One of the things I like about reading novels by history enthusiasts is the energy they channel into their writing. Deborah Courville, a docent a The Oldest House, and author of A River in Time, is no exception. Right off, I could tell she enjoyed exploring The Oldest House’s history, and as a charitable novella*, this absolutely works because the target audience is those who’ve visited. But I haven’t stepped foot into the ‘living museum’ in Laceyville, Pennsylvania, and prior to reading purposely didn’t Google a darned thing because I wanted to test out whether or not the story would quell my interest. I’m pleased to say it did, for whether or not you pick up this book in Pennsylvania or on Amazon, the story is sweet and charming.
A River in Time is essentially an American time travel novella circa present day and 1795. Like Courville, Izzy, the heroine, is a volunteer at The Oldest House, except she has the misfortune (or perhaps fortune) to travel back to 1795. With the ability to think quickly on her feet, Izzy assumes the identity of Countess Isabeau de Villehardouin, an actual relative of hers who lived in the 18th century, but unlike the real countess, Izzy is pretty clueless on how to deal with 18th century life. Luckily, Izzy time traveled under an oak tree at The Oldest House and into the hospitality of the Sturdevants, possibly the nicest family in Laceyville. Without family back in the 21st century, it’s not long before Izzy begins to find a place within the gentle Sturdevants. Joshua, a law student mentored by a colleague of Thomas Jefferson’s and brother to the friendly couple living at the house, takes a fancy to Izzy. Their romance is rather sweet. Guided by a balance of his forward-thinking and Izzy’s modern sensibilities, their unintended courtship presents the main conflict in the tale beyond the time traveling snafu.
Since A River in Time is a 148 pages, which straddles the lines between novel and novella, I expected a fast pace of events, but once Izzy realizes her conflict–return to her time or possibly stay in 1795–her whole thought process felt whirlwind. In the author’s defense, love is kinda like that, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was a little bit missing. Joshua’s turnabout acceptance of his time traveling lady also seemed a bit sudden, but I honestly think this about 99% of time traveling novels and I did enjoy Courville’s explanation of how Joshua came to understand what would have been a mind blowing notion before television and Google. Given his character, it made sense, and I like sense. By the novella’s end, much like Izzy I got hooked on the family and found my interest in The Oldest House sufficiently fanned. I imagine a visit, with the perspective from the novella, would make it an absolute historical delight.
Recommended to lovers of small town 18th century American history, fans of sweet family romances, and anybody who thinks time travel to 1795 America might just be awesome. Book benefactors take note: *Proceeds from A River in Time are donated to The Oldest House in Laceyville, PA for its upkeep and repair.