Book Review: A Twist in Time by Julie McElwain

a-twist-in-time-iiFormer FBI agent Kendra Donovan’s attempts to return to the twenty-first century have failed, leaving her stuck at Aldridge Castle in 1815. And her problems have just begun: in London, the Duke of Aldridge’s nephew Alec—Kendra’s confidante and lover—has come under suspicion for murdering his former mistress, Lady Dover, who was found viciously stabbed with a stiletto, her face carved up in a bizarre and brutal way.

Lady Dover had plenty of secrets, and her past wasn’t quite what she’d made it out to be. Nor is it entirely in the past—which becomes frighteningly clear when a crime lord emerges from London’s seamy underbelly to threaten Alec. Joining forces with Bow Street Runner Sam Kelly, Kendra must navigate the treacherous nineteenth century while she picks through the strands of Lady Dover’s life.

As the noose tightens around Alec’s neck, Kendra will do anything to save him, including following every twist and turn through London’s glittering ballrooms, where deception is the norm—and any attempt to uncover the truth will get someone killed.

My Thoughts:

I am really fascinated in time-travel stories. Alas, often times they do not appeal to me. However, McElwain’s Kendra Donavan’s time travel is convincing and vivid. In A Murder in Time, FBI Agent Kendra has a disastrous raid where many members of her team is murdered and she uncovers a mole in the agency. She flees from the assassin and is pulled back in time…to the early nineteenth century. Then things from there get really interesting….

I was so delighted when the second book, A Twist in Time was available for reviewers to pick up. I was anxiously waiting to read about Kendra and the supporting characters again. What a wonderful cast of mixed characters.  I love the central story-line and how the characters face the challenges together in solving the crime. There are also class distinctions in the story and I found that story-line intertwined intriguingly and blends perfectly with the main plot.

In England during that time there was no real police force in place. Only a loose network of constables, magistrates, sheriffs, bailiffs, bow street runners and watchmen. Then there was the class system-as I mentioned above-that made questioning peers and their servants about on-going investigations and murder difficult. People seemed to be appalled that a peer could commit such a heinous act. That is brilliantly told in this story.

I believe the plot came together nicely and there was strong character development. Which is vital in storytelling. The profanity is lesser in this book than the first and I was appreciative of that fact.

I do recommend reading the first book before diving into this one. I rated this book four stars and I do hope there will be another Kendra Donavon story.

I obtained a review copy from the publishers through NetGalley for an honest review.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

Be sure to read my review of A Murder in Time by Julie McElwain

My interview with the author, Julie McElwain about A Murder in Time

Disclaimer: All book reviews, interviews, guest posts and promotions are originals. In order to use any text or pictures from Layered Pages, please ask for permission from Stephanie. M. Hopkins/Owner of Layered Pages

Cover Crush: Mr Lazarus by Patrice Chaplin

Cover Crush banner

I’ve been on a science fiction kick lately and I love book covers with clocks on them for some reason. Especially old looking clocks. The clock shows a story of time travel, a woman who is obviously part of the story and there is a certain intensity of the cover. Maybe it’s the richness of the colors and the flowing look of the ladies’ hair as she is looking down. Or maybe it is the clock itself that gives off the intensity feel. The title has me intrigued as well. Who is this Mr Lazaus and what is his role in the story? I look forward to finding out!

Mr LazarusMr Lazarus by Patrice Chaplin

London. 1970.

Vicky Graham, an unsuccessful film producer at the BBC, crosses the path of Luciano Raffi, a famous violinist, as he performs at the Proms.

For Vicky he represented something she could not have, but something she longingly craved for. A chance to lift her out of the unloving greyness of everyday life.

Through her job at the BBC, she is able to organise an interview with him, but their meeting triggers a renewed obsession with him.

The reason? Luciano has something in common with Vicky – they both know about the portal.

A secret history, nearly untraced, connects these distant souls.

But will it last?

Raffi is about to disappear from her life…

To get him back, she must travel to where and when she had never expected.

She must uncover the secret history of the portal…

************

Cover Crush is a weekly series that originated with Erin at Flashlight Commentary.

