Through the Water Darkly by Victoria L Short
Time is a slippery concept in this well written novel about a young woman caught up in a historical crisis while falling deeply in love. Caroline is a gardener in the twenty-first century, with a deep appreciation and knowledge of plants and their uses. One day she happens to meet a local landowner, and they seem to recognise each other. When she has an accident, everything changes, and nothing will ever be the same.
Caroline’s discovery that she has woken up in the seventeenth century is well handled, as she simultaneously begins to “remember” her life there, as well as retaining a sense of who she is in that other time. Not that she has slipped into a mundane time in the seventeenth century; the first English Civil War has just ended, and not only King Charles I is on the run, but also his son, the Prince of Wales. When she is suddenly able to assert that she is Lady Carolina Sackville, daughter of a Royalist Duke, a mixture of modern day confidence and realisation that she must thoroughly assume her new identity to survive is the key to living this new life. When she meets a certain man she realises that her historical knowledge will carry a huge weight of responsibility for creating the possibilities of pushing against history.
This is a novel which is written with a skill for handling huge topics in a very personal way. The author has obviously done her research into the general history of the time, but deploys it in a light handed way. She conveys so much in the small details of life at the time for a woman of high social standing but fighting against the ingrained assumption that she should stick to her home and family rather than expressing an opinion. Short is extremely good at depicting Caroline’s instinctive reaction to a situation, especially when her knowledge of plants to help in medical emergencies is put to good use. She is extremely good at conveying someone’s character in a few words, such as the generous Beth and the men who come to see as friends and supporters. There is some violence, often as Caroline is forced to defend herself using some very modern skills, and the brutality of a civil war when it is difficult to tell friend from potential foe. It is also a romance, with detailed encounters that show a depth of genuine attraction and a real relationship with all its ups and downs.
The whole problem of time travel when there is a risk of altering the course of history is deftly handled in this novel, with it being an involuntary relocation in another time zone, one that the main character has to handle as she goes along. I enjoyed the humorous touches as Caroline gasps phrases that are normal in the twenty-first century, but are looked on in a completely different way in a time of cavaliers and roundheads.
This is quite an immersive reading experience which I found compelling, and it is obvious that the author enjoyed writing it. I really enjoyed the clever handling of characters in the book, as well as the unusual romance. I was very pleased to have had the opportunity to read and review this unusual book, and look forward to reading more from this talented writer.