Title: Shadows in Time
Author: Laura Baumbach
Publisher: MLR Press
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: historical/ paranormal
Length: Novella (86 pdf pages)
Rating: 4.25 out of 5 Stars
A Guest Review by Feliz
Summary Review: An entertaining ghost story, set in the 18th century, which takes a new look at the old concept that true love can overcome even the direst of threats.
* * * This review contains what could be considered spoilers * * *
The Blurb: Trying to avoid ruin and disgrace, young naive Neal Clifton, wealthy heir to a sizable Boston family fortune faces the illicit and dangerous complication of his first affair with man–a scheming, unscrupulous man with influence and power that reaches beyond the grave. Neal vows to never give into his own unnatural desires again but finds his only hope for escape in the hands (and arms) of stoic silversmith, Peter Wade.
The review: Who’d look for Voodoo magic in 18th century Boston, of all places? Silversmith Neal Clifton sleepwalks into the clutches of Voodoo follower Judge Williams when he indulges his secret proclivity for older men for the fist time. It doesn’t take Neal long to look behind the judge’s mask of friendly affection, but he’s become so deeply involved with the man he needs help from higher powers to escape him. Ayana, the judge’s servant, is likewise bound to the evil man by dark ties. Nevertheless, she promises to help Neal, who she’s grown very fond of in shared grief. But only when the judge dies (of a natural death, obviously), Neal realizes the real extent of his faux lover’s malice. Haunted by the judge’s ghost, Neal seeks refuge in flight, but to no avail. Neal needs help, and protection, which he finds unexpectedly with his father’s new business partner, Silversmith Peter Wade, in Philadelphia.
Unbeknown to Neal, his father shares his forbidden leaning towards men, and has secretly loved Philadelphia innkeeper Amos Ross for years. Determined to spare his son his own fate, the elder Clifton has joined forces with Amos to play matchmaker for Neal and Peter who the two old men have decided are made for each other. Peter, who is privy to the scheme, feels like the groom in an arranged marriage, and rightly so. For when Peter takes his first glance at Neal, he’s head over heels for the young man. Luckily, the feeling is mutual, because Neal and Peter need all the power, emotionally as well as physically they can muster together in order to defeat the judge’s evil spirit and free Neal of his curse.
The characters in this story were very well done, particularly Neal with all his insecurities and guilty feelings. Given the timeframe of the story, it’s easily comprehensible how hard it must have been then for a young man to realize he has needs his contemporaries would think abominable. I can see how such a naive young man might fall for someone who promises to fulfill those dangerous needs, even though this someone isn’t the nicest person. And now, after he has endured humiliation and abuse, and finds another man who accepts him unconditionally, even though he’s saddled with a life – threatening curse? How could he avoid falling in love with such a person? The same is true for Peter, a man in his late thirties who has resigned to a solitary, lonely life rather than living a lie. Suddenly presented with a likeminded young man who isn’t only beautiful, but has a brain to go with his looks, how could he resist? What’s more, Neal comes to Peter with his father’s blessings. I could accept the instant bond they entered, even though it felt a bit rushed. Amos the yenta was amiably mischievous like a leprechaun, and I found the way he talked about his relationship with Neal’s father Jon very endearing. Ayana the servant was likewise taken right out of the realms of the lore, reminding of a motherly guardian angel with a very, very open mind, and the judge was as debauched and vicious as befits a man who’d sell his soul to the eternal enemy. They all came alive on the pages of this book, forming the cast to an entertaining, deliciously wicked, wonderfully oldfashioned ghost story.
I’d recommend this book to those who like ghosts and magic twists and fateful love and don’t mind looking at historical facts with a wink of an eye.