Other great book bloggers who cover crush

Heather @ The Maiden’s Court 

Magdalena @ A Bookaholic Swede 

Holly @ 2 Kids and Tired 

Colleen @ A Literary Vacation -Coming soon

 

Review: Hold My Heart by Esther M. Soto

Hold my heartOn a manhunt for a serial killer, FBI Special Agent Ileana Harper falls through a break in time, ripping her from the present and everything she knows. After forming an uneasy alliance with the man who comes to her rescue, she unearths long-buried family secrets. Spiraling out of control, she clings to memories of Tommy, her partner and best friend of eight years, to keep her sane, fearful she may never see him again.

FBI Special Agent Tommy Colton relies on Ileana to keep him grounded; she’s the closest thing he’s ever had to love in his life. When Ileana disappears, leaving no trace, he falls apart. Without her beside him, Tommy is about to face the biggest challenge of his career, if not his life.

While trying to find a way home, Ileana races to determine the killer’s identity and discovers he might be closer than she realized.

Will she risk everything to catch him, or sacrifice justice to find her way back to Tommy before it’s too late?

My thoughts:

Hold My Heart is the second book I have read this year where a female FBI Agent is pulled through time from the present. These stories really interest me and I liked how this one played out. There was even a bit of humor in the story-line. I have to admit I liked the characters that lived in the past much better than the ones in the present. Though I do like Ileana very much, I wasn’t thrilled about Tommy-at first and I am not sure I have quite warmed up to him yet. To me he came across like an over-protective, jealous and insecure boyfriend. The guy definitely has issues and you will learn more about that in the story. Having said that these two have a connection and it shows throughout the book.

Esther M. Soto does a marvelous job depicting the past and you feel as if you were taken back to the past with Ileana. Truly atmospheric and absorbing. I have to admit, I wanted Ileana to stay in the past. She meets wonderful people and I believe she learns a lot about herself. So many intense parts in this story and it was thrilling to read about Ileana racing to find the identity of the killer.

I would like to caution readers who are sensitive to profanity. There is a lot in the story and the “f” bomb was dropped a lot. I really could have done without that. For me it was too much and it would have been even better if there wasn’t any use of that word in the story.

Having said that, I can’t talk enough about how I can’t wait to read the next book in this series.

I have rated this book four and a half stars.

I obtained a copy of this book through NetGalley for an honest review.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

Review: A Murder in Time by Julie McElwain

A murder in time

Beautiful and brilliant, Kendra Donovan is a rising star at the FBI. Yet her path to professional success hits a speed bump during a disastrous raid where half her team is murdered, a mole in the FBI is uncovered and she herself is severely wounded. As soon as she recovers, she goes rogue and travels to England to assassinate the man responsible for the deaths of her teammates. While fleeing from an unexpected assassin herself, Kendra escapes into a stairwell that promises sanctuary but when she stumbles out again, she is in the same place – Aldrich Castle – but in a different time: 1815, to be exact. Mistaken for a lady’s maid hired to help with weekend guests, Kendra is forced to quickly adapt to the time period until she can figure out how she got there; and, more importantly, how to get back home. However, after the body of a young girl is found on the extensive grounds of the county estate, she starts to feel there’s some purpose to her bizarre circumstances. Stripped of her twenty-first century tools, Kendra must use her wits alone in order to unmask a cunning madman.

My thoughts:

I’d like to start off my mentioning the whole concept of time-travel story. Sometimes it works in stories and sometimes it does not. In this story, it works and the author gives such a brilliant and believable description of Kendra being pulled through time. For me that was pretty intense. I could almost feel the physical pain she was going through.

I really dig the premise of an FBI Agent traveling through time and ending up working a case of a 19th century murder that turns into much more. You also meet some other great characters that race to help her solve the crimes. For starters, Rose, Rebecca, Molly, Alec and Duke Aldridge are about the best written supporting characters I have read in a good while. Most of all I was so fascinated with Kendra’s process in trying to solve these murders and some of the other characters thought process. I believe Kendra really brought that out in them and she really got them to think outside their 19th century minds.

The killings are graphic, there is profanity in this story. Quite a bit of it in the beginning actually. I’m not one for profanity but I understand the scenario the author was portraying. Intense situations cause people to react in all kinds of ways. For many, profanity is one of them. Even though the killings are graphic, this gives you a real sense of what the victims are going through, which makes the story all the more intense. I think that was brilliantly done and gives you a real understanding of that type of evil in the world.

