Hands of Time, by Irina Shapiro, is the first book in her five-part time travel series, the fifth part just being made available to the public this week. It’s more of the plush romance, think 1980s Harlequin-esque tone, and is best for women readers who primarily enjoy bawdy romance without much historical substance. There is a huge market of women who purchase these kinds of book and it should be marketed primarily to them for best return.
The protagonist, Valerie, is an American woman who is visiting a shop seeking a tourist-like gift when she comes across a beautiful clock. Instantly, she is transported back to the early 1600s. I agree to read this book as I was enticed by the clock being a time travel element. I always love the thought of historical pieces being linked to people and places of the past. I love when they are used in books for people to discover they are even more than what they thought they might have been or for a history mystery to be decoded or solved.
Being such a huge fan of time travel, either to the past or the future, and historical time travels with touches of romance and emotion are fun to read, I was hoping for more of an exciting plot. She did have a small family mystery, but didn’t allude to this until halfway through the book.
Unfortunately, though the writing is decent, it’s average. It’s easily read and the grammar is on point, but there just isn’t the emotion there. It wasn’t like the The Time Traveler’s Wife to me. It didn’t suck me in and make me burn to read it late into the night. There wasn’t any historical plot, no driving mystery that was alluded to throughout the book beyond the reader wondering how the clock transported her. There was not much exclamation or surprise by any party of what she was doing there. This seemed odd. Though she did try to include into the setting what life would be like in the 1600s, and the setting of the old castle-like home very quaint and lovely to think about, she just didn’t seem “misplaced” enough.
The book started abruptly with everything falling into place, without Shapiro really fleshing out the emotions of each character introduced or giving Valerie time to be aghast at her mysterious drop into the 1600s and the life of an English noble home. I felt an initial spark of desire between Valerie and Alec, one of the brothers vying for her attention as she conveniently is holed up in their home, but she extinguishes that straight away upon that first meeting. After that, Alec becomes a rather crass character to me. Valerie sleeps with Finn rather quickly and without first creating any passionate romantic suspense for us. It’s somewhat tacky–its sexual parts–and it’s sex without eroticism.
I hate giving any criticism to authors, I know how that feels, and most readers and authors know that, but as a professional writer and editor myself, I just have to be totally honest. I wish no harm to Shapiro and commend her for living her writing dream and creating so many books on her own. My advice, if she asked, would be that she could re-work her content to be much more emotionally driven as the writing foundation is there. If she could connect her characters emotionally with the reader and put some suspense into it as well, the series would reach a wider audience. Her female lead should be stronger and more independent for me to enjoy it.
I bet until then she’ll get 5 starts from the faction of romance readers who read this type of romance (think Amanda Scott downsized) in a several hour sitting and want more….. and then 1 or 2 stars from the readers who are reading historical fiction works that are highly researched, absorbing, and emotional. You can decide which you are and let that be a way for you to know whether you should purchase this book, or the series. Maybe the rest of the series gets better with her time spent writing.
Her book covers and content could be updated and probably help her make more money, as readers would be attracted to more vibrant and readable covers. Also, her website does not make clear what order the books go in besides the fifth. I imagine she is trying to independently do this all on her own and again, I applaud her for living her dreams. But I’d love to see her modernize her brand a little more.
I’ll be giving her 3 stars on other sites. This means I liked it and it’s average in accordance to the really bad stuff I’ve read (and won’t even spend my time talking about) and the really amazing bestsellers I’ve read. It’s decent writing and an average romance. Female readers who love a good steamy romance, with a love triangle and a curious protagonist, will enjoy Hands of Time.
The Hands of Time, Synopsis~
When a young American woman vanishes without a trace from a quaint fishing village on the coast of England only one person knows the truth, but he remains silent, allowing the authorities to search for her in vain, safe in the knowledge that she will never be found. As Valerie’s bereft sister returns home alone, she struggles to understand what happened and come to terms with her terrible loss when she suddenly stumbles upon a clue that might finally shed some light on her sister’s disappearance.
Meanwhile, Valerie Crane finds herself transported to the year 1605. Terrified and confused she turns for help to the Whitfield brothers, who take her in and offer her a home despite their misgivings about her origins. Both Alexander and Finlay Whitfield fall in love with the mysterious woman who shows up on their doorstep, creating a love triangle that threatens to consume them all. Valerie must make her choice, deciding between the brother who will lead her down the path of destruction or one who will give her the love she couldn’t find in her own time.
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Author Irina Shapiro, Biography~
Irina Shapiro was born in Moscow, Russia, where she lived until she was eleven. In 1982 her family emigrated to the United States and settled in New York. Due to her love of reading, Irina was able to pick up English very quickly, and was an honor student throughout her school career.
After graduating from Bernard M. Baruch College in 1992 with a Bachelor’s degree in International Business, Irina worked in advertising for two years before shifting her focus to Import/Export. She worked her way up to the position of Import Manager in a large textile house before leaving the work force in 2007 to focus on her autistic son.
It wasn’t until Irina had been at home for some time that she began to write. Eventually the characters began to take on a life of their own and have conversations in her head, and once she started writing her musings down the stories came easily enough. Irina incorporated her love of history and travel into her writing to create a rich and detailed background for the characters.
Since then Irina has written eight novels. Book five of The Hands of Time Series, Shattered Moments, is available as of January 7, 2014.
Irina Shapiro lives in New Jersey with her husband and two children.
Link to Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/thehandsoftimetour
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I was provided a free .pdf of this book in return for an honest review, which I’ve given.