Sunday, January 17, 2010

In Which Trai Reviews 'If Only in My Dreams'

The Book: If Only in My Dreams

The Author: Wendy Markham

How I Found It: I asked on a forum for recommendations of romances that take place in the forties. This was one of the books recommended to me, in addition to a couple more. So if a bunch of books I review in the next couple weeks turn out to be war stories, that's why!

The Review: I was actually really impressed by this book. I didn't cry like many reviews warned could happen, but I was touched by the story and it was a little heartwarming to see a perfect happy ending.

(One complaint, though-- the woman on the cover art looks a little old for 29. It bothered me. The cover art for the sequel looks like this has been fixed.)

Clara McCallum has just received the shock of her life-- at 29 years old, she has been diagnosed with breast cancer, and it is malignant. This isn't the greatest timing in the world, either, as Clara's big break is coming in the form of her newest acing role-- a biopic of some New York soldiers that perished during the Normandy landing. Clara plays the fictional bride of the dashing Jed Landry, their leader.

As Clara struggles to cope with her diagnosis, she arrives on set one day to shoot the scene where she meets Jed Landry at the train station. Only there's one problem-- the set's train takes her back to the actual 1940s, mere days before Pearl Harbor, where she meets the real Jed Landry... whom she knows will be dead in a few years.

Jed isn't sure what to make of Clara, who appears to him skittish and afraid. When she takes off and leaves some of her things behind, Jed is confounded by what he finds among her possessions, and when his search for her proves fruitless, he begins to wonder if Clara might be a spy.

Clara and Jed are attracted to each other after their brief meeting, but Clara has two problems-- she knows Jed is destined to die, and she also knows that her cancer is a death sentence in his time. Still, once she is back in the present, she finds herself wondering if it's possible she can save Jed or even the United States, changing what history has in store, or if it's possible that the present can hold love for her after what she's experienced with Jed.

This isn't quite science fiction-- Clara's time travel is never explained, not fully. She visits her old physics teacher, who explains that time travel would require more energy than the sun has, and Clara suspects the second time she time travels that she may have willed herself back, but that's about it. Just a warning for people who might want the legitimate time travel explanation; it's not quite here. But that's okay.

Anyway, I felt like this book was really well-put together. The connections between Clara's present and Jed's past were well done. Similarly, the forties details felt authentic (even if some of the slang would get a little annoying!). Reading Jed's sections did feel like he was a legitimate man from the forties; I could definitely believe the writing.

Some things were really cute-- such as Jed finding Clara's iPod, which he assumes must be a spy transmitter. It was funny to see how he reacted to the technology and how Clara attempted to explain. Clara and Jed's pairing felt natural-- it made sense for them to be a couple. Their attraction was nicely written and believable.

I don't quite know why I like wartime romances-- there's just something about the waiting and the uncertainty that strikes me as really emotional. Even if it's not something I can truly relate to, I can feel for the people it has happened and is still happening to. I liked that Markham did something different with this book-- instead of the woman being afraid the man would die at war, Clara knew Jed would die and still took the chance anyway, accepting it for however long it would last.

Overall, I really liked the book, and I might start looking into what else this particular imprint (Signet Eclipse, which publishes paranormal romance) has come out with. I've already bought the sequel to this book, The Best Gift, and I intend to read it soon. Highly recommended to fans of time travel fiction, paranormal romance, and the forties.

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