A guest review by Jenre
Bewildered by a series of erotic dreams, Michael Ballantyne, a young graphic artist living in Los Angeles is eager to uncover their meaning. When he is informed that he is the sole beneficiary in an unknown man’s will and is now the owner of a large estate in Hertfordshire, England, Michael feels that somehow he has been given a key to unlock the dreams’ mysteries. This feeling grows stronger when he comes face to face with Jonathan Robertson, a handsome Englishman, who more than just resembles the man in his dreams.
Together they attempt to solve the mystery that surrounds the disappearance and apparent murder of Jonathan Harcourt, the son of the previous owner of Bedford Park.
The mutual attraction they quickly feel for one another is hampered by the sudden arrival of Michael’s jealous boyfriend, Steve Miller, and by Jack Trenton, a formidable and uninvited presence who has occupied the lodge by the estate gates.
When Michael, along with his now ex-boyfriend, Steve, is held hostage by Trenton, it becomes clear that Bedford Park holds many more secrets than anyone ever thought. Michael and Jonathan are soon to discover that the keepers of those secrets are dangerous men, willing to stop at nothing in order to make an ancient oath come to pass.
This story of ghostly goings on in England begins with everyone’s perfect fantasy. Our hero Michael receives a phone call from a London solicitors telling him that he’s a beneficiary in a will and that he has to travel to England straight away. After travelling in first class splendour, Michael arrives in London to be told he is the new owner of a stately home and has millions of pounds willed to him by a man Michael has never heard of, on the understanding that he continue to solve the mystery of the disappearance of a man named Jonathan which occurred during the 1940s. Michael has been plagued by very explicit erotic dreams where he seduced by a man named Jonathan. Things grow even more eerie when Michael meets a man named Jonathan who looks like his dream lover and the man who disappeared all those years ago.
There were a number of things which I liked about this book. The main one being the contrast in personalities between Michael and Jonathan. I liked Michael who quickly adapts to his new situation and looks upon life quite optimistically. At 26 he’s still young enough to have a naive, trusting nature as can be seen in the way he has allowed his ex-boyfriend Steve to take advantage of him and by his quick acceptance of Jonathan into his life. He also has a lively sense of the ridiculous, spending his first few days in England poking gentle fun at the very English way of life that he encounters. Jonathan has a more subdued nature than Michael but is also very passionate. It is Jonathan who takes the initiative when the men first meet and Jonathan who advises caution throughout the book, especially when Michael gets impatient and puts himself in danger. The two men fall in love very quickly – in the space of a few days – but this actually worked well within the context of the story. There’s a sense that the two men are fated to be together and that, coupled with the erotic dreams that they have about each other before they meet, made it believable that they would fall hard and fast for each other in a short space of time. The sex scenes between the men were as erotic as the dreams with an added tenderness which was lovely to read. The only downside to the relationship is that because they get together so quickly, and also because there is a sense that they were ‘meant to be’ there isn’t actually any romantic tension between them. Even any arguments are resolved quickly – a little too quickly perhaps – and so although I was happy that Michael and Jonathan were so perfect for each other, any drama in the book comes from the mystery rather than the romantic relationship.
Depending on your views of this matter the ghost story could either be seen as a beautiful, tragic story of fated lovers torn apart by a greedy jealous man or as pure hokum. My views veered a little between the two. The romantic in me liked the idea that Jonathan and Michael were destined to be with each other and that their relationship mirrored that of Jonathan and his lover in the past. On the other hand the tale of warlocks and dastardly goings on was a little over the top, especially as I never really understood exactly why it was necessary to involve Michael. There was far too much coincidence in play for many of the scenes involved in the mystery – some of which was believable and some stretched my incredulity a little.
The parts which worked best in the book were those involving Michael finding his feet in his new role as ‘Lord of the Manor’. I liked the secondary characters of the butler Matthew and his wife, and the way that Michael attempted to subvert the class distinctions within the household. It provided a little light relief to the story and allowed the reader to gain insight into Michael’s character. This was also done through Michael’s relationship with his brother where we get to see him relaxing and joking around.
I think there was only one part of the story which didn’t work particularly well and that was the parts involving Steve, Michael’s ex-boyfriend. I didn’t feel that his role was particularly important and didn’t actually bring anything of value to the story – except perhaps to show how trusting Michael is, which is shown in other areas of the book as well. The book was quite long and I did feel that Steve could have been cut from the story entirely and it wouldn’t really have changed anything about the plot or interfered with any character development.
Overall, Time After Time was an interesting read with likable characters and a creepy ghost story. JP Bowie always has a lively written style and he doesn’t disappoint with this book. I’d recommend Time After Time as a great book to read for those who like a mixture of creepy, Halloween chills and sweet, tender romance.