The River of No Return was popular a few years ago, but I didn’t get around to reading it until now. The plot combining time travel and romance reminded me of The Time-Traveler’s Wife, which I loved. I found Ridgway’s book not nearly as interesting, though.
Nick Davenport appears to be a wealthy dilettante dabbling in cheese making in 2013, but in 1810, he was Nicholas Falcott, Marquess of Blackdown. While fighting in the Peninsular Wars, he was suddenly thrust forward in time to 2003. There he was picked up by a society of time travelers called the Guild, trained to live in modern times, and given a potload of money to live on. Now, the Guild wants him to travel backward to 1815, something he didn’t even know could be done, and resume his earlier life to carry out a mission for them.
Back in 1815, Julia Percy’s grandfather has just died, leaving her at the mercy of an unknown cousin. Since she was a child, Julia has watched her grandfather play little tricks with time. She is just beginning to realize that she can do it, too. Then her cousin Eamon arrives and begins looking for something, a talisman. Julia eventually realizes that she herself is the talisman.
When Nick arrives back in time, he learns he is to find a representative of a rival time-travel society called the Ofan and kill that person. The Guild has learned that the time period within which they can go forward is moving backward in time, and they think the activities of the Ofan have affected the river of time. The Guild thinks this Ofan member lives in a house neighboring Nick’s, the home of Julia Percy. But Nick has no intention of killing anyone.
A portion of this novel is more romance novelish than I like, a fairly standard romantic plot with unlikely (for the time) sex scenes. Since I am not a fan of the standard romance novel, this was not a plus for me.
Worse, though, is the theory of time travel and its link with human emotions and monetary exchange, which is scientifically absurd. Audrey Niffenegger’s genetic abnormality is at least faintly believable.
All in all, my reaction was fairly meh. The novel is well written, but I wasn’t particularly interested in most of the characters. I thought Nick was incredibly naive about the Guild and went along with it far too long. An alternate explanation of the moving time horizon seemed immediately obvious to me, although it is not addressed in this novel. Because this novel is clearly designed for a sequel, only the romance plot is resolved.