TIME WILL TELL
Author: Fiona McCallum
Harlequin RRP $29.99
Review: Monique Mulligan
**GIVEAWAY ALERT – I’m giving away a copy of this on my FB page to an AU reader. Comp closes Easter Sunday**
Time Will Tell is the second in Fiona McCallum’s The Button Jar series, which is romantic rural fiction set in South Australia. I read the first in the series, Saving Grace, last year, not realising it was part of a series (I’d been sent an advance copy that made no mention of this); although that book left me feeling a little flat, I was keen to see how Time Will Tell progressed the story. For those who haven’t read the first novel, it’s probably best to do so, otherwise Emily’s growth as a character and the events that shape this book won’t have as much impact.
The story picks up where it left off: Emily Oliphant has recently separated from her abusive husband and has moved into an old farmhouse that needs plenty of TLC. The elderly owners of the house have made her an tempting offer in which she can buy the house and surrounding 20 acres and pay it off in instalments, and subdivide the rest of the land. For Emily, the offer represents a fresh start, a sense of purpose and, most importantly, the catalyst for independence. Here’s her chance to be known as Emily, not just Enid’s daughter or John’s wife. The biggest barrier from taking the big step into home-ownership is one most of us know all too well: money. With no job, and a less-than-fair financial settlement from John, Emily isn’t sure whether she can afford the house. Does the button jar, given to her by her recently deceased Granny Mayfair, hold the answer to her problems? Life has a few more surprises in store for Emily, some good, some bad, and soon she has some even more difficult decisions to make, all of which involve further change. Will she ever have the peace she craves?
That’s really the question, because one of Emily’s biggest problems is worry. I’m quite familiar with this problem myself! Emily ruminates over every decision – should she buy the house, let a boarder move in, get involved with her new friend Jake, stand up for herself, make jam … and so on. What she thinks she wants is this run-down house surrounded by acreage that she can do up and turn into a bed and breakfast, make jam and live a happy life … but her own mind (and, it must be said, some difficult people and situations), makes that dream harder than it should be. Time Will Tell is not, as I expected, about Emily getting what she thinks is her dream, but more a journey of self-discovery. Through multiple challenges, Emily makes mistakes, worries too much and second-guesses herself but in the process is evolving into a more assertive, confident young woman. I think a lot will fall into place for Emily in the next book.
The story is slow, but in a good way, with the narrative really only covering a few weeks and thus emphasising the ‘time will tell’ aspect of the story. The romantic aspect is downplayed in favour of Emily’s self-growth, and when it does happen, it’s on the sweet side of romance, rather than sassy. The focus is really on the emotional feelings the characters have for each other and I appreciated that – yes, Emily thinks Jake has a cute butt, but pretty much as far as it goes in describing the physical attraction she feels. I don’t have a problem with that … but those expecting a sexier read will have to wait (time will tell, and all that). Who knows? That side might be developed more in the next book. I think was truer to Emily’s character that she and Jake didn’t just have a casual fling (that turned into love post-sex as many romance novels are wont to do), and I also liked how this waiting aspect was reciprocated by Jake, knowing that Emily was freshly separated. He reminded me of my Blue Eyes in many ways.
I’m glad I read Time Will Tell and I do think this is a stronger book than Saving Grace. It’s a light read, nothing heavy, but I enjoyed it more than I expected to. Since there are still a few loose ends to be tied up, and some hints of what might happen, I think it will keep readers speculating until the next book comes out.
Read an extract here.
Available from good bookstores and Harlequin Australia Books. My copy was courtesy of Harlequin.
Bookish treat: I found some couverture choc chips in my pantry. They are gone now.