Monday, March 18, 2013

Destiny at Oak Valley by Jeffree Wyn Itrich

In Destiny at Oak Valley, Rachel Kingston begins a casual exploration of a New Mexican ghost town with her adopted sister. Little does she know the trip will take her on a time-traveling adventure to the town's past and a powerful connection to a man who is unlike any she has ever known.

Rachel, a licensed balloon operator, uses her skills to navigate the skies above New Mexico to Oak Valley, a Victorian-era settlement that existed for less than 20 years, until the gold rush ended. Without a railway connection, the town's residents abandoned it. While exploring the streets with their boarded-up structures, Rachel exhibits an otherworldly perception of the past, centered on a property denoted by a plaque, "La Querencia" and she finds an oval cameo on a gold chain. Beneath years of dirt and grime, the features of a man and woman are visible. There is also an inscription, "To R, My Querencia, Love M." Rachel keeps the old jewelry, though mystified by uncanny feelings about it.

On the next day's balloon ride, Rachel is alone when a dense fog bank. When she is finally able to land her balloon, she meets Dr. William Bradshaw who is shocked by her sudden appearance, and strangely mystified by her clothing. After several misunderstandings, both reach a startling conclusion: Rachel has traveled to Oak Valley of the past through an experiment Dr. Bradshaw triggered. The cameo that she had found is also missing. 

Trapped in time, Rachel has a few adjustments ahead. Learning the walk, talk and dress of a 19th century woman is sometimes difficult. It does not help that Bradshaw's granddaughter Emily clearly disbelieves the story of Rachel as the doctor's assistant, one who has no clothes of her own except for items the little cannot identify. Matt, Dr. Bradshaw’s handsome son, also challenges Rachel's notions about men and allows her to open up new possibilities for her future.  The largest obstacle facing Rachel remains how to return to her own time.

Destiny at Oak Valley was an easy read. The ending is not as predictable as it seemed at the outset. The descriptions are vivid and reflect the characteristic features of the New Mexican landscape. While Rachel is definitely a woman of her time, she is capable of tempering a tough stance when practical needs demand a change. The relationship she and Matt share progresses despite their differences. It is a good love story, but also a journey of self-discovery.

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