Sunday, 16 December 2012

Trick of Time, J L Merrow

Nice mix of contemporary and Victorian London with wonderful main characters. Loved it!

Trick of TimeI'm not ususlly a lover of a time travel or parallel-time themed books; but I love the arts, and I love period writing. Plus Muscling Through was a really good read. So on the back of those likes I requested Trick of Time. Glad I did. I thought it a terrific read.

Ted Ennis works at The Criterion Theatre in London as a theatre asistant. He lost his family in a car accident eighteen months earlier - his partner, Alasdair, and his mother and father were all killed. An accident where he suffered a brain injury that leaves him with a few problems. He can slur his speech, have bad headaches and blackouts from time to time. Not to mention the grief he has that  comes from such a loss. Ted enjoys his job but sometimes he likes/needs to go outside and have a cigarette. Whilst the night's performance is under way for the Cri's latest production, Wild Oats, Ted  takes the opportunity for a smoko. When he steps out for his usual Gauloise it's not the bright lights of a modern Piccadilly Circus but a darker lamplit Victorian-era London that he finds. Ted believes that Rob, his late partner's friend and Ted's boss, is playing a trick on him with some sort of Dickens revival. However the more he looks the more 'elaborate' it all appears -

I shouldered through the heavy front door, popping a cigarette in my mouth...and found Piccadilly Circus full of ghosts.

And the more it appeals to a man who has lost so much -

I'd always thought there ought to be something more, something beyond this shallow world of fragile lives and shattered dreams.
Jem is a rent boy in 1886 Picadilly Circus. He has a larrikin's attitude but he is a rent boy with so much heart. His cockney accent, his acceptance of Ted, his sweet outlook, given things he's been through, and how he makes a living, were so endearing. Jem was everything Ted needed - someone to take contol, to a certain degree, help him come out the other side of loss and want to live again. When Ted first sees Jem leaning on a lamppost he is besotted. Jem is attractive, albeit in threadbare clothes -

He was a pared-down Lord Alfred Douglas, the highborn beauty who'd brought a playwright to his knees. 

Jem quite obviously assumes that Ted wishes to avail himself of his services and is happy to oblige  down a dark lane. After their intial 'encounter' both men get to know each other during short nightly interludes which are very sweet and also steamy at times. Ted goes to great lengths, duing 21st century time, to be able to find a way of paying Jem, in Victorian times, so Jem can buy a meal and have a better life. Then one evening Ted seems stuck in Jem's time, and they learn much more about one another. It goes beyond sex and payment. You know both men have the strongest feelings for one another and want to share more time together. But how?

What I Liked -

Ted Ennis and Jem Pocket. I've only read one other J L Merrow book, Muscling Through, and I remember the two MC's in that book to be totally endearing. I had the same experience with Trick of Time's two MC's. I loved Ted and Jem - their sweetness and their ordinary ways in an extraordinary situation of parallel time periods. Call it time travel if you like.

The sex to story ratio was excellent with plenty of plot and storyline, but when Ted and Jem were together it was a lovely mix of sweet and steamy. It was just right.

I loved the references to both times in London, especially the 1880's. Ms Merrow really brought this time to life - the smells, the grit, the coal dust, the smoke, the transport, the buildings and parks that existed then and now; with a brief but interesting nod to the attitude and language of the time. It was all done well within the fictional genre that it was written in. It was never too much, too wordy or boring. Ms Merrow obviously has a great love of The Criterion, and little features are mentioned which I enjoyed, and, once again, it's not too much, it's just right.

The language and writing were lovely. Ted is a modern man yet he is olde world in many ways. He has a grace, kindness, gentlemanly manners that fit another time when he was there, but he's also a contemporary man who values all that the twenty first century has to offer, including not fearing jail or death for loving another man.

I had no problem believing Ted was in another time. I liked it, I believed it. I thought the way Jem handled it was pretty good, all things considered - someone comes into your life telling you they are from the future. However, Ted had a zipper in his pants, a lighter, and other modern items. It was not a long book I'm glad no time was wasted on Jem agonising over where Ted came from, or how, rather getting to know him in the moments they shared together.

I loved how Alasdair's photo portrayed the emotions Ted was feeling, to Ted. I really thought that was a nice touch.

The whole parallel time thread was well developed, especially given the shorter length of the ebook. I liked the blending of the importance of a current play with a revival in 1886, and another play in 1889. I loved the plays that were mentioned, just little details that are so good. I also loved the poem at the end which tied into a moment in the book, and was another historic look at the times.

I enjoyed the suspense element. Would Ted and Jem be able to be together? I wanted Ted and Jem to make it and at it was definitely touch and go. I nearly threw my Kindle at one point, let's put it that way.

Overall -

I really enjoyed reading Trick of Time from beginning to end. There is an epilogue which helped wrap the story up really well. I didn't feel like I was left hanging or needing more. It gave me what I wanted and I walked away happy. If you like endearing characters, a romantic step-back in time, some nice writing, that flowed with the theme of the book, and a nice is a good book for you. Trick of Time is a terrific read that I highly recommend.

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