A Time For Dreams
by Jen Holling, contemporary (1999)
Harper, $5.99, ISBN 0-06-101407-9


Is this really the author's first book? Really? Wow! I'm impressed, really. This book is a splendid mix of political intrigue and time travel; and I had a wonderful time reading it.

Audrey Williams first met Brendan Ross in 1980, when she stumbled back into time via a time hole in a corridor in Drochaid Castle. Only thing is, Brendan's a 16th century Scotsman. Their meeting causes them to share disturbing dreams for the rest of their lives until they meet again in the future.

Audrey, whose husband committed suicide and she is now feeling as if she has nothing more to live for, returns to the castle and steps into Brendan's time, hoping to seek the answer as to why she is having those dreams about Brendan and Mary, Queen of Scots. Little does she know that she will be unwittingly swept up in the political climate, and soon plays a key role in Queen Mary's final days before the latter's execution.

Ausrey and Brendan are wonderfully complex characters with realistic flaws and imperfections. Brendan is a man committed to honoring a promise to Lord Bothwell, Queen Mary's husband, to a zealous extent that costs him everything from his family and - almost - Audrey. And Audrey, cold, emotionally barren, eventually blossoms in her love for Brendan. She is a wonderfully clear-headed heroine who refuses to be put through any possible Big Misunderstanding and convoluted problems that Brendan's thickheaded self might bring upon her. This is a woman who knows when to put her foot down on her man's self-pitying nonsense.

Brendan's stubbornness is justified, however, by the author's moving and superb account of his incarceration in the royal dungeons, where his only link to sanity is Bothwell, his cell mate. Their shared reminiscences, a mean to keep sane and loneliness away in the darkness of their cells, are touchingly poignant that has me choking back tears. Brendan's sometimes overzealous commitment to his promise to Bothwell seems right, even if he's wrong-headed in going about to doing it.

Then there is Queen Mary, gloriously strong and dignified Mary who accepts her fate with resignation and resoluteness that clearly shows what true royalty she is. She is a compelling character whose calm acceptance of her last few hours is really heartwrenching, more effective than any show of tears.

For a first book, this is really wonderful indeed. I can't wait for more. Someone chain that author to her writing desk and make her write faster!

Rating: 86


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