The River of No Return / Bee Ridgway
London: Penguin, 2013.
Another light summer read, this was a strange mix of modern conspiracy novel and Regency romance, thanks to the central element: it's a novel of time travel.
Nick Davenant lives a comfortable life, wealthy, single, a bit of a rake even if he does live in rural Vermont. But there is much more to him than this casual landowner lifestyle. He was actually born 200 years ago, as the Marquess Nicholas Falcott, and jumped forward in time during a moment of crisis in the Peninsular Wars.
After his shocking time jump, he had been taken in by The Guild, a secret society that exists across time, for the purpose of finding and gathering in these kind of random time travellers. They have many rules and ways in which to manage the various situations that arise from such unusual circumstances, and one of the primary ones is "There is only going forward. No-one ever goes back... it is impossible."
But the Guild is in trouble and so brings Nick into their inner circle, where they reveal a deeply held secret: there is indeed going back, for a few. The Guild needs him now, to go back to his former life as a rich, powerful Marquess in 1815 England, and find something known only as The Talisman. There is a competing time travelling fellowship known as Ofans, opposed to the way The Guild handles all this time jumping, and they are also in desperate search for the Talisman.
Unknown to both The Guild and the Ofan, but quite early on known to the reader, the Talisman doesn't necessarily want to be found. And it is something quite different from what any of them think they are looking for.
There is a wide cast of characters, lots of suspense, intrigue and deception among the powerful time travel cabals, and of course, a love story. Nicholas re-encounters his neighbour Clare who is in need of rescuing and immediately falls for her. Of course, since this is a modern and adventurous novel, she has none of the historically appropriate reservations about engaging in an intensely physical affair...
I found the combination of so many genre expectations a little bit discombobulating, but this was a quick and entertaining tale nevertheless. There is certainly room for a sequel, with all of the storylines and characters and intrigue that Ridgway has created -- there is definitely space left open for more to come, even though the story was complete, with nothing left unresolved enough to bother a reader. If you like time travel novels or even just Regencies you will probably find this one satisfying summer reading.