I found this story to be atmospheric, packed with lots of action, high-energy situations and such intense and real emotions. I couldn’t put it down. I loved it and I hope there will be a sequel!  I’ve rated this book four and a half stars.

I received a copy from NetGalley for an honest review.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

 

Interview with Julie McElwain

Julie MelwainI have the great pleasure and honor to introduce Julie McElwain to Layered Pages today, to talk with me about her book A Murder In Time. Julie is an award-winning journalist, who began her career as a business reporter at California Apparel News, a weekly Los Angeles-based fashion trade newspaper. She has freelanced for numerous publications from professional photographer’s magazines to those following the fashion industry. Currently, Julie is an editor for CBS Soaps In Depth, a national soap opera magazine covering the No. 1 daytime drama, The Young and the Restless. Julie lives in Long Beach, CA.

 Julie, please tell your audience about A Murder in time.

A Murder In Time is about FBI agent Kendra Donovan, who goes rogue after her present day mission is botched. In her quest for justice, she infiltrates a costume ball at Aldridge Castle in England. When she encounters an assassin, she escapes through a passageway and encounters a terrifying phenomenon, which transports her back to 1815.

You could say that Kendra’s modern senses clash with Regency England’s sensibilities. She’s initially mistaken for a lady’s maid, but is quickly demoted to a below-stairs maid. When the body of a young girl is found brutally murdered, Kendra realizes that a serial killer is on the loose. Stripped of her twenty-first century tools, Kendra is forced to rely on her wits to unmask the murderer.

What are some of the courage and strengths of Kendra and possibly the isolation she may feel with these attributes?

As the offspring of two scientists who believed in positive eugenics, Kendra didn’t have a normal upbringing. Like an athlete, she spent her life “training” to excel in academics. Her intelligence has always set her apart from her peers, and made her feel isolated. She was only a young teenager when she went to college. Socially, she didn’t fit in with the older college students, which only made her feel more like a freak. When her parents abandoned her after she asserted her independence, Kendra was forced to develop a tough outer shell to survive. She became a loner, dedicated to proving herself in her chosen career, and deeply wary of emotional attachments because of her parents’ abandonment. As tragic as Kendra’s life was, I think it gave her the strength to deal with being transported to 1815, where she’s the ultimate outlier. I think a person with a more normal upbringing would have been driven insane or reduced to a quivering ball of fear!

A murder in time

What is the mood or tone your characters portrays and how does this affect the story?

 There is a great deal of suspicion between Kendra and her nineteenth century counterparts, which adds to the tension. The Duke of Aldridge, Alec, and Sam Kelly are aware that Kendra lied about how she came to England. They have varying degrees of distrust. They also regard Kendra’s manners, speech patterns and behavior as peculiar, to say the least, but they put it down to her being an American. For her part, Kendra has a difficult time trusting them with her big secret, and that has her proceeding cautiously. And she worries about screwing up the space-time continuum, which is something she’s never had to worry about in her previous murder investigations for the FBI! She can’t help but be skeptical over this group’s contribution to the murder investigation. She was always more advanced than her peers, but with these people, she’s centuries more advanced. It’s not that she thinks she’s superior… but she kind of does. It will be a journey for her to reach a different conclusion.

 Who are your five top antagonist? What motivates them?

 Kendra’s father, Carl Donovan, is an early antagonist. He plays a small part in the overall story, but he is crucial in Kendra’s development as a human being. As a scientist, he prizes intellect above all else, and believes that Kendra stubbornly refused to live up to her potential. His black-and-white view always made Kendra feel unworthy, and therefore more determined to prove herself.

I consider Mrs. Danbury — the castle’s housekeeper — a wonderful antagonist. She’s like the Old Guard protecting the status quo. The world of aristocrats, servants, working class, and merchants is what she’s familiar with, and she finds Kendra’s bold behavior — her lack of deference to the hierarchy — to be bewildering and rather threatening.

