My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts...
Ever Crave the Rose, the final installment of Morgan O’Neill’s The Elizabethan Time Travel, has been one of my most anticipated releases over the past 2.5 yrs. ever since I read book 1. I was very excited when I found out this sequel to The Thornless Rose is finally getting published; couldn’t wait to find out how Anne and Jonathan’s journey ends! The biggest query, on my mind, was to see whether they stayed in the Elizabethan-era, or returned to the present time. If so, how will that work out when we consider Jonathan’s own past with Anne’s grandmother and 2014 not being his original time-frame of living. Did I get my answers? I’ll try to elaborate in my review...
It’s true that I’ve never been overtly interested in the history of Tudor England but The Elizabethan Time-Travel series changed that for me. Apart from the chapters set in present time, much like book 1, book 2 also connects and heavily relies on Tudor England without being made to feel like taking a History lesson. The fusion of the historical facts with the fiction was done so well that you won’t think Dr. Jonathan Brandon once wasn’t one of Queen Elizabeth I’s royal physicians! Some major historical figures such as Robert Dudley, Thomas Howard, the Duke of Norfolk, Queen’s chief adviser Robert Cecil, not to mention the venerable Queen Elizabeth I played their roles as needed throughout, which is why I had to research online to find out who was who and how they were related to the story. The authors’ knowledge of Tudor history was admirable.
In book 1, we’re introduced to Anne Howard in 2014, who has been visiting her grandmother Catherine. Catherine is in her 80s but still an active woman. Anne had never heard of her grandmother’s first fiancé’s mysterious disappearance in the mid 1940s because both Catherine and her husband Arthur had decided hushing it up was the best thing to do. We see what happened to Jonathan in the prologue. What seemed like a harmless night in a pub turned out to be something so shattering that his life is completely upside-down. Out of nowhere Jonathan time-travels into the Elizabethan-era. The inn’s owner witnessed the whole thing but of course, no one believed that a man can simply vanish into thin air.
While going through some personal affects in the dusty attic, Anne finds a box full of stuff on time-travel which included paper-cuttings of Jonathan’s disappearance and much more that surprises the hell out of her. When she confronts her grandmother, Catherine decides to finally tell her the family secret. I’m not quite sure if her own children knew of it but Catherine has been an avid believer of time-travel ever since Jonathan’s disappearance. She has done her best to find what happened but the answer seemed to have always eluded her. In fact, it was while searching for Jonathan that she met Arthur, a journalist, who helped her in her most difficult time among the deaths and destruction of WWII. The whole story of what happened during Catherine and Jonathan’s courtship, his disappearance and afterwards, Arthur’s courtship of Catherine, can be found in Begun By Time, which is kind of a prequel to this series. I highly recommend it, though it can be read before or after book 1. I won’t elaborate much on the prequel cause that one isn’t directly linked to book 2.
Now the notion of exactly why the Howard women or someone they were connected to would be prone to time-traveling was never a clear to me. BUT Catherine believed in it and she somehow suspected Anne may become a time-traveler too. So she insisted that Anne kept some modern supplies and whatnot with her always. It’s also maybe because Anne had reported seeing Robert Dudley–she didn’t know who it was at that time—who gave her a rose that’s now extinct. The rose that was cultivated for one of Henry VIII’s wives. Anne’s short morphing in and out of time finally evolves into a bigger pull and she also vanishes into thin air one day while taking a stroll with Catherine, who witnesses everything but probably the only one who understood what was happening. The rest of the story for Catherine’s family was not good. Since it was 2014 and there were other witnesses, press and media were hounding them for info into Anne’s disappearance. But Catherine was rather rich and was able to fend that type of unwanted attentions off. She didn’t confide in anyone but a few friends who already knew of time-traveling. She was waiting for Anne to send her a missive via Hastings Bible that Catherine by then inherited. They had already discussed and found Jonathan’s letter from 1558 or 1559.
In the Tudor-era England, Anne had been successful into finding Jonathan Brandon, who was then working at the St. Bartholomew hospital. Jonathan was not only a RAF but also a doctor and the later was something came very handy and he was able to eke a living out of it. He was rescued by the priest of the church, of which the hospital is a part. He’d already trained himself to speak and act like an Elizabethan to avoid any suspicion, which will inevitably lead to his demise. Jonathan didn’t believe in Anne’s story first, but her startling resemblance to Catherine and the information she had of their time together, made it impossible not to either. Soon though, Anne won over a lonely Jonathan’s heart (in a sense he was lonely as a man of the 20th century and Anne was the closest who could understand his situation). She also made acquaintances with The Queen herself and some other nice individuals of the court.
Regrettably, with all the attentions she was receiving, Anne also made a powerful enemy in The Duke of Norfolk. Norfolk was after her because he had heard of rumors of her dropping from the thin air. He thought she was a witch, who knew the future. And Norfolk really wanted to know what his future holds since he lusted after Elizabeth’s position. And Norfolk’s hatred of Anne only grew overtime. He did his best to destroy Anne’s friendship with the Queen, and later when she married Jonathan, destroy both of them by trying to poison the Queen. By then Jonathan had a very good stand in the court, with Queen’s cousin Henry Hastings and his wife as his friends. Incidents led him to meet the Queen too. He was climbing up the ladder of success fast, becoming her personal physician soon, when Elizabeth understood that Jonathan is a very accomplished physician. And that he can be trusted. That’s all Norfolk needed to know that they stand in his way. Norfolk was portrayed as a very vile character in both books but I don’t know if that was a realistic portrayal or not.
