Rating: 3.75 stars
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Russ Peterson receives a mysterious invitation in the mail for a vacation at a chateau in the south of France and his curiosity compels him to accept. Once there, Russ is astonished to find out that his last physical exam showed a genetic marker that identifies him as a time traveler, and therefore a member of an exclusive society located at Chateau d’Eternite. As a historian, it is a dream come true for Russ, but being a time traveler has its rules and risks along with the gift of being able to visit any era on any geographical place in the world.
When Russ travels back in time to Roman Gaul, he is almost killed by a wild boar when he is rescued by Quentus Maximus, second in command to the Legate of Nemausus. Before he knows what is happening, Russ is traveling back to Quentus’ estate as his lover and companion. Russ finds that the more time he spends with Quentus Maximus in Rome, the more he feels at home and alive than ever before. Soon Russ must return to his time as the end of his vacation draws near and he must make a decision, should he stay or should he go? Which will win, his heart and lover of Rome or his head and his future life?
I love Ariel Tachna’s stories and was looking forward to her take on time travel so I am surprised to find myself as conflicted as Russ over his story. First let’s address the elements I loved. I think the idea of a chateau filled with time travelers makes a wonderful basis for a series. Any number of people are appearing and disappearing at any given time, so the potential for a variety of characters and stories is unlimited as the eras they can visit. Great idea, and the caretaker of the Chateau is a real enigma whose story should be told as well.
Secondly, I liked the characters and settings in ancient Roman Gaul. Quentus and his close circle of friends are both interesting and nicely layered. Tachna has done her homework on the time period and it shows in her details from their clothing to the designs of their households. When Russ, called Rastus, and Quentus visit the baths or are alone in the estate, her descriptions enable the reader to visualize the setting with ease. All these elements contributed to a story I enjoyed reading,
However, I did have some issues with sections of the story that blunted my enjoyment with Chateau d’Eternite. First off, I found it hard to believe that historian Russ would accept with equanimity the fact that he carried a genetic abnormality that made it possible for him and a small percentage of other humans to travel in time (or even that there was such a thing). Russ doesn’t even break stride as he goes from one revelation to the next, each more outrageous and unrealistic based on his current knowledge. The caretaker has Russ’ personal information, i.e., results of his last physical, and Russ doesn’t throw a fit? Russ is told that he can time travel and is taken on a short trip to prove it. Does he think he is hallucinating? Not really. Again, he is affable and almost blase in his reactions to seeing Versailles being built. I just didn’t get that at all, nor did I believe it. Russ reacts in the same way when visiting ancient Rome and meeting Quentus. They move almost immediately into a sexual relationship with overtones of D/s, and later, Russ argues with his Roman lover over the modern concept of equality within their partnership that would not have been possible during that time period. I just had a hard time suspending my doubts about their relationship and the character of Russ in particular. As a historian, I think Russ would have been scrabbling around looking at everything, picking things up, making drawings. I mean, here is his passion for the past in front of him but I never got that feeling from Russ’ character.
One thing that might bother some readers is that the ending is somewhat “bittersweet.” We find out exactly how long Russ and Quentus have together in the past while missing out on the details of their life together. I thought it very realistic, but others may have a problem with it depending upon how they define HEA.
Pick it up if you like time travel stories and the works of Ariel Tachna.
Cover art by Anne Cain. Just a gorgeous cover, I loved the model and thought him a perfect representation of Russ.