Dan Cheaux’s favorite television show is Junk Shop, a reality show set in an antique store. Not only does Dan find the history fascinating, but he is totally hot for the show’s host and shop owner, Malcolm Tell. Encouraged by his sister, Dan decides to bring an old music box to the store in hopes of meeting Malcolm in person. As soon as he sees Malcolm, Dan instantly feels like they have met before, but he attributes it to watching him on TV. But when he and Malcolm both touch the music box at once, Dan is suddenly wrenched into a lifelike vision of a woman who lived many years ago, filled with pain and anguish. Dan is shocked by the experience, and even more so when Malcolm seems to have had a similar vision.
The two men decide they must look into what is going on, and they further explore the mystery of the music box. They realize that each is seeing the event from the point of view of one of a pair of female lovers, one of whom is dying. Clues from the vision lead them to a Celtic myth of the god Aengus who falls in love with Caoimhin, a mortal fisherman. Aengus begs his father to allow him to share his immortality with Caoimhin and the couple are destined to be together for all eternity. As they spend time together, Malcolm and Dan begin to encounter more and more mysterious objects, finding themselves experiencing the lives of different pairs of lovers throughout history. In each case, the lovers die young within a short period of time of one another. And soon Malcolm and Dan come to accept that not only are they witnessing these events, but that they actually lived them as the reincaranted souls of Aengus and Caoimhin.
As they work to find out what is really going on, the men begin to fall for one another. Their feelings for one another develop quickly and intensely, as if they have known each other forever. But while Malcolm is ready to jump into a committment right away, Dan is more wary and reserved, not trusting his own judgement in men after getting out of a bad relationship. And even more worrisome, the men don’t fully understand what is happening to them or whether they can stop the pattern of their own tragic early deaths. And the more they learn about their own history, the more it is clear that the threat to their lives is even bigger than they feared.
So this story has an unusual and really fascinating premise. I loved the way McMurray manages to weave the mythology into the story, creating these modern day fated lovers who have been together for thousands of years. The way the story slowly unfolds as Malcolm and Dan come to learn more about their pasts was really interesting and I loved seeing their past lives and the little clues that they gather through each experience. The story is really well crafted with a nice mixture of mythology and history combined with the modern day romance. I loved the time travel element and how the different moving parts all came together so well.
Malcolm and Dan have such an intense and immediately complicated relationship. On one level they are experiencing love and romance as if for the first time together. Their attraction is immediate, but they have typical issues as they begin their relationship. But at the same time, they are slowly learning about a deeper connection, about lives lived together and an intense love that they have shared through the ages. And of course there is a level of disbelief that this all can truly be happening, although the men quickly accept something mystical is going on, even if they don’t immediately understand their real role in it all.
I did find myself frustrated with them at times though. Malcolm is pretty much all in from minute one. He falls for Dan and is ready for love and marriage and a lifetime together very quickly. And Dan is just terrified of moving too fast, after a bad experience with an ex-boyfriend. Although I found Malcolm a little too quick to jump into things, Dan’s constant worry became somewhat wearisome as the book progressed. First of all, we are well into the book before we ever learn what happened with his ex, Rich. So we get a lot of “I like him, I want him, but I can’t let myself have him because of my past” type situations without ever really understanding why Dan is so skittish. Even when we do learn more about his past, I still felt like Dan often comes across as whiny, overly worried, and unable to accept the happiness that is right in front of him. It sadly made him less likable to me and harder to see him as half of this fated love match of the ages.
For me Dan’s issues also complicated the book unnessarily. We already have an awful lot going on here and more than enough conflict to keep things interesting. Between the present day romance, the flashbacks to past lives, the mythology of Aengus and Caoimhin, and the suspense element as they try to determine how to survive, the main plot is more than enough to carry the story. So adding in this subplot with Rich and how he impacted Dan’s ability to accept a relationship just made things take an unneeded detour for me. Especially when the subplot with Rich takes a turn and creates even more issues. I just felt like this all muddied the waters instead of really adding anything to the story. That said, I do think the McMurray does a nice job of giving the men personalities that fit with their historical counterparts. Malcolm as the former god is confident, charismatic, and a bit arrogant. And Dan as the former mortal fisherman is more tentative, uncertain of his worth and whether he really fits into this relationship with an immortal god.
So the modern day relationship was the weakest part of the story for me and probably couldn’t have stood so well on its own. And I think that the book could have been tightened up some through the middle. However, I found the time travel/mythology aspects of the plot more than enough to make up for any other shortcomings. The story was really interesting with many moving parts that McMurray manages to seamlessly tie together into a really fascinating story. So overall I found this one really enjoyable and definitely worth reading.
P.S. If you want to read more about how McMurray created the mythology behind story, check out her guest post from a couple of weeks ago.