Book 1 ends in a superb climax where Jonathan was about to be hanged for poisoning the Queen, but he was rescued at the last moment. Somehow, Norfolk is able to evade the noose because no one could find any direct link to him. He’s banished from the court though. But no matter, both Jonathan and Anne knew their fight was far from over. As long as Norfolk was alive, they would never feel safe.
In the present time, Catherine was aware of Anne’s safe travel and her meeting plus marriage to Jonathan via the Hastings Bible where she’d hid the little notes. You may think it’s rather awkward that Jonathan was Catherine’s fiancé once, but the whole thing was also rather out-of-the-ordinary. Though it’s only been year or so for Jonathan, it’s been over 60yrs. for Catherine. But by then, both had given up on ever being together again. And to those who are curious, they were never physically involved. Nothing but a few kisses happened, and considering the time-frame, I wasn’t surprised. So, though initially the notion of Jonathan and Anne together seemed weird to me, that feeling soon passed.
In book 2, we’re literally dumped into Elizabethan-era England once again, so the story picks up where it left off. My suggestion would be to read the series in order. Anne had just given birth to their first child and both she and Jonathan were over the moon with the latest addition in their family. Happy because despite their initial apprehension, they’ve found love, good friends and now, a family. Excited because they knew Queen Elizabeth I and was considered among one of her closest acquaintances. Yet, they were apprehensive because Norfolk was still alive, and probably plotting away something horrible to get to them. But for now, Anne and Jonathan were enjoying their lives together.
As the story progresses, we find the author(s) highlighting Elizabeth’s close relationship with Robert Dudley. Their feelings for each-other were quite clear in book 1, though the Queen had refused to marry him. Marrying would mean she won’t have the absolute power over England’s monarchy, and Elizabeth was trained to rule as sovereign. Not to share her power. But they were attracted to each-other and had already become lovers. In one of the most intense moments of the story, where Jonathan gets to show off his skills as a doctor, was when the Queen loses her first child by Dudley. She would be dead too, had Jonathan not did his best with his knowledge of modern medicine to save her life. In here, the Queen declared she was pregnant again and demanded Jonathan’s ministration from the beginning till the time she’s ready to give birth. The Queen, who wasn’t in the best of heath during the pregnancy, would’ve again lost her child, but this time the fate smiles upon her. With Jonathan’s expert advice and ministrations, she finally gives birth to a healthy baby girl, who is then handed over to the Hastings since she couldn’t acknowledge a child out of wedlock.
Among the celebrations and other courtly duties, Anne too finds out she’s pregnant again and it seemed like the best time of their lives. However, Norfolk was only biding his time, planting a spy in their house. When the spy in question gains enough trust where Jonathan trusted him with Anne’s well-being, he struck. The rest is rather a heart-wrenching story as Norfolk murders Anne and dumps her body on the doorstep of the church. :(
But don’t lose heart yet. I was really shocked when I read this bit of the story but the author(s) had a solution for it too...
In the present day, Catherine was spending her time anticipating messages from Anne to know she’s safe and sound. Meanwhile, it was proven by the researchers that the thornless rose is, indeed, a species now extinct. Catherine does her best to dodge the questions asked regarding the rose’s history. But when the heartbreaking news of Anne’s death reached through one of Jonathan’s frantic letters, she’s lost. One of the time-travelers all of them knew, who was also seen in book 1, a priest named Father Daniel, steps forward to go back in time, preferably before Anne’s murder to warn them of that gruesome fate.
From here, for a few chapters we read about some secretly hidden modern marvels that have been researched by the Vatican, including a time-machine of sorts thru which the researchers can view thousands of years of old history, even if as pictures. Then there was another machine, still being researched to perfect it, that can bring out the sounds too! It seems the Vatican has been very seriously researching time-travel, helping with time-travelers reach to different times in the past. The research is dedicated to understand the whole mysterious phenomenon of time-travel and how best to utilize it in a positive manner to research the history of mankind. Unfortunately, the whole business wasn’t without its setbacks. There have been travelers who never returned from wherever they landed, and without any form of communication, their fate remained unknown. How sad! Personally though, the whole thing over my head but the machines do play their parts in receiving Daniel’s own fate, which led the Vatican to send another priest, Father Edgar. Edgar also travelled from the medieval era like Daniel, and has been living in the present time for quite a few years now.
The final part of the story revolves around Father Edgar’s own journey and adventure to the Elizabethan-era, and from there his dedication to save Anne and alert both her and Jonathan of her impending doom. I did get the answers to my questions, which, to me, was rather a fine solution. I think I kinda expected the story to end the way it did. Catherine’s death does break my heart but I was happy to know Arthur was with her when she finally went to the light.
Ever Crave the Rose was a marvelous conclusion to a very interesting and richly-crafted series. And this, coming from someone who is rather wary of time-travel stories and more often than not, stays away. :D I enjoyed the whole series and hoped there would be more installments or even a spin-off. Well, I guess I can only hope that the authors are considering a spin-off because there were some mysterious elements in the story that were never explained. We never knew if Father Edgar ever returned to the present time or not. 4.25 stars and highly recommended if the theme of time-travel and the Tudor-era interests you!