No Time Like Now is an intriguing romantic adventure novel by Jennifer Young in which the central protagonists, who have parted under highly traumatic circumstances, meet, unexpectedly, at a University Field Centre in Majorca.
The writing of romance has come a long way since the sad old days of good girl, bad girl, versus handsome, but inept and emotionally-challenged male, who must bumble his way towards making the right choice, one that usually involved imminent marriage.
This novel is far more cerebral. Young’s characters are fully-rounded adults, easy to relate to, whose psychology she renders accessible without ever becoming incomprehensible or mundane.
Characterisation and Motivation
Tim is a strong, all-male hero, handsome, a little arrogant (traces of Mr. Darcy here!) but also something of a geek. But, as women know, intellectually-competent males don’t always understand what’s best for them emotionally.
Megan McLeod, a likeable heroine, empathetic, sometimes a tad too serious, is suffering from amnesia. She knows there are painful experiences she has forgotten, events that have had an enormous impact on her life, her self-esteem, and her emotional ties with her family. In addition, there is the deep sense of the betrayal she has to endure from her break-up with Tim.
Despite these ordeals, Megan is doing well, having found herself a job as a housekeeper at the Majorca Field Centre and proving her determination to make a new start.
Her ex-lover, Tim, is a geological researcher who arrives unexpectedly with a pretty PhD student, Holly, in tow.
Unimpressed at meeting Megan again, Tim finds it hard to conceal his chilliness towards her. His resentment still lingers while Megan remains as confused as ever:
“But the facts stood between them. Somewhere in their past, everything had changed.”
If this psychological time-bomb and its aftermath are not enough, Young treats us to a thrilling series of mysterious events, starting with a body on the beach, to a veritable roller-coaster of a journey through crime, betrayal and life-threatening disasters, which stretch both Megan’s and Tim’s physical and emotional resources to the limit.
Two Viewpoints of One Story
Young tells the story from two opposing viewpoints, firstly that of Megan, which is in the first person singular. It’s an attractive viewpoint, appealing directly to the reader as though sharing a confidence.
For example, although determined not to relax her guard, Megan cannot help but observe that some things simply haven’t changed at all: “…the light was tricky, running flecks of gold through his brown hair. Domenica was right. He was handsome,if anything more than when we first met, though at the time I’d thought that impossible.”
First person singular is, traditionally, a popular angle for this genre and writers often use it as the only viewpoint in many romantic novels. This is not the case in No Time Like Now.
On the contrary, we are also permitted access to Tim’s inner feelings, concealed though they may be to his co-characters. However, Tim’s story, told in separate chapters, is in the third person singular, the he/she viewpoint. In this way, although the narration invites us in, we are kept at sufficient distance to preserve a modicum of male-hero mystery essential to the genre.
As a result, although we might share certain aspects of Tim’s thinking, we may intuit far more quickly than Megan how he actually feels towards her– a highly-effective storytelling technique that keeps the reader on the edge of her seat!
Sense of Place Adds to the Drama
The author’s sense of place is superb. Young’s background is in geography and geoscience (she has degrees in both) so that her expertise is ably reflected in her writing.
“And now the trickle of a stream whose neglected sink hole had provided him with a safe inland access was turning on him and growing in strength… No, turning into a torrent. Powered by the destructive intensity of the storm, it came in with increasing power so that he risked becoming trapped… In that case he would be sucked out of the cave and into the stormy sea. And then, unquestionably, he would drown.”
Young shapes all of the settings to heighten our sense of drama, building up to the terrifying storm which underscores the heightening emotional tension between the two central protagonists.
No Loose Ends: The Novelist’s Craft
This is when Tim desperately needs Megan’s help. With his life in danger, and a couple of crazy, hot-blooded arms smugglers panting at his heels and intent on revenge, he has nowhere else to turn.
Is Megan up to the task? How can she convince him that she is not the uncaring girl he thinks she is, that she would never have done that terrible thing he believes her to have done?
“Misunderstanding isn’t a crime. It isn’t even a sin. It doesn’t need to be forgiven. All we have to do is to learn to let things go.”
With a natural novelist’s skill, Jennifer Young manages to tie up all those loose ends, leaving the reader with a satisfying resolution and the assurance that, yes, it is possible to move on, and that, while a traumatic past is not something that is easy to ignore, it can be overcome, put firmly in its place, and prevented from overwhelming the joys of the present and the hope for a bright future.
As in all the best novels, love and hope finally triumph over adversity. Every woman will want to identify with Jennifer Young’s feisty heroine, Megan!