Love Strikes Twice

22 Going on 37

What did I just see? It was on the Hallmark Channel but was it really a Hallmark movie? It was a time-traveling romantic comedy but that is all it had in common with the usual Hallmark. No pageant-worthy hair, wardrobe, and make-up here. Just great writing, attention to detail, talented acting, and fresh faces.

We enter this rare territory zeroing in on a 37-year-old childless corporate lawyer, whose marriage is about to fail because her main priority is to make partner in her firm so she can “swim with the sharks”. She is troubled about her marriage and confides to a friend that the crossroads in her life seemed to be when she worked with a childhood friend, now her unhappy husband, to try to save the local library building. After an unexpected encounter with her old  boyfriend, now one of the “sharks” she yearns to swim with, she wonders if she should have chosen him rather than the humble high school teacher she is now married to and has so little in common with. If only she could go back in time and with her sophisticated skills and knowing what she knows now about the law, be successful in saving the building. That would certainly change everything for the better and set her life on the path it was meant to be on.

I won’t go into the ins and outs of what happens, because there is so much that happens both personally and professionally. The details and the authenticity make the movie complex, heartfelt, funny, and very entertaining. It is tight and action-packed. There is not a boring minute in it. No usual meaningless filler or tired tent pole scenes. It borrows from many other time travel romantic comedies too numerous to list, but I was most reminded of the delightful 13 Going on 30. Needless to say, when she goes back 15 years to save the library, she also saves her marriage, her husband’s career, her father’s health, and turns her brother’s and her best friend’s lives around. It all culminates at her parents’ 25th anniversary, when she hits her head again and she shoots forward to their 40th, and her real, now transformed, life.

The acting is great all around, but the star of the show is Katie Findlay , whose looks and talent brought even more life and charm to the role that was already well-written. Had she not been cast, the movie still would have been wonderful, but she made it a 10 out of a 10. I fear she will soon be going on to bigger and better things. Sadly for Hallmark-land, I predict we will not be seeing her again on this Channel.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

October 4, 2021

Timeless Love

What Just Happened Here?

Megan wakes up from a coma and learns the life she dreamed of wasn’t real. Or was it? Or will it be? Time-slip movies can be difficult as well as entertaining. This one left me with too many questions. This woman dreams up 2 children and they weren’t real? Did she dream the pregnancy and birth as well? If it was just a dream, what was the deal with the clock? Did she go back in time? Were the first couple minutes of the movie just a sneak peak into her future? If it was just a dream why did she meet the dream husband in real life? If she hadn’t had that dream would she have met him anyway and felt the same way about him? Did she have the same kids eventually? Would her real life be forever influenced by her memories of her dream? What about the dream kids? Did they have thoughts and feelings? Souls? Would she have to still live in that same house? decorate it it the same way? So many questions. Rachel Skarsten did a great job, and I did enjoy the movie despite it all.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

June 23, 2020

The Rose Garden

By Susanna Kearsley

 Each stir of the breeze through the leaves had, to my childish ears, seemed to carry a faint lilting music, not meant for the grown-ups, that beckoned me on. I had often imagined the tunnel of trees was the doorway to fairyland, and I’d been certain that one day I’d step out the other side into some wonderful place.

Wow. Susanna Kearsley always aspires to a twisty emotionally charged climax and resolution, and she really nailed this one. Her books are usually quite leisurely with lots of detail on history and description, and culture. Of course, this is another time travel book with romance usually taking a second seat to atmosphere and plot. So, in my opinion, they really need those endings to push them over the top to a 5 star rating from me. I didn’t really try to figure out in advance how all the past and the present were going to resolve themselves, so I don’t know if I should have seen it coming or not. Safe to say, I didn’t, and because of that, I was very moved and astonished. I loved that she really took her time with it and went into detail with the “reveal.” I had to go back and trace the few clues that were hidden from the reader in the minutia of description and background. I am glad I read this on kindle so it was easy for me to trace back to the important scenes. Knowing what I knew at the end of the book while rereading those pages really breathed new life into her words. The moral of this story, past and present, is “Home is where the heart is.”

Rating: 5 out of 5.

March 20, 2016

A Desperate Fortune

By Susanna Kearsley

Once again, we have a dual timeline. The modern girl is a codebreaker with Aspersers. Unfortunately that sounds a lot more interesting than it was. she is trying to unveil the story of Mary Dundas, a Jacobite exile from the 1730s’, via her diary which is written in code. She has written about this era in history quite a bit, and she graces us with a few cameos of people from her previous books.

All in all, this one was rather slow, particularly the contemporary story of Sara. The romance in this one, however, was the best I’ve read by SK so far. She does not excel in this department, but the last scene with the big Scotsman and Mary was very sigh worthy, bumping this one up from 3 stars to 4 stars.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

March 7, 2016

Mariana

By Susanna Kearsley

**spoilers**

Faith,” he said, smiling, “d’you think I’d let a little thing like the grave come between us?”

