Book Review

Book Review: The Time Collector

The Time Collector
By Gwendolyn Womack

My Edition:
Paperback, 354 pages
2019, Picador
ISBN: 9781250169235

Roan is a very powerful psychometrist – he can touch and item and see the item’s past and the lives of those who interacted with it. He uses his talents to find valuable antiques and return them to the families they’ve been lost from. When he meets Melicent after her rise to fame for discovering her own valuable antique, he’s instantly drawn to her. But a discovery made by Roan’s friend Stuart brings Roan and Melicent together as they find themselves on the run for their lives.

I was drawn to the cover of this book (ya girl loves keys) and I figured it would have some magical realism vibes.

It did.

But it also had a really annoying insta-romance that soon took over the book and sucked away any enjoyment I had. Sigh.

I do still think the concept is great. I’ve never read anything about psychometry before and this was a fun mix of magical realism, historical fiction, and a dash of sci-fi at the end. Roan is pretty powerful, or skilled, so he can sift through the various timelines of objects to view different memories easily. Basically, when he touches something it’s like watching a movie. I tried not to think too hard about this, because why would an object record the images, thoughts, sounds and feelings of the humans around it in a way that’s watchable like a movie? You’d think maybe some things would be unknown to the object – but I took all this at face value and it was a neat look at some historical moments.

Roan is a pretty good guy – he’s made a shit-ton of money from his skills, but he also uses them to give families a piece of their history back. He becomes involved with his friend’s project on researching “ooparts” (out-of-place artifacts) – items that are found in a place they couldn’t possibly be because of their historical period. It’s hard to explain, but that’s not important. What’s important is this goofy word, ooparts, is used so many times and I CANNOT take it seriously. At one point, some bad guys are beating the shit out of someone and one guy goes, “Where are the ooparts?” and instead of being concerned for the character in peril, I laughed out loud. So Roan is on this quest to find his missing friend, Stuart, and unravel this mystery of the ooparts and every time that damn word came up I had to chuckle. It’s still a cool concept, but I wish there was a better word for these artifacts.

This leads me to the writing style. I don’t need books to be full of verbal flourishes and obscure words I have to look up every other page. But as I read, the tone of this book was a bit too obvious for me. A prime example is Roan saving a lost girl at a train station:

“Melicent turned to see what he [Roan] was looking at and caught sight of the little girl, no more than five years old. She was staring alone like a scared animal afraid to cross the road as tears streamed down her face.

The little girl was lost.”

Roan then helps the girl find the police at the station and call her mother. The scene ends with, “Roan had helped the little girl find her way home.”

The bad analogy about the girl being like a scared animal paired with the fact that she’s FIVE and ALONE was enough to clue me in that she’s lost. No need to point out the obvious. Then, after Roan talks to her and uses his skills to help her remember her mother’s number so the cops can call her, it’s pretty obvious he helped her. But we had to be told that too, just so we could…what…really understand that he’s a nice guy?

There are a lot of strange details similar to the animal analogy throughout the book. Like, “Their lips came together in a lock, the connection between them tightening like a twisting coil.” Thaaat’s not very sexy. That made me chuckle too.

While we’re on the subject of smooching, let’s talk about the insta-love here. There’s attraction between Roan and Melicent immediately because they’re both sexy or whatever. They’re both pretty tropey too – Roan is the kind-hearted Rich Guy (like filthy fuckin’ rich) who has feelings that no one else can understand because of his skills and Melicent is the poor, hardworking Clumsy Girl who dresses casually. I didn’t flag it, but there’s a line saying something like, Melicent had always been clumsy, and then she fucking knocks over something precious or falls flat on her face or some shit. I’m so over it!

All through the story these two keep getting distracted by how horny they are for each other. I get that many people enjoy romantic tension – I even do sometimes! But these two were in some fairly dangerous situations and then they’d be side-eyeing each other, thinking about sexiness. Like, ok, maybe I can’t relate because I’ve never been in a life-threatening situation with a bo-hunk before. But it was ridiculous at times.

Roan also has a longtime female friend, Holly. They actually work together and we find out they grew up together too. But when Melicent first meets Holly, she has to be jealous because that’s how women work, right? So Holly doesn’t know what to make of Melicent when Roan brings Melicent and her brother to his office. Here are Melicent’s observations:

“Melicent didn’t know what to make of Roan’s partner. Holly Beauchene wasn’t the warmest person, and Melicent had a hard time seeing past the façade. Holly was too polished, too poised – too Southern. Not a speck of makeup was out of line, not a hair out of place. A woman who used that much hairspray must have issues.”

OKAY.

I have so many problems with his paragraph. First, can we get a break from the jealous female thing? Anyone reading this book knows without a doubt, Roan and Melicent are going to hook up. Do we really need her to feel threatened by another woman that he’s known way longer than Melicent? Can the two just be like, neutral? They don’t even have to be friends, though that would be a nice change of pace.

If Womack had just left it at Melicent thinking Holly wasn’t very warm, I’d be ok with it. It’s ok if Holly is going to be The Bitch and Melicent is going to feel Threatened because she hopes romance will bloom between her and Roan. That’s a tired scenario, but ok. Holly could be painted as a bitch by simply acting like one. Or, more to Womack’s style, she could just say, “Holly was a bitch.”

Instead, Melicent immediately takes a dig at Holly’s appearance. Maybe this is something that happens more often in books than I notice, but I noticed it this time and I’m so over it. Melicent is Clumsy and Casual, so she immediately judges Holly for being well-dressed and polished. I feel like Womack is insulting anyone who prefers to wear makeup and style their hair. I mean, come on…lots of hairspray equals having issues!? Not to mention, we don’t know how much “that much” is because Melicent has probably never used hairspray in her life. Maybe Holly just used a little. Even if she used a whole damn can, how does that relate to her personality!?

Oh, yeah…it doesn’t!

And “too Southern” – I don’t even know how to touch that statement. What in the hell is she implying? It’s likely that Holly was too polite and charming, but it’s a pretty broad statement. I just hate that whole paragraph. A lot.

Ok, that’s enough ranting.

Clearly, I’m not a fan of the writing style. I didn’t care about the romance and by the time I reached the end of the book I didn’t care about the plot either. Despite my ranting, this isn’t an awful book. It was entertaining enough for me to read all of it and at least the subject matter was refreshing. I don’t think I’ll be picking up anything else by Womack though. If you enjoy cheeseball romances, history and magical realism, you might like this book! I’m going to send this one to a friend who might get more enjoyment out of it than I did.

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