I really don’t want to give away the murderer’s identity for someone who hasn’t read the book, so I will put the following men in the antagonist category, with Kendra bumping heads with each of them. Alec’s brother, Gabriel, is a self-pitying alcoholic. Mr. Harris is the youngest son of an earl, who was appointed the village vicar, a station that he thinks is beneath him. Mr. Morland lives in a nearby estate and is the local magistrate, whose chauvinistic attitude towards Kendra is typical of the era. Mr. Dalton is a former surgeon, who inherited a nearby estate, and is insulted to be considered a suspect in Kendra’s investigation. Finally, Captain Harcourt is Gabriel’s friend, and is hunting for an heiress to replenish his funds. All of these men are motivated to keep their secrets from coming to light. Of course, no one is more motivated than the murderer!

 What inspired you for your main character to be an FBI agent?

 I really wanted Kendra to be in some type of law enforcement. She needed to have a specialized skill set — the ability to read a crime scene, to understand criminal behavior, and to be able to defend herself. Being an FBI agent was very organic to the story, which involves a serial killer. But it also felt right, given Kendra’s background. Her parents are driven, ambitious scientists who are at the top of their field. While Kendra chose a different path, which led to a chasm between her and her parents, she is as ambitious and determined to prove herself, and wants to be at the top of her field. Being the youngest agent ever accepted by the Bureau certainly put her on that path!

 Why did you choose 1815 for the period Kendra falls back in time too?

 I’ve always found this period in history to be utterly fascinating. It parallels our own era in so many ways. The war with Napoleon had just ended and the Industrial Revolution was just beginning. New machines were taking away jobs, creating a lot of simmering tensions between the haves and have nots. It was a time of contrasts — with great wealth on one side, and terrible poverty on the other; a silliness in its celebrity culture and yet a seriousness in the political upheaval. Of course, I’m also a big Jane Austen fan, and have enjoyed reading romances set during this era… I just wanted to write a mystery that actually had a modern day heroine — sort of Jane Austen meets Criminal Minds.

Does Aldridge Castle really exist?

 No, but I’ve traveled throughout England, Scotland and Ireland, and one of my favorite things to do is tour old castles and great estates. Aldridge Castle is an amalgam of many of the fantastic places that I’ve visited, including Dublin Castle, Kensington Palace and Leeds Castle, just to name a few.

 How much research went into your story?

 I did tons of research! I probably own every reference and history book on the time period. There are many wonderful blogs and websites by romance writers who specialize in the Regency era, which were invaluable. I also have a library of forensics books and police procedurals, and I did a lot delving into the subjects of quantum physics, wormholes, and string theory. This may be a piece of fiction, but it was important to me to be as accurate as possible.

What do you like most about writing a time travel story?

 I really liked the idea of taking a smart, modern person and tossing them back in time. We have a tendency to think that we’re so much more intelligent than our ancestors. But if you take away our modern inventions, just how smart are we? Would we be able to survive? Once my DSL went out, and I was forced to use dial-up to get on the Internet for about a week. That darned near killed me! I loved putting someone as clever as Kendra, as self-sufficient and independent, in a world that was totally alien to her, and watching how she would cope.

The time travel element also allowed me to offer dual viewpoints. Kendra was as much a puzzle and an oddity to her nineteenth century counterparts as they were to her. I liked being able to view the early nineteenth century through modern eyes, while at the same time, look at our own twenty-first century culture through the lens of the nineteenth century. We don’t blink an eye anymore at using profanity in casual conversation, but that would have shocked and appalled most people in 1815.

Time travel is pivotal to the plot, but this is not a science fiction story. Of course, Kendra thinks about the mechanics of time travel — how could she not? — but I’m more interested in the human element, on how we’ve changed as a people… and how we’ve stayed the same.

Will there be a sequel?

 It depends on how well A Murder In Time does, but I’m currently working on a sequel — so cross your fingers!

Who are your influences in writing?

I’m an avid reader, and am inspired by many authors. Some of my favorites are Karen Slaughter, Lisa Gardener, Tami Hoag, Tess Gerritsen, Nora Roberts, Dean Koontz, Lee Child, Ariana Franklin, Amanda Quick… the list goes on. I tend to be pretty eclectic in what I read, but I veer towards mysteries and thrillers. Let’s just say, I get motivated by anyone who can spin a good tale.

Where can readers buy your book?

 Barnes & Noble and independent bookstores, as well as online retailers like Amazon.

Links: 

Author Facebook Page

Pegasus Books

Thank you, Julie!