Soulmates across time. A sacrifice that could keep them apart forever.
In present day, near the village of Ornes, France, Devon works on his master’s thesis in history as he fantasizes about meeting a WWI American Doughboy.
In 1916, during the Battle of Ornes, Stanley is a young soldier facing the horrors of the battlefield.
Mourning the death of his friends from enemy fire, Stanley volunteers to bring the message for retreat so he can save everyone else in his battalion. While on his mission, mustard gas surrounds Stanley and though he thinks he is dying, he finds himself in a peaceful green meadow where he literally trips over Devon.
Devon doesn’t believe Stanley is who he says he is, a soldier from WWI. But a powerful attraction grows between them, and if Stanley is truly a visitor from the past, then he is Devon’s dream come true. The problem is, Stanley’s soul wants to finish his mission, and time keeps yanking him back to relive his fateful last morning over and over, even as his heart and body long to stay with Devon.
Will Stanley have to choose between Devon and saving his battalion? Will time betray their love, leaving each alone?
A male/male time travel romance, complete with hurt/comfort, French coffee, warm blankets, fireplace kisses, the angst of separation, and true love across time.
Devon is obsessed with WWI. One battle, in particular, near Ornes in France captures his attention and won’t let go. Working on his Masters, on the effect meteorological conditions had on the outcome of the battle, he travels to Ornes and rents a cottage close to the place where a field of white crosses marks the demise of 44th Battalion, all of whom lost their lives in the trenches that are now barely visible under the grass. Here, he immerses himself entirely in WWI in general, and the Battle of Ornes in general, fantasizing over the American doughboys who fought and died in it.
Stanley is one of those doughboys, serving in the 44th at the Battle of Ornes. That very morning, he had witnessed his friends being blown apart by a bomb and, when a volunteer was required to take a message to the general, Stanley steps up, even though he’s just about peeing himself with fear. Running through the trenches, occasionally braving enemy fire to get his bearings on the top, he marks the hopelessness of the soldiers he passes, who have no hope of seeing him return. Then a mustard gas bomb explodes, and the war is over for him.
Imagine his surprise when he wakes up, not in heaven, or even a filthy trench in the middle of a battle in 1916, but in a windswept field in 2018.
Imagine Devon’s surprise when someone trips over him as he lies in the grass wondering about the battle, and he gets up to find a WWI soldier, complete with rifle, which is pointed right at him.
I love the way the author draws the scenes and the characters. She takes up from the horror and filth of the trenches, to the clean fields, filled with stark white crosses, to the cosy, warm interior of the cottage, with no less care and detail for any. There is so much authenticity of place, detail and emotion that the author drags you with her through the complex journeys of both men. Hey, if the author can make meteorology and an obsession with a single battle and everything to do with it sound interesting, she can do anything.
I have one tiny complaint. The way she uses verb before the object (said Stanley, thought Devon, replied Stanley etc) was a little jarring and frustrating. Otherwise, the writing was a smooth ride.
One thing that particularly impressed me, apart from the amazing breadth of knowledge shown regarding the battle and the war in general, was the authenticity and consistency of the characters. Stanley was portrayed as the terrified, confused and somewhat naïve boy he was, in many ways highlighting, with a fluorescent pen, the tragedy of so many like him who died in that war. Although he came from 1926 and was rightly curious about life in the twenty-first century, this wasn’t a book about a time traveller learning everything there was no know about a much better life. Stanley’s introduction to and reaction to modern life was secondary to his struggle to process what had happened and to take in the ethics of society today, particularly the fact that homosexuality was no longer a criminal office. I also liked that the think he found most breath-taking was an orange.
Devon, a reclusive academic doesn’t quite know what to do when the embodiment of his dreams practically lands on top of him. Stanley was the embodiment of the ideal doughboy, that Devon had been fantasizing over, and he doesn’t quite know what to do with him. Initial certainty that either it was all an elaborate joke, or Stanley was mentally ill and delusional, changes only slowly to an eventual acceptance that not all was as it seemed. It was a gradual journey for both of them.
I loved how Stanley couldn’t quite come to terms with all that was happening, and we were never allowed to forget for a moment that Stanley was from another time, always just out of step and in awe of everything. He never entirely recovered and that, I believe is where the true strength of the book lies, in its authenticity.
This story will stay with me for a long time, and yes, I will be Googling the battle and the battalion. Who knows, maybe I’ll find Stanley. In the meantime, I wholeheartedly recommend this books to anyone who enjoys, battles, time travel or just plain romance.