Release Date: March 11, 2014
Publisher: Gallery Books
Genre: Literary Fiction | Time Travel
A compelling tale of two Scotlands-one modern, one ancient-and the woman who parts the veil between them.
The medication that treats Maggie’s seizures leaves her in a haze, but it can’t dull her grief at losing her daughter to the same condition. With her marriage dissolved and her son away at school, Maggie retreats to a cottage below the ruins of Dunadd, once the royal seat of Scotland. But is it fantasy or reality when she awakens in a bustling village within the massive walls of eighth-century Dunadd? In a time and place so strange yet somehow familiar, Maggie is drawn to the striking, somber Fergus, brother of the king and father of Illa, who bears a keen resemblance to Maggie’s late daughter. With each dreamlike journey to the past, Maggie grows closer to Fergus and embraces the possibility of staying in this Dunadd. But with present-day demands calling her back, can Maggie leave behind the Scottish prince who dubs her mo chridhe, my heart?
I've been in the mood for something different lately and VEIL OF TIME by Claire R. McDougall was screaming at me to finally give it a shot especially as it's been sitting on my shelf for the longest time. I'll be honest, my sole motivation for reading this is it's shameless comparison to Diana Gabaldon's hit series, Outlander, following its formula of time travel, Scotland, men in kilts, a conflicted woman. Unfortunately it did not live up to its promise IMO, though the premise is promising the actual plot was droll and at times even outrageous I had a hard time suspending disbelief.
I'll start with the time travel explanation which I could accept because VEIL OF TIME after all is a fantasy so anything goes in that regard. The short of it is Maggie was able to transport herself back to 8th century Dunadd because it's Samhain and her epileptic episodes was her mode of travel. However Maggie is slated for an operation soon which will cure her of the disease but in exchange for a clean bill of health, she won't be able to take casual trips back in 8th century. This conundrum was made even more difficult after Maggie fell in love with Fergus, the King of Dunadd's brother. Again I can deal with this, it can be a legit myth and conflict, I mean I've read and engaged in various impossible and sometimes ridiculous plots involving several otherworldly creatures and IMO this is no different.
In present day Maggie found a confidante in her neighbor, Jim, a geezer and local historian. First she started asking dear old Jim random but specific questions about Dunadd which Jim entertained. Eventually she confessed that she was able to travel back and forth in time during her epileptic episodes and here is where part of my problem lies. Jim just took it in stride and didn't really question this anomaly. No skepticism, no proof of validation, nothing of the sort, he just took it as fact and became Maggie's pseudo babysitter when she has her attacks. Ha! A very illogical response from an intellection don't you think?
VEIL OF TIME didn't work for me for a few reasons. First is it's lack of tension and ebbs and tides that could've made this one great adventure. There was no palpable romantic tension between Maggie and Fergus, they meet, got curious, felt attraction, hopped in a cot, screwed, fell in love, and never want to part. It was one straight line which is a shame because their impossible love story is the core of the novel.
Also Dunadd is in the cusp of a catastrophe the likes of their existence will be wiped out from history. The constant alternation between past and present prevented this part of the story to be developed. The height of this arc is Maggie warning Fergus and his tribe of the oncoming assault, basically trying to change the past in order to save them. Yeah that didn't work well either. On a side note, I don't know why Maggie would want to stay in Dunadd, I understand that McDougall is trying to give an authentic air to this time but it was so authentic that it became unappealing. Yucky stew with mystery meat, unwashed bodies, people speaking Gaelic, and so on and so forth. There's nothing remotely romantic about this era and it would be a no brainer for me choosing between my health and Fergus.
So yes, this little reading experiment was a bust and believe me I tried to at least like VEIL OF TIME which was why I finished it instead of calling DNF. Obviously I'm not the right reader for this literary fantasy, I guess I've been pre-conditioned by countless PNR/UF novels that stories like this should come with different highs, it was too tame for my crazy palate.