Make it a 4 1/2. Really reminded me of Touch not the Cat by Mary Stewart, which is why I saw the final twist coming. There were still a few surprises: the identity of aunt Freda, and of John Howard. I did start to suspect Mariana might have gotten pregnant a good bit before that was revealed. I guess Iain was a descendant of Rachel and Evan Gilroy? Like others, I wish there had been more time with Iain and Julia at the end, and more of a resolution with Geoff. I guess they’ll all get it hashed out, but unfortunately the reader will not be included, which leaves one with a bit of regret. Also, the romance between Mariana and Richard seemed rather perfunctory. I teared up more at the fate of Navarre than I did at the big death scene.


However, Susanna Kearsley has a way with descriptions, mood, and conjuring up a world to escape in and long to visit again and again. Her characters do come alive and are all really likable, at least in this one. This book had a great premise and I can see why it won the awards that it did. Really admirable and enjoyable, despite a bit of promise unfulfilled. I found it hard to put down, as with all of her books so far.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

February 18, 2016

The Firebird

By Susanna Kearsley

“Hiding the person you are,’ he said, ‘won’t make you happy. I never hide who I am. What I am.”

Having read The Winter Sea, I was looking forward to The Firebird because I was very interested in knowing what became of Anna, the daughter of the protagonists in Slains #1, and hoped for a glimpse or two of them. I was also excited that the character of young Rob from the first book I read by this author, The Shadowy Horses, was a player in this one. It does deliver in that regard, but I wish she had incorporated some of the contemporary players in The Winter Sea and more than just Rob of Shadowy Horses as well. Although the book kept me interested as far as the historical part of the dual timeline, It was ultimately a bit of a letdown. Kearsley is so meticulous about her historical research and so careful to be faithful to her real but little-known actors on history’s stage, that her plot and character development took a distant second in this one. Every single person in this book actually existed except Anna herself, and a few stray innkeepers and such. Wikipedia got a good workout by me, and her historical notes at the end actually expose what contributed to the weakness of this book. Having to be faithful to all that she discovered in original source materials put too many constraints on what SK could actually do with the character and plot.

The contemporary part of the story did not rescue it. It was dull, except for a brief little unexpected discovery at the end, and very repetitive. Unlike The Winter Sea, it did not join past and present together in a big emotional wallop. There were a lot of loose ends. Nicola’s fascination with a certain painting at the Hermitage which was set up like it was going to be responsible for some kind of revelation was just dropped cold. It felt rushed, and left some pretty gaping plot holes. The heroine was irritating and nonsensical, and our Rob, from The Shadowy Horses, was nice, and grew up to be a fine young man, but there was no suspense or conflict in the relationship.

There were flashes of excellence in this book, and I can’t give it less than a 3 because I have so much respect for Kearsley’s writing and her hard work. 

Rating: 3 out of 5.

February 11, 2016

The Winter Sea

By Susanna Kearsley

“I do promise that you will survive this. Faith, my own heart is so scattered round the country now, I marvel that it has the strength each day to keep me standing. But it does,’ she said, and drawing in a steady breath she pulled back just enough to raise a hand to wipe Sophia’s tears. ‘It does. And so will yours.’
‘How can you be so sure?’
‘Because it is a heart, and knows no better.”

“Whatever might become of them, she knew that there was nothing that could rob them of that happiness. For they had lived their winter, and the spring had finally come.”

I did like the book. I liked the history and atmosphere and the sense of place. I guess I liked the plot and was intrigued by the idea of the modern heroine inheriting the memories of her ancestor, Sophia. I just wasn’t too taken by either heroine. They weren’t all that interesting, personality-wise. and neither were the main love interests. I had the same reaction to the plot development late in the book that most readers had. It was clumsily and, it seems, cynically done to provide the opportunity for a sequel. I loved the romantic ending, however telegraphed it was and however fantastical it was. Why 4 stars? Darned if I know. there was just something about it. Also, I do have a soft spot for the Jacobite Rebellion and Scotland. Will I read the sequel? You bet.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

July 15, 2015

Just in Time for Christmas

Back to the Future

Lindsay is at a crossroads in her life. She is a professor at a small local college who has just been offered a professorship and a book deal from Yale University. The same day, she has a date with her long term boyfriend on which he proposes marriage. It was an elaborate proposal and when she doesn’t jump at the chance they have an argument. On her way home she is offered a carriage ride (William Shatner) that turns out to be magical. She is transported 3 years forward in time  and her life is going forward as if she had accepted the offer from Yale. She is a respected Yale professor, best-selling author, a local hero, and her book has made her 2 million dollars richer. But woe is me. She still loves her petulant childhood sweetheart and her mother had a heart attack. BUT she is now happily remarried and living in Sweden, so that is all right then.

