Dieter Schmidt is a linguist and historian for the Temporal Research Institute, a private shadow organization that investigates historical events to discover and clarify motives of global leaders in the times surrounding war. Dieter’s specialty is the early 20th century, and he’s fluent in several languages including English, German, and Hungarian. While the time agents are on a mission scouting WWII incidents, a barely-alive Hungarian soldier stumbles into the time gate. Though ravaged by starvation and injury, this man is a serious threat. He’s carrying a weapon and blocking the exit portal for the time agents. Dieter is dispatched to coax the soldier from the gate room, and it’s seriously touch-and-go.
Janos Nagy cannot believe his surroundings. Stepping from 1941 to 2041 is as unlikely as taking him from nearly dead to a sterile clean world where his injuries are tended and meals abound. It’s as difficult to adjust to as his newly-amputated arm. Plus, the only one who can communicate with him is the attractive German boy, Dieter. But, no matter what Dieter tells him, Janos knows that succumbing to his shameful lust will only result in death—for himself and probably Dieter, too. That’s experience talking; two of Janos’ lovers had been executed, and he would have been as well had he not escaped.
While time heals Janos’ physical wounds, his emotional wounds are deep and festering. Dieter tries to reach out, to communicate, but Janos is suspicious, and ashamed of the intimacy he feels building for Dieter. For his part, Dieter feels awkward regarding his growing affection/admiration for Janos. As the weeks and months pass, Janos longs for work. He’s not allowed to leave the confines of the TRI, due to his non-existent status, so he works within the TRI as a consultant helping the agents to better blend into the time environments they drop into. It proves invaluable, actually, and allows one of his most devoted students to go off the grid while on-mission in an attempt to re-write history by preventing a crime that tipped off a war. And only Dieter can stop him.
I really liked the idea of this book and felt like it was well-executed. The romance between Janos and Dieter is slow to build and develop. Each man experiences an attraction he feels is wrong—Janos due to ingrained homophobia and fear, Dieter because he feels like he’s taking advantage of a man trapped in time. They are tentative, holding back until an informant tips Janos off regarding Dieter’s feelings. They still must keep everything hidden—which is Janos’ natural state, but their growing affection is clearly an issue when tracking and retrieving the rogue agent becomes a priority.
Dieter and Janos were fantastic characters. They have a real chemistry that simmers. Dieter is required to retrieve his fellow time agent, and he’s intellectually prepared for a job that he is physically untrained to perform. He’s never BEEN on a mission, and his own mother was lost to a time incident, but Dieter is determined to do this right. It is heartbreaking for Janos to have to train him, both of them knowing that this time jump will likely separate them forever, even if Dieter is successful in his mission. My heart was racing through the final third of the book, as I kept turning the page to find out if Dieter would return. The more time Dieter spent in history, the more dangerous his experience. It was agonizing for me, as well as Janos.
I wish there had been a little more of a time gap, actually, because the technology and world described for 2041 seems too futuristic for our current scientific and societal progress to account for. This slightly hampered the suspension of disbelief for me. Description of the past, however, was completely spot on, and I was fully engaged in both the TRI setting and the rogue-tracking timescapes. I also liked how the time paradox was handled—and how trying to change history is a futile venture.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.