When you should stop judging a book by its genre...
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Although I have read time slips before, such as Labyrinth by Kate Mosse, and Philippa Pearce's, Tom's Midnight Garden, I've never knowingly gone on the hunt for books in this genre and in my ignorance, probably wouldn't have deliberately chosen those books if I'd been aware that they were part of a genre that I would usually put back on the shelf. To me, time slipping or time travelling, usually evokes thoughts of someone slipping through a time tunnel from the modern day age to a time gone by and changes history, and because my favourite genre is historical fiction, I tend to prefer my HF pure without any interference from the future. It's strange how putting a label on something can make it seem unattractive, and yet when I picked those books up off a shelf, I must have had no preconceived ideas in my head because they were simply labelled as fiction, and nothing else. Which really shows that if I listen to my brain talking, it could really spoil my reading experiences, because my brain doesn't know what's good for me.
Having worked on The Review blog for sometime, I got to learn about Ms Belfrage's Graham Saga through my co-admins' reviews. I loved them and each time, I kept wondering why I couldn't bring myself to read the book, just because they were about a time traveller who ends up in another century and creates a whole new life for herself. Because of my prideful ruminations about what I thought was not for me, I was also put off reading or watching the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldan. Too long, too unbelievable and too 'time slip/travel.' The change happened for me when I caved in to watch the first series of Outlander. Surprise, surprise, my head didn't fall off after all. I wasn't turned into some strange time-travelling creature, and I really loved it. And the friend who urged me to watch Outlander, happens to also be a big fan of Ms Belfrage's and so it didn't take much for me by now, to pick up the first in the Graham Saga series. For the first time I am feeling humble, because I have now discovered, that a book should never be judged by it's genre, and a genre should never be judged until you've read one. After all, had I not enjoyed Labyrinth?
So, having taking the plunge, I opened the first page, and my brain was still wondering what a book like this would have to offer someone who prefers her history as it was, and not tampered with by people falling through Time or arriving in another era in time travelling machine, or falling through a hole in the sky. But the more I read, the more I became interested in knowing what the 21st Century woman would be thinking, what would go through her mind before she was able to believe that she was now in another time and place, and had somehow found an opening through time. When would she stop believing it was all a dream?
I was soon to discover that this book is not just a 'woman falls through time, meets 17thc man, and falls in love', book; this book has many layers. Despite its romantic theme, it is also a psychological study in how a woman and a man from different periods in time would interact given their cultural differences and their diverse mindsets. Because it has a historical setting, it means that there are lessons to be learned about what was going on in Scotland at the time of Cromwell's takeover of parliament, though the story has more to do with Alex and Matthew's relationship and the trials that come to plague them than Cromwell and the English Civil War.
In A Rip in the Veil, Alex Lind, a very modern, 21st century woman falls, literally, through a 'time node' and lands back in the 17thc. A gorgeous hunk of a man, Matthew Graham, a fugitive from the law, finds her injured and knocked out, and wearing very strange clothes. Matthew is the first person Alex sees as she wakes up and her first impression is that he must be doing some sort of reenactment or something, wearing those strange old fashioned clothes. Matthew, on the other hand is just as confused to see a woman wearing strange blue breeches, and with short hair. As Alex and Matthew get used to each other, they soon find out that they are both in danger, he because he is on the run from the law, and she because she is a vulnerable woman, wearing peculiar attire. Eventually they both find out that Alex has fallen back into time, and of course, this just complicates things even more.
Ms Belfrage's interesting style of showing one main character's point of view and then swapping to the other's gives the reader a greater perspective from both sides of the coin. I found it a useful tool for comparing myself with Alex, as she behaves as a modern woman in an olde worlde time period, and wondering what I would do in the situations she finds herself. I loved the way that Matthew copes when his misogynistic ideas go head to head with Alex' modern sensibilities and behaviour. It is comparable to a psychological study, as we get to see how Matthew becomes less and less like a chauvinistic 17thc man and more like 'new man', in this strange relationship of two lovers who come from different worlds. Equally, we see the vulnerable Alex casting off her independent woman thing to give in to her husband's old fashioned demands, in times when she is at her most distressed. It really does give the reader food for thought and it made me value what I have in this modern world.
Along the way, the road to happiness is not easy, there are many falling outs and many falling back ins, and many romantic interludes which, well lets face it, its a Romance isn't it? And Ms Belfrage love scenes are so well done, like a true romantic.
But its not all love and sex in this book, there is brotherly rivalry which cause the bloodiest of fights between siblings you might ever see; close shaves, when Alex and Matthew both get on the wrong side of the law, and there are some hairy scenes that will have you hanging on to your armchair, or in my case my pillow. Well written, beautifully at times, A Rip in the Veil is the first in a series I just know I am going to enjoy more of.
You can purchase the Graham Saga books on Amazon here and they can be read in any order, but if you're anything like me, you'll want to start at the beginning. Plus, you will not be disappointed.