Overall this was an entertaining movie but for me there were a few problems. First off, in this 2015 (before the quantity over quality directive) movie Eloise Mumford was excellent and cute. I have seen 2 of her later movies with which I had major problems with: one with the movie (she was fine) and one with her. Specifically her hairdresser and makeup artist.  I loved Christopher Lloyd as her grandfather and the winks at Back to the Future and A Wonderful Life. William Shatner is always a hoot. Also I liked the compromise solution of the ending. Much of the entertainment value rested in the suspense of whether she would choose her professional success or her love life. My main problem was with the boyfriend’s childish personality. The two just didn’t match. My second problem was with her flirty behavior with him throughout the movie, until near the end where she  actually flies back home to break up the impending marriage. Excuse me? No. Just no. The small problem was that she got $2,000,000 as a first time author of a self-help book published by a University press. Best seller or not, come on now. The epilogue is totally unnecessary and I love epilogues.

Like I said before, the ending managed a big win for everyone, unless, like me, you wish she would have ended up with the astrophysicist that is mentioned as her Yale love interest instead of small town coffeeshop dude.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

July 4, 2021

How to Stop Time

by Matt Haig

One of the reasons people don’t know about us is that most people aren’t prepared to believe it. Human beings, as a rule, simply don’t accept things that don’t fit their worldview.

This is the chief comfort of being four hundred and thirty-nine years old. You understand quite completely that the main lesson of history is: humans don’t learn from history. The twenty-first century could still turn out to be a bad cover version of the twentieth, but what could we do?

This was a very good book that I enjoyed. Matt Haig is a very good writer, as I could scarcely put it down. It’s full of insightful observations about time, history, love, grief, etc. I will certainly be putting Humans on my want-to-read list. It was, however, despite its subject matter, a very light book. It did not move me to tears or laughter. One of the main threads was Tom’s search for his daughter, who we learn and he learns has the same condition: That is, he only ages 1 year for every 15 he lives. what a fascinating premise! Unfortunately, I felt the climax and resolution were too quick and pat. I was hoping for more of a mystery and big reveal concerning his search of hundreds of years for his exceptional daughter and how the problematic Hendrich Pieterson and his mafia-like protection agency were dealt with. More ground could have been laid as far as his daughter’s background, for example. I would have liked her and his 21st-century love, Camille, to be connected somehow to his past in a shocking, but great and good way. As enjoyable and interesting as this book was, it just didn’t live up to the opportunities its premise seemed to promise.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

March 17, 2018

A Dream of Christmas

Another Hackneyed Plot Device, but…

Our heroine, Penny, (Nikki DeLoach) frustrated because her loving but frequently absent husband may not be home for Christmas, casually voices a random thought about how she wishes she had never been married. Voila! A busybody and eavesdropper behind her in line uses her Christmas Angel powers to grant her her “wish.” Except it is not a real heartfelt desire, it was just a momentary voicing of some mild frustration. She loves her husband dearly, and her husband is crazy about her. He is absent because he is a wildlife photographer, and it is now or never to catch the reindeer migration for his book, which is a mutual dream for the couple. She can no longer go with him because they decided she had to give up her marketing of his photos to get a paying job to support them until his business becomes profitable. And now she has to give a presentation that may lead to a big promotion.

Horrified and bewildered at her new life, she encounters the Christmas demon…er, angel again, but the cold rhymes with witch refuses to take back her thoughtless whim…er, sincere wish. It was nice to see Cindy Williams again, but the character she plays is really creepy, scary, and mean. I don’t think this was intended. I blame the director. She has the gall to blame Penny’s dilemma and tragic consequences (her happily married sister is now single and her children no longer exist) on Penny and then on God himself, refusing to see it was her grossly inappropriate and unasked for meddling that is at fault and it is her responsibility to fix all of the collateral damage.

Enjoying some of the perks of her rich and successful new life, Penny briefly flirts with just moving forward and forgetting her past. A very handsome new client wants to date her, she likes her VIP status, her important position and the work she does, and her Jaguar. Who wouldn’t be tempted? Luckily she and her husband never had children. So that is an important hurdle she doesn’t have to jump. Only two things are wrong. She misses her husband, and her sister is no longer a happily married mother.

It sounds like I didn’t like this movie, but I really did. It is based on a very weak premise, but Penny’s journey really is done well. Her flirtation with the client, who seems at first like a great guy, is tanked because she knows and feels like she is still married. She seeks out her husband, now a very successful corporate photographer, and sparks still fly. The chemistry between them is some of the best I’ve seen in a Hallmark movie. Andrew W. Walker, a Hallmark perennial, really touched my heart in this, as did Nikki Deloach, as Penny. Of course, all is settled in typical Hallmark fashion but this one had some intriguing qualities and even a few surprises. **9 out of 10 stars**

December 11, 2016