Two books with seemingly little connection other than being compelling reads caught my attention. However both also show the strong influence the past bears on the present. The first, Another Time for Love by Lynn Larson is a slim little volume that admittedly I expected to be one of those quick-read bits of romantic fluff. I was wrong. There is a surprising depth to the story. The second book, Eleanor and the Iron King by Julie Daines, takes place half a world away from the first, is grittier, but it, too, highlights the influence the past has on the present. It is an exciting story with strong characters who gain a perspective on the connection between past and present.

ANOTHER TIME FOR LOVE by Lynne Larson

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Another Time for Love by Lynne Larson steps outside the parameters of several genres to produce a story that is both contemporary and historical, not quite a love story, not quite a murder mystery, a kind of time travel with a medical twist, and shares a large slice of spiritual growth. Whatever classification the reader wants to give it, it is exciting, informative, and thought-provoking.

Sam Carroll grew up in a comfortable home in the Salt Lake Valley, but since returning from his mission has drifted from firm values to centering his life around his flashy sports car, designer clothes, and the pursuit of beautiful women. Everything changes when he’s involved in a terrible crash. His car is totaled and he’s left in a coma. Not being certain whether he is aware of family and friends who spend every possible moment at his bedside, they talk to him, play music, and his brother begins to read an old journal aloud in hopes familiar voices and sounds will help bring him back to consciousness. As David reads to Sam, Sam finds himself back in 1915 Alpine, Utah, a quiet little village in shock from the murder of a good man, husband, and father, one of their own.

The Chadester family takes him in and he forms a close friendship with John Chadester who is near his own age. Through him he meets Elaine (Laney) Williams, who is nothing like the girls he pursued and dated back in his own time. Sam learns to work harder than he’s ever worked before as he joins John and his father harvesting crops, bucking hay, and handling horses. From Bishop Chadester he learns much of responsibility and faith. From John and Laney he discovers a level of giving and compassion that is new to him. As the days and weeks pass, Sam’s earlier life becomes a vague memory.

A second tragedy strikes the small community and Sam must fight to save Laney. He also must come to grips with the question of whether he can stay in Alpine with the people he has come to love more than life or will he one day find himself back in his own time period?

Except for the manner in which hay was cut and stored for winter, I found the early farm methods used in this book interesting and accurate as background for the story. The use of a baler was possible, but not as likely as loose stacking. Balers were first used in the late 1800s and they were able to tie bales by 1937. Most western hay was cut, windrowed, dump raked, forked onto wagons, lifted by a derrick into a barn loft or stacked until the mid twentieth century on most farms. Several neighbors working together in the hay or to thresh grain (either thresh or thrash is correct, but my father always used the e pronunciation) is described well down to the wives and daughters fixing a meal for the workers. Though I found it more probable that the Mormon farmers in this story would have used the usual method of haying; it was interesting to read about the use of one of those early, awkward balers.

The characters are interesting and likable. Their vocabularies, activities, and values are true to their time period. Sam in particular grows and matures through the story as he learns to deal with hard things a hundred years apart. Though some elements of the plot are predictable, there is enough uncertainty to keep the reader turning pages and reluctant to set the book down. The murder mystery adds an element of intrigue and the love story is warm and touching.

Lynne Larson, a retired teacher, has authored many stories and articles for various publications dealing with religion, history, and literature. She graduated from Brigham Young University and holds a Masters of English from Idaho State University. She and her husband have three adult children.

ELEANOR AND THE IRON KING by Julie Daines

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Medieval Wales is the setting for Eleanor and the Iron King by Julie Daines. It is a time when the minor kings and princes of England and Wales vied for territory and power and a time when women were considered merely property. Lady Eleanor de Lacy resents being nothing more than a bargaining chip her father trades to an enemy to secure a peace truce. Becoming the wife of the Welsh Red Worm, Brach Goch, is akin to a death sentence in the young woman’s estimation.

Eleanor is prepared to hate her prospective husband and finds it difficult to bear the months of their betrothal, though she is determined to do so for the sake of her people. Though handsome and younger than she expected, Brach appears harsh and cruel to her as he forbids her to leave the castle alone, takes away her herbs which she uses as a healer, accuses her of being a witch, spies on her, and thwarts her efforts to learn what happened to both her brother and to Brach’s first wife.

The castle Bryn Du appears to be haunted and Eleanor finds herself the target of a ghostly apparition as well as torn by the lies and deceit that surround her. She struggles with a strange language and suffers from loneliness with no one with whom she can communicate in her own language other than Brach, one of his soldiers, and that soldier’s sister. It becomes impossible to tell who is good and who is evil.

Outstanding characters and careful research of the time period make this an exceptional story that will enthrall readers. Characterization is strong and consistent, making it easy to slide into identification with both Eleanor and Brach. Both their strengths and weaknesses are understandable and easy to relate to. Both are strong characters, partially governed by past experience which make trust difficult and creates biases that are difficult to overcome. They face challenges head on, learn, and grow into stronger, better people. There are a number of excellent secondary characters, both good and evil. An usual twist occurs in that both of the main characters’ mothers are dead, yet their influence on their offspring is as steady as if they were living, making them secondary characters of a sort.

The plot is paced well and filled with unexpected surprises. The “ghost” scenes are both fascinating and horrible. This story is a definite page turner that will keep readers thoughts returning to it long after the final page is reached.

Julie Daines was born in Concord, Massachusetts, but grew up in Utah. She spent eighteen months living in London where she studied English literature.

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ANOTHER TIME FOR LOVE by Lynne Larson, published by Covenant Communications, 167 pages, softcover $14.99. Also available for e-readers.

ELEANOR AND THE IRON KING by Julie Daines, published by Covenant Communications, 198 pages, softcover $14.99. Also available for e-readers.