Review Feature: Druid’s Portal: The First Journey

 S. Thomas rated it – ‘It was amazing’

Okay, so normally I don’t go out of my way for a romance. I fear spending a dozen pages talking about feelings and passion. I gave this a shot the synopsis sounded good. I was not disappointed! There was a mystery, a prick with a magic time traveling pendant, and lots of Roman and Celt sword fights. There was a strong romantic theme, but I’ve read plenty of stuff with this much romance that simply listed as fantasy, or action. Even my man Clive Cussler has Dirk Pitt playing kissey face when he isn’t being tougher, richer, and a better mechanic than you.Kicking butt and secretly really wanting to read a romance while pretending I’m in it for just the sword fights is not the only draw here. I love the history lesson entwined into the story. The Roman invasion of Celtic Britain is a fascinating time and one I feel a connection to since most of my heritage (I’m an American mutt) is Celtic and I have a swirling blue tattoo.

Janet is an archaeologist specializing in Celtic and Roman history. She is helping her cop friend find out who has been robbing her museum. It’s her friend’s way of helping her get over her abusive ex-boyfriend and Druid scholar, Damon. After she prevents the burglar from stealing a pendant, she begins having a vision of Trajan, a Roman hunky dude, getting murdered. She falls in love, then the fun begins. There’s also a tasteful amount of time travel…

I received a free Advanced Reader Copy in exchange for a review. Any review. That fact that it’s a good one is because the book is good. Which has nothing to do with how awesome I am. You’ll have to find that out for yourself @S_Shane_Thomas on Twitter.

I was so stoked to read and review this book before its release that I downloaded the app eReader Prestigo, put Druid’s Keep in .mobi form into the app, and had the funky GPS lady read it to me while I drove as far north in Maine as you can go without stopping for taters and gravy. It was worth the trouble! I highly recommend this book if you love smoochie stuff, gory swordfights, magic, mystery, or simply a well-crafted piece of fiction.

You can find more of S. Shane Thomas' reviews on his website.
E.M. Swift-Hook rated it  – ‘It was amazing’

A Magical, Roman Era, Time-Travel Romance

“History may be just bones and ruins to you, but it is people, Janet. People loving, hurting, and dying.”

This is a story about love and time-travel, evil gods and evil people, magical and mundane events, all woven tightly into a brilliant multi-hued tapestry. Janet is an archaeologist working in a small museum at Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland. She was raised by nuns (this was something I raised an eyebrow at, but one assumes they got legal custody of her somehow) having been abandoned by her unknown parents. Her heart broken by her last, violent, boyfriend Daman, she starts having dreams of a Roman soldier following a break-in at her museum. Trajan is in deadly danger and she wishes she could help him. Then a portal opens her way to the distant past and she finds herself in Roman Britain.

What I loved most about this book is it highlights the way that when we look at the past, we often do so with a very patronising and diminishing filter. We really do forget that history is about what happened to real people living their real lives against incredible odds, with much less in the way of technology, but with just as much intelligence, skill and imagination as we have today – often more. This is a book that is about our concept of history as much as about the fictional events it describes and it makes a reader stop, think and question those kinds of assumption.

‘That he had never heard of TV didn’t make her brighter or better. It wasn’t as if she could build one. She doubted she could even explain how it worked.’

The writing is good and the pace cracking – I found it hard to drag myself away from wanting to turn the next page. The characters are all well thought out and very convincing – even the evil Daman avoids being a stereotype and although unexplored in depth, the reader is left with a sense that he is in some ways as much a victim of events as those he persecutes. The clever blending of mythology, magic and hard history is truly a potent mix.

I really enjoyed the historical detail which is slipped into the story not in any heavy-handed way, but lightly in small daubs and dashes, where appropriate and fitting, to flesh-out the story and give depth and substance to the world in which the events unfold. But this is not straight-up history as much as it strives for – and to a high degree achieves – a sense of period verisimilitude. This is a fantasy, with all the potential of magic, with dark gods and soul stealing, mystical visions and of course, time travel.

“Without you, I’ll have to settle for some local girl—and who could measure up to a time-travelling goddess?”

So what if anything, is there not to like? Well for me very little. The only issue I had was with the classic romance format of Janet and Trajan’s relationship. I don’t normally read romance stories for this very reason as I never really understand why a romance has to be written that way. There has always to be inevitable misunderstandings and both people having some illogical internal dialogue in which they create false assumptions around the behaviour and words of the other – and then refuse to speak of it when one word or two would resolve the problem between them. Maybe that is how some people run their romances in real life, but to me, it always comes over as just a device to create tension in the story. But that is still a very minor gripe against the richly woven back-cloth to that romance and it is not there in sufficient quantity to spoil an otherwise wonderful read for me.

I loved this book. I’d recommend it especially to those who enjoy time-travel romance stories, as Cindy Tomamichel is giving Diana Gabaldon a run for her money. But I would also recommend it highly to those who enjoy a good historical read with added magic and anyone who enjoys Roman era books of all varieties.

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