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Etta, on the night of her debut as a violinist, discovers she can time travel. Sheltered and lonely after a youth spent in long hours of practice she is determined to get back to the one person who loves her, Rose, her elderly violin coach. Instead she’s forced to follow a trail laid down by her cold and distant mother. After she meets Nicholas on board a pirate ship in 1776, they head out to find a mysterious artifact connected to her family.
I did not expect to like this, nor did I expect to give it 5 stars! First off there is a long setup where not much happens except a lot of talking heads. It’s not that it was overt telling the whole time, its just that it didn’t take many events to setup the beginning. Once we pass 50% the story events really pick up and the real story gets on its way. It’s not that I hated the first half of the book, just that dialogue was the supreme way the world building happened.
This was helped by the duel POVs. We switch between Etta and Nicholas, one born in the 20th century and the other in the 18th century. I really loved how they embodied their POVs. Nicholas is used to prejudice and laws keeping him from reaching his full potential as an African American sailor. He knows there are limits to getting what he wants and that there are consequences for even trying to do so. Etta has pursued what she wants her entire life and is on the cusp of her future – to become a professional violinist. I thought her reactions to Nicholas’ treatment were quite spot on without becoming trite or commonplace. She sees a handsome 20 year old man and he sees an off limits temptation in the form of a 17 year old white girl. They do dwell on each other and their potential future a tad too much for me. They go into it over and over again and always determine that there is no future. Yet they are time travelers that can come and go as they please…
Past that I really liked that they both thought for themselves! This is really very rare for most characters react to what is happening to them. I liked that Nicholas was able to reason things out for himself as the what Etta was thinking and it went a long way when he reasoned out what he thought he should do and while I didn’t agree it felt organic to the character! There relationship was really well balanced, perhaps too well balanced for their college aged selves, but since this was overtly a romance I think it works well. For example, I love how she was the strong in pushing them to get to the station but then she cracks due to the fear and he gets to be the strong one in the tunnel. This is how relationships really are!**
Once they started traveling I really liked all the places they went and the problems they ran into. The descriptions were very well done — not so intrusive that I was left thinking about what she was describing but enough to get a feel for the locations and a sense that I was there with them! (The best kind of description to me!)
The world building was rough to me because it was all setup by dialogue and only shown later in the second half of the book. I do like that everything was kept simple and explained in the moment it came up, it interrupted the story less that way and while not the best way to build a world did do its job satisfactorily. The mystery of the clues and getting the astrolabe was much better done. I absolutely loved the clues, particularly the London clue and how they logic-ed it out then her memory brought to mind the real answer! So believable and well done!! The time traveling was also well thought out with the not crossing paths with yourself and having limited passages. Also the villain was quite well setup even if overtly evil and I really appreciated his motivation. I can see where this could go to tie up the loose ends with Nicholas’ past and how Etta could effect that. I also like the secondary couple that played a big role in this book, I hope they get better development in the next!!
The twists and turns are just enough that even if you saw one coming the next surprises you! I really enjoyed the different storylines with her mother and Rose, the Thorns, Sophia and the old man as well as Nicholas’ past with Hall and Julian.
4.5 stars rounded up because despite the flaws I was really taken with the story!
BOTTOM LINE: A racially diverse romance with a bit of time travel!
**Note: There is sex but it was more tasteful than some and considering they aren’t 16 and 17 I thought worked a lot better here than in other stories.
Thanks to NetGalley and Disney-Hyperion for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.