Ever since he heard his great-grandmother’s fantastic stories of a voyage aboard a ship named Titanic, Lucas “Luke” Thompson fell in love with the tale, hook, line, and sinker. He’s even made it his life’s work to study marine archaeology, all to get himself closer to the fabled ship. For the last year, he and his team of dedicated researchers—his friends, his found family—have been investigating an anomalous shape that only they can see. With financial backers and planning complete, Luke is ready to make the journey to Titanic. He has to know what that strange, glowing shape is. But not before his teammate and dear friend, Kyle, confesses he wants more than just friendship with Luke. With the offer of “something more” on his mind, Luke journeys two miles below the surface of the sea to confront his greatest love.
Luke has barely laid eyes on the sunken ship before his submersible seems to lose all connection to the outside world, and to the surface. That’s when he feels it, the anomaly. It comes straight for the ship and the next thing Luke knows, he’s on the first-class promenade of Titanic mere days before it collides with an iceberg. It seems impossible to imagine that Luke has traveled one hundred years into the past. Yet everything feels, looks, and smells real. Luke realizes this is his chance. His chance to reconnect with his beloved great-grandmother and to meet the mysterious man who saved her life, Quinton Hawthorne. This is his chance to save Titanic. If he is to have any hope of convincing anyone to help save an “unsinkable” ship, Luke will need Quinton’s help. But the more time he spends with Quinton, his initial goal of saving the ship slowly gets conflated with saving a man he comes to love.
The Depths of Time is a contemporary-ish (set in 2012) historical, time-traveling romance. I chose this book for my Judge a Book by its Cover Week for Challenge Month because I was absolutely charmed to find a version of the cover on Pride Publishing’s site that was an animated GIF. For as long as I’ve been reading on any sort of e-reader platform, this was the first time I was aware of any book featuring charmingly subtle animation (okay, technically, I was on the good ole internet looking at Pride’s website, but still…the effort was A+). Now that I’ve read the book, I think the wisps of clouds shifting in the background are even more lovely, foreshadowing the “anomaly” of the book and a visual reference to the fog of uncertainty in which Luke gets mired.
As a fan of time travel stories, I enjoyed this imagining of a modern-day Titanic researcher not just traveling TO Titanic, but traveling ON Titanic. The aforementioned anomaly is the mechanism that sends Luke back in time and apparently exerts control (crippling headaches, falling objects) over how much Luke can materially impact the events on Titanic. I was really into the idea of this anomaly having the power to cause or stop Luke from acting, but the execution didn’t seem to fully realize this. As a result, Luke would only sometimes get headaches when he engaged in behavior that would truly affect the events on the ship.
One successful element of the story is how Fayre juggles Luke’s earnest interests, of which he has many. Luke is desperate to simply experience Titanic in the flesh, on its maiden voyage. At the same time, he knows he may have a shot at saving the whole ship from sinking, or at least trying to save more people than originally survived. He also wants to see, meet, and maybe interact with his great-grandmother…which also draws him into the orbit of the handsome Quinton. Even though the story feels pretty short, I think these different elements all share Luke’s attention fairly equally—and they feel like things he would want to focus on. The only criticism here is how it sometimes felt like Fayre glossed over a big chunk of time (like a whole evening) when Luke’s only got about 55 hours on the ship. That said, given the concentration of scenes that focus on the bond that develops between Luke and Quinton, it still felt like we and Luke got the full experience.
The ending was an interesting mashup of then and now. Even during the lead up to the climax, it wasn’t clear if Luke would or even could get back to his own time. I rather liked that this particular detail was ambiguous. I also liked how that same “will he stay or will he magically vanish” quality gets repeated at the end of the adventure. And the little epilogue at the end brings things around like a kind of “full circle” moment. I liked that it focused on a specific, momentous event in the characters’ lives. It helped cement Luke and Quinton as a couple, even with a pretty “broad strokes” summary of what happened between the end of the book proper and the event that closes out the book.
My only real criticism comes from the Kyle character. He appears early in the book and is part of Luke’s crew on the boat at the start of the story. Kyle is so painfully obviously into/in love with Luke. His manners are a dead giveaway and just about the last thing Kyle does before Luke seals himself in the submersible is invite him on a date. At first, I didn’t mind when they left things with an awkward “let’s talk about this after the dive.” But once Luke slips back into 1912, it becomes pretty clear pretty quick that Luke’s going to have Feels for Quinton. I just wasn’t sure why there was any attempt at framing Kyle as a romantic interest when there was so much going on with Luke in the first place.
On the whole, I think this is a decent attempt at time travel writing. The details about how Luke goes back in time are nicely covered by a strange “anomaly,” but Luke still has to deal with being a fish out of water…in terms of dress, manners, and social/class expectations. There seems to be a lot of liberties taken to afford Luke and Quinton opportunities to interact, fall in love, act on their desperate need to reaffirm their feelings lest they get parted aboard the ship. Despite the awkward third-wheel love interest, I think there’s a tidy little romance that develops between Luke and Quinton that includes a little steam and a lot of trust. If you’re a fan of time travel stories or finding love under pressure, I think you’ll enjoy this book.
This review is part of our 2021 Reading Challenge Month for Judge a Book By Its Cover Week! Leave a relevant comment below and you will be entered to win one of five $20 JMS store gift cards from JMS Books (you can see the details on the bundle in our Prize Preview post)! Commenters will also be entered to win our amazing Grand Prize sponsored by NineStar Press: a Kindle Paperwhite loaded with 50 NineStar Press books! And don’t forget if you read along with your own challenge book this week, you can earn ten contest entries for writing a mini-review on our wrap up post on Friday! You can get more information on our Challenge Month here (including all the contest rules) and more details on Judge a Book By Its Cover Week here.