revealed and wrapped up at the end.

As much as I enjoyed a lot of this book, I did tire of all the men having a thing for Audrey, which got a little predictable. Brenden's father, the Earl of Irvine, a known womanizer who is in his late 40's and attractive takes an instant liking to Audrey. Brendan's charming half-brother, one of his father's bastards, has a thing for her too and it creates tension between the two brothers. Then, there's a jerky captain of the guard who keeps leering at her and trying to molest her. What is it about Audrey? Must be that 20th century air about her they all find irresistible.

Brendan falls for her immediately, but it's unclear how deep his love is. They have this dream bond between them, but is his love based on that bond or is he genuinely in love with her? Why does he love her so much? We never really know, it's not fully developed, and the same thing with Audrey. Audrey's relationships with his brothers seems to be warmer and closer. Audrey always seems to be mad or annoyed with Brenden, and he keeps doing things that don't help. The sex in this book is nothing steamy or graphic, but the build up and sexual tension is good between them, but once they actually "do it" it was too quick and a let down and I was disappointed with the turn of events that follow it. Still, besides the romance between the two, there is other story about why Brenden feels honor bound to try and save the doomed Scots queen, even though it's seemingly hopeless.

If you like historical romances, that aren't of the really steamy variety, especially during this time period, you'll like this book. I found it nice to read a book like this for a change, it was very different from her MacDonell Brides Trilogy. This had more historical detail, intrigue and suspense to it, with a real plot, even though it ran off on tangents at times, which might have been more acceptable if the book were longer. In any event, I still liked it.


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