Adult, Contemporary, Historical, Romance

The Lovers by Irina Shapiro

I found this book randomly while browsing Kindle Unlimited titles. Dual-timeframe stories are a big YES for me, so I was excited to see that this book is the start of a series called Echoes from the Past. 

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The Lovers (Echoes from the Past #1)
Irina Shapiro
Kindle Press

Synopsis
1665. When Elise de Lesseps is sold in marriage to Lord Edward Asher, she resolves to be an obedient and dutiful wife, until, on their wedding night, she finds out exactly what her husband has in store for her. His request leaves her feeling shocked and humiliated, but being his chattel, she has no right to refuse. The consequences of that night seal Elise’s fate, and set her on a path that will lead to heartbreak and tragedy.

2013. Renowned archeologist, Dr. Quinn Allenby has a gift; she can see into the past when holding an object that belonged to the dead. When asked to host a BBC series called “Echoes from the Past,” Quinn uses her gift to find out what really happened to the 17th century couple known only as “The Lovers,” and unwittingly stumbles onto the secret of her own birth.


My Review

If you’ve read my bio at the end of all of my reviews, you may have guessed that I have a thing for history & archaeology. Thus, this book was pretty much an instant download for me. “Echoes from the Past” sounds like a show I would 100% watch religiously, so I was really excited for this book. And I definitely liked this book A LOT, but there were a couple of things that keep me from adding it to my Favorites shelf.

The main premise of this book is really cool, and I think it worked well overall. Archaeologist Quinn Allenby has a unique gift that allows her to see into the past when she holds an object that was meaningful to its owner. The past she’s looking into in this book is that of Elise, a girl who we learn was basically sold into marriage to pay off her father’s debts. She feels a strong duty to her family, and while marrying a stranger was not what Elise wanted out of life, she does it anyway, mostly to protect her sisters. Elise’s new husband has some pretty awful demands, and while I don’t want to spoil anything, you can probably guess from the description that his demands might be triggering to some readers.

We start catching glimpses of Elise’s life after a box containing a male & female skeleton are found in the present day. BBC producer Rhys wants to turn their story into a television show, and enlists Quinn’s help, as she has just gained fame in the archaeological world for recent find. Quinn is kind of unsure about whether to participate at first, but her friend/colleague Gabe convinces her that it’s the right move.

Rhys came off as kind of a smarmy character to me to begin with, and none of his actions changed that opinion as I read the book. He’s a little too into sensationalizing the story of “The Lovers” and seems really unconcerned with the fact that they were real people, with real lives, who were (probably) brutally murdered. There’s also a bit of a love triangle effect with Rhys, Quinn, and Gabe, but it’s resolved pretty quickly and decisively.

The main issue I had with this book that keeps me from all-out LOVING it has to do with the subplot. Quinn is adopted, and doesn’t know anything about her birth parents. She wonders whether her psychic gift is hereditary, but has no way of knowing. Towards the middle of the book, there are some revelations, and we learn who Quinn’s biological mother is, along with the circumstances of her birth. Now, I hate giving spoilers, but I can’t talk about why this subplot did not sit well with me without giving away some key elements.

SPOILERS AHEAD (highlight the next paragraph if you want to read them.)

Quinn’s mother tells her that she was drugged at a party and raped by three men. She became pregnant and didn’t feel like she could ever love Quinn & be a good mother because of the circumstances, so she gave Quinn up a few days after her birth. Quinn’s mother claims that Rhys is one of the men who raped her. When Quinn confronts Rhys, he admits to the claims, says he was pressured into it, and asks to meet with the mother to apologize and ask for forgiveness. And Quinn just kind of… let’s it go. She doesn’t tell him to turn himself in (which, with statues of limitations, maybe that’s a moot point but STILL), she doesn’t refuse to work with him, nothing! She just asks him to help her find the other two men and identify which is her father. I don’t know, she just seemed way too blasé about the whole thing. I feel like the fact that Rhys is a rapist should have been a much bigger deal, and it shouldn’t have mattered that he was young and pressured into it and oh-so-sorry. His justification, (paraphrasing) “it was a chance to lose my virginity without judgement, and she didn’t say no,” was actually pretty horrifying. I don’t think it’s wrong to include mentions of rape in a story, and I think if done right it can actually do great things like bring awareness to the rapes that go unreported because the victims fear judgement or not being believed. But here, it’s really Quinn’s reaction to Rhys’s admission of guilt that didn’t sit well with me. I think she should have refused to work with him, insisted on a new producer for “Echoes of the Past”, and basically just removed him from the story from that point forward. Her moving on and asking for his help in finding the other two men kind of gave a credibility to his “apology” that just felt wrong to me.

So, yeah. It didn’t 100% ruin the story for me as a whole, but the problematic subplot really takes away from what is otherwise a wonderful read.

All things considered, I do think I’ll read the next book in this series, The Forgotten. I love the idea of an archaeologist who can see into the past, and I’m interested to see if Quinn learns where her psychic powers come from. Also, it will be interesting to see if the “bad guys” from the problematic subplot get their comeuppance – I think that would go a long way towards making me feel better about this series.

The best parts of The Lovers actually reminded me a lot of The Firebird by Susannah Kearsley. She is one of my all-time favorite authors, and this series is filling a hole for me as I (impatiently) await her next book. Overall, I liked this book. It’s a fascinating premise, with a (mostly) relatable and interesting main character in Quinn. It kept me reading, even through parts that I found less-than-wonderful, and I think that says a lot about how well-written and intriguing this book is. I would cautiously recommend The Lovers to readers who like books by Susannah Kearsley, Santa Montefiore, and Beatriz Williams.

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