Title: Slow Dreaming
Author: Anne Barwell
Length: 55 pages, 16,265 words
Genre: m/m Contemporary Romance, Time Travel
Blurb: As an agent for the Tempus Institute, Jason Adams’s task is to observe the past, not change it. But when he’s sent to twenty-first-century Wellington, New Zealand, during the last week of aspiring songwriter Sean Henderson’s life, Jason finds he can’t just watch from a distance. He and Sean quickly become friends and then lovers, and when the song that’s haunted Jason for years connects them in a way he never anticipated, he’ll risk changing history for the chance of sharing a future with Sean.
Review: Jason is an agent for the Tempus Institute, someone who travels through time and keeps watch over history. Though their objective is never quite discussed in the story, the bits and pieces paint a rather bleak picture of the future, Jason’s present world. After waking again from a recurring dream of snatches of music he can’t seem to remember, he’s given one last case to prove himself. Jason’s rather flighty in some ways. He goes with the flow for the most part and is pretty well known for not properly briefing himself for his assignments (pointed out rather well when he draws a blank at the mention of James Bond). But Jason knew he had to take this assignment when he saw Sean’s picture. Sent only to observe and report back, Jason has a hard time following the rules once he comes in contact with the man in the flesh.
I’m left quite unsure of how I feel about this story. On the one hand, I really like the setup. Jason is a bit of a fish out of water, out of his own time, but he’s also in his home city (Wellington, NZ), only in the past and in what is a very different city. He’s familiar with some things, and totally ignorant of others, which makes for an interesting dynamic between the two guys once they get to know each other. At the same time, I had quite a few problems with this story. I felt like the story floundered a bit from lack of overall direction (not the immediate relationship, but the world and setup of the plot). We never really know what the Tempus Institute does, although there’s a hint at the end of the story. We also don’t understand Jason’s objective in his mission to visit Sean. On the surface I understood that some mystery was needed, otherwise there wouldn’t be a proper resolution to the story. Perhaps my confusion comes from the fundamental way the story is told. We, the reader, are omniscient in the sense that we’re told up front that Jason is from the future and we’re privy to information on both characters that neither know about the other. Yet, at the same time, we aren’t given enough information to see where the story is headed. I felt like I was supposed to have been given all the cards when the characters were ignorant of them, and watch the situation play out. Jason doesn’t know, other than “observe only”, why he’s watching Sean. But then sometimes he alludes that he does know, all the while I was in the dark. Was that confusing enough? That’s a bit how I felt. The story could have been straightened out a bit, because while I was reading I always felt like I was missing something. That made the climax of the story less than poignant.
I think the author had the intent of using the difference in time to create an almost mystical connection between Jason and Sean, but because of my confusion I didn’t really see it. Jason and Sean move very quickly into insta-love territory, and I just couldn’t suspend disbelief enough to feel it. I’ve heard good things about one of this author’s past novels, and I’ll definitely try out some of her other work, but unfortunately I couldn’t quite connect with this one.