Her life and family exist in the future, his in the past. When they find each other across time, how will they manage to hold onto each other forever?
What’s it About?
Stephen Sadler reluctantly attends the Seattle wedding of Robert Chamberlain to Ellie Standish, the woman who had captured his interest. There he says goodbye to the woman he thought he had fallen for. Only a few weeks later while traveling on a train, Stephen is confronted by the vision of a strange wild-haired woman in a pair of snug-fitting trousers called “jeans” who claims she doesn’t know where she is or how she came to be on his train – until she sees the date on the newspaper, that is.
Dani Douglas cannot travel through time! Her mother in Montana is ill, and she has to get back to her. But the crystal clear blue eyes of handsome Stephen Sadler hold her captive in 1901, and she doesn’t know how to leave him – perhaps forever.
Stephen realizes that Dani and Ellie have much in common, but where Ellie simply captured his interest, Dani has captured his imagination and his heart. Unlike Ellie though, Dani cannot stay. Her mother is ill. Stephen doesn’t know how he can let her leave him – haps forever. As the train hurtles back and forth across the rails, Stephen and Dani struggle to find a way to be together forever across time.
Last week I completed a round trip train ride from Washington, DC to New Haven, CT and back again for business, all in the same day. After 10+ hours of a physically uncomfortable journey, it only seemed appropriate that my next romance novel of choice should feature time travel via train. As the second novel in the Train Through Time series, it was understandably difficult to refrain from comparing this sequel to the premier novel, especially considering the lead couple from that book makes a reappearance or two in this installment. That being said, the thing I appreciated most about this book was that, on the whole, the story and romance between Dani and Stephen remained distinctively unique from that which we saw previously between Ellie and Robert. That’s not to say all characteristics presented here were a homerun, and we’ll explore a few of those issues in a bit, but it was nice to feel as though we weren’t just reading the same romance play out on repeat.
The Key to Time
While the time travel logistics were left somewhat inconclusive by the conclusion of the first book, they are cemented a bit more firmly in this installment as Dani makes not just one, but multiple trips back and forth from the present day to the turn-of-the-century. This was something we never even knew was possible based on Ellie’s journey through time in book one, so it was shocking to see it realized here. There are a few key elements which have now been confirmed: 1) time travel takes place on the train, 2) the location remains the same just outside of Wenatchee, WA, 3) our heroine must be sleeping and 4) traveling east to west takes you back while west to east sends you forward. Even more surprising after my recently tiresome train trip was the unfathomable consideration of how many extensive trips these characters were willing to undergo via train in a mere matter of days so we could come to these realizations. But alas, to each his/her own.
The second aspect of this novel which I adored was that Dani not only makes more than one trip through time, but she even succeeds in doing so with someone else in tow. At this point in the series we’re used to having a modern-day heroine traveling back in time, but it was an absolute delight to see our turn-of-the-century gentleman, Stephen, transported to the future alongside the woman who has come to mean the world to him in such a short period of time. Stephen and Dani both realize they want to spend the rest of their lives together at roughly the same time they realize the impossibility of such a thought. Even though they have succeeded in traveling through time together at one point, Stephen cannot remain in the future, just as Dani cannot live in the past. Her mother is about to undergo surgery for breast cancer, while Stephen’s beloved sister often falls ill from chronic bronchitis. Why must fate be so cruel in bringing them together only to succinctly tear them apart? How can they find their happily ever after when they are separated by not only distance, but time?
Lack of Character…Development
And now for a few of those pesky issues which made it a slightly less enjoyable read than book one. On the whole, it’s fine. It really does keep you guessing until the very end how these two will manage to overcome such unimaginable obstacles to find their way back to one another. Stephen and Dani are perfectly pleasant as leading characters, but unfortunately we don’t really get to know them as intimately as we did the couple from the first book. By the end of the novel I could barely remember what either one did for a living, and we almost know them more in their relationships with other people rather than as individual characters. They are both driven by a love for family, and it’s actually a love which could potentially threaten the growing love they feel for each other. Besides that, I couldn’t really tell you much about the personality or idiosyncrasies of either character. Likes, dislikes, what makes them tick, there just simply isn’t much there. I think the author was more focused on getting as many train trips as possible out of this read to nail down some of those time travel details.
And now for my biggest complaint with this book: our lead characters declare their love for each other after literally one day of knowing each other. Now, don’t get me wrong! While I’m not always a fan of love at first sight romances, I can still understand and appreciate them within the realm of Romancelandia. The issue here is that it didn’t even really make sense within that space. At first sight, Dani was understandably more concerned about the fact that she had somehow been transported to over 100 years in the past, though I’ll admit her reaction was less believable than the one we saw play out for Ellie in book one. Ellie was convinced she was dreaming for a large part her novel, whereas Dani comes to realize and essentially accept the fact fairly quickly and without as much concern as you’d expect. Stephen is a bit more intrigued upon first meeting Dani, especially considering she’s a woman traveling alone, wearing trousers, and babbling on about being from another time. You miiiiight be able to say he was smitten, but even that is kind of a stretch. We really weren’t given any clues or indications to expect that either character was on board for an “I love you” declaration.
Their primary concerns during that first day involved getting Dani some appropriate clothing, introducing her to the lovely Ellie who might know more about what’s going on, and figuring out how to get Dani back to her ill mother. Dani is seemingly grateful to Stephen for his help during this confusing time, but the leap from gratitude to love was quite extreme. Seeing Dani declare her love for him after less than 24 hours of being in his company, I couldn’t help but exclaim aloud, “Wait, what?!”, thinking that surely I must have skipped a few chapters of storyline. It was that jarring of a pronouncement. It’s a bit confusing why the author felt the need for these characters to vocalize their love so early on in the story. It seems to have been used as an impetus for explaining why Stephen would have been willing to travel forward in time with Dani, and why their eventual separation through time would have been so heartbreaking. However, Stephen had plenty of reason to jump on that train with Dani, which was the promise of advanced medicines in the future which could help his sickly sister. The story arch would have been more fluid if Dani and Stephen’s relationship blossomed into something romantic after spending more time together in the future, rather than trying to rush it forward in the past.
Series: Train Through Time, book 2. Technically I think you would be fine reading this second book in the series without having read the first, but considering the repeated appearances of several characters from the first book it probably wouldn’t hurt to read in order.
Final Impressions: If I had access to this book while on my lengthy business train ride, I would have had no problem finishing it in one sitting. It’s a quick read, but almost too quick if you ask me. We had plenty of time (possibly too much) to focus on Dani figuring out the dynamics of time travel to the past and back to the present, but that left us with almost zero time to get to know Dani and Stephen individually or even as a couple. I will admit the scenes of their farewells were heartbreaking, where you truly believed that these two had fallen head over heels in love with one another, but it was the journey towards that love where I felt pertinent details were unharmoniously left out. I did appreciate how we were left in a near constant state of wonder at how these two would manage to work things out in terms of when they would end up in time, but there was also a rush to bring things to a conclusion in the end. I would have happily stuck around for another 50-100 pages if it meant we could have ironed out some of the kinks in this read.
Smut Level: Similar to book one, there are just a few loving kisses sprinkled here and there.
Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Self-Published. 158 Pages.