Story Rating: 3.5 stars
Audio Rating: 4 stars
Narrator: Greg Boudreaux
Length: 9 hours, 1 minute
Laurie is exhausted from his intense job and busy life. A vacation at the Farthingdale Dude Ranch seems like a perfect way to get away from it all. Laurie is hoping for an experience that is a little more authentic than he gets at first, but a night under the stars listening to ghost stories helps get him in the swing of things. Laurie learns about the legend of nearby Iron Mountain, and how during a meteor shower, it can bring you your heart’s desire. When Laurie wakes up from their campout, he finds himself in the middle of a snowstorm and no one else seems to be around. He can’t find any of the dude ranch buildings and just barely manages to make it to an isolated cabin.
Laurie initially assumes the man in historical dress living in the cabin is part of a re-enactment program on the ranch. There is no other explanation for the old fashioned way he is living. But after spending more time with John and visiting the local town, Laurie realizes he has somehow traveled back in time to 1891. John works for the railroad protecting their equipment and reporting on conditions. He lives an isolated life in a one-room cabin in a remote part of Wyoming. Fortunately, John is willing to take Laurie in, as he truly has no place else to go. He can’t tell John he is from the future, and he has no money and knows no one during this time.
At first things are rocky for Laurie as he tries to adjust to this new life. He misses his friends from his own time, and life is so totally different in 1891. Everything is done by hand, particularly out in such a rural area. He has to learn to survive an isolated existence with nothing familiar. Things are also tense with John, who is a no nonsense man who can’t really understand why Laurie is so out of his depth. But as time passes, a connection grows between Laurie and John. There is also an attraction there, and while John is wary, the pair are soon acting on their feelings. But these are different times, and John is concerned about a relationship with Laurie when being gay puts them at so much risk. And Laurie still has no idea how, or if, he can get back to his own time. Now Laurie has to figure out if he wants a return to his old life, or whether he will find his future happiness with John.
Honey from the Lion is the second book in Jackie North’s Love Across Time series. I jumped in here having never read the first book and had no problem at all following along. It looks like the later books in the series feature Laurie’s roommates, so they may connect more directly, but I found this book worked fine as a starting point for the series. I love time travel romance and the highlight for me here is the great way North brings us into the world of 1891. There is so much detail on all the little nuances of life at the time, particularly living on the remote frontier, and it really brought me right into the moment. Details like the fact that the butter was white not yellow, or how the sidewalks looked in town, how food was stored and cooked, and what they used to clean the floors are worked in nicely and all served to really give a great sense of place and time. John is a super competent guy and manages largely on his own, so it really gives us a window into survival at the time. Not only was it interesting for me as a reader, but it also showcases how hard it is for Laurie to adapt to this new time, as well as how hard people had to work to survive. I will say that there is a lot of time spent on the details here, and while I did enjoy feeling immersed in the history, some might find it too much. There is a lot of the book (most in fact) where we are just watching Laurie and John navigate their daily life. There is a lot of routine to their days, so a lot of repetition. Like I said, I found it interesting overall, but it is a lot of day-to-day detail.
From a time travel side, we don’t get a lot of explanation for how things all happen. There is sort of a magical element, with the meteor shower and Iron Mountain, and so you just have to go with it rather than try to understand the why or how. I think we get enough of a sense of Laurie’s hectic life beforehand to make it work, but I could have used a little more development of Laurie’s backstory. I appreciated that when he arrives in 1891, Laurie is understandably totally confused about what is going on and assumes John is an actor. No one’s first though upon this kind of situation is going to be that they have time traveled, so I liked the realism here of Laurie trying to make sense of what is happening before he finally accepts the reality. For his part, John also manages to rationalize a lot of Laurie’s weird behavior and reactions as him being from back east in the city, as well as some sort of head injury. But I did find it hard to understand why John never asks Laurie the first question. Laurie shows up in the middle of a blizzard and John just assumes he is a guy from back east who was coming to town for work and got lost in the storm. But he never asks Laurie to confirm that, nor asks where he came from, who he was coming to see for the job, if he has any money to get himself where he needs to go, etc. It just seems too convenient that John wouldn’t ask the most basic questions of a stranger who shows up at his door. Instead, John just assumes Laurie is stuck there with him until spring when John can get paid and therefore send him back east.
The story started a little rough for me during Laurie’s time at the ranch. He comes across kind of surly, thinking multiple times that everything is “hokey” and not authentic enough. One of the cowboys that Laurie is so impressed with is so rude to the guests, snapping at them when they ask perfectly reasonable questions during his ghost story. I am not sure how to explain, but I just found things felt off for me. The story really settles once Laurie gets to 1891 and I found the story and characters there to be interesting and I was caught up in both the life at the time, as well as figuring out how things would sort out for Laurie. I also enjoyed the ending and really liked how it all came together. There was a nice warm, fuzzy feeling to things and it ties up nicely.
Where I struggled the most here with this story is the fact that Laurie rubbed me the wrong way from the start and it just never got better. I found him just frustrating and irritating and it reached the point where it really affected the story. So I mentioned the complaining early on at the ranch that just set things off wrong for me. Laurie also frequently notes how he always charms people and gets them to relax with his jokes and “antics.” He is constantly trying to funny and, I’ll be honest, I just didn’t find him humorous at all. I am not sure why I didn’t connect with him as a character, but Laurie’s jokes just never landed for me. And honestly, none of the characters really seemed to find him funny either, except eventually John. Also, when Laurie first arrives in 1891, he is understandably out of sorts, not knowing where he is or how to survive. But he also spends a lot of the early time sitting around while John waits on him hand and foot. John is so kind and generous, not only taking Laurie in with the expectation of having to care for him for months, but also assuming he will use his own money to pay for Laurie to return home after the winter. Laurie barely lifts a finger early on (this does improve), nor does he later ever think about getting a job or doing anything to help John support them financially, when it seems clear John has only a modest income that he is using to pay for all of Laurie’s food and expenses. On top of that, Laurie completely dismisses John’s concerns about people finding out about their relationship, going so far as to get furious at John when he wants to back off of things between them when it seems like they may be at risk of exposure. Laurie is so sure he knows much better than John how people at the time will react to them being gay. He blows off John’s concerns and just says well, they could just take off and move somewhere else, as if it is so easy to pick up and move in the middle of winter with no money. The fact that he assumes he knows better than John just didn’t sit well with me. Honestly, I think this is just a case where I just didn’t mesh with this character. I think most readers are going to be perfectly fine with Laurie, and probably wonder what’s wrong with me that I wasn’t. But for whatever reason, he just made me kind of nuts and it impacted my feelings about the book overall.
I listened to this in audio with narrator Greg Boudreaux. Boudreaux is one of my favorite narrators and I find he always delivers a solid performance. John and Laurie have nicely distinct voices, and John’s is befittingly deep for his character. The pacing is good and the tone fits well with the book. At times Boudreaux speaks with a wistfulness that felt sort of out of place with the context of the scene and threw me out a bit. But he handles the characters well, including the side characters. I enjoyed the audio and would recommend it for those interested in this story.
I think the time travel side of this book is done really well and Laurie is a great narrator for us as readers as we experience life in rural Wyoming in 1891. I didn’t connect well with Laurie, but did find plenty to like here. If you are a fan of time travel romances, or if you like the combination of the lively man paired with the big gruff teddy bear of a guy, this story is worth your consideration.