March is a timely month to discuss time itself, since we had the Daylight Savings Time “spring forward” weekend. I love time travel science fiction romance and especially the ‘Groundhog Day’ style tales where a day repeats itself endlessly and the main character must figure out how to fix things and break the cycle. The original 1993 movie with Bill Murray is a classic of the genre in my opinion.
I love the genre so much, I decided in 2021 to write my own, which became a novella entitled Star Cruise Time Loop. Appearing first in the Pets in Space 6 anthology the book is now out on its own as of this month. My poor heroine’s day is repeating, her ship blows up at midnight every time, the movie star she fell in love with doesn’t remember her in the morning and she has to sit thru the boring staff meeting over and over. Can she solve this? I had to do more intricate plotting in advance than I usually undertake, to make sure there were enough hooks and moments in the original day to allow me to make the repeats interesting and to give my character chances to try different strategies, some of which fail spectacularly. It was fun to write for sure! The pet in the story is an alien turtle with three eyes, who can leave his shell behind if necessary.
My original introduction to time travel was from reading Andre Norton’s excellent Agents of Time series. I was utterly fascinated by the idea of travelling back in history to observe and maybe even try to change events. Opinions in the time travel world are of course sharply divided on whether you should or should not meddle and what happens if you do. Ray Bradbury wrote a classic tale “Sound of Thunder” in 1952 on this very theme. The moral of the story is that if you ever go back in time, don’t kill any butterflies!
Although most people would probably say H. G. Wells’s The Time Machine in 1895 was the first such science fiction novel there was “The Clock That Went Backward” by Edward Page Mitchell in 1881. He didn’t have elaborate SF style time machines though; just a clock which could be made to rewind time.
Modern day time travel romance is all over the place on what can be used to travel through time and find the Happy Ever After, from an alien artifact like I have in my novella, to elaborate technology to simple fantasy-based explanations to “it just happens and no one knows why”. The adventure of the time travel itself and the romance are the key points, as opposed to ‘hard’ SF where the technology would be much more of a focus in the plot.
USA Today Best Selling Pauline Baird Jones is an author who handles the intricacies of time travel really well and returns to it fairly often as a theme. Her Out of Time involves a modern woman sent back into World War II to attempt to save her own grandfather’s life and book two in the series, Just in Time is about a modern day pilot who goes time traveling to fix a problem in 1954.
In a Holidaze by New York Times Best Selling author Christina Lauren is another one of my all-time favorites in the genre. Her heroine pleads with the Universe to give her a chance to ‘fix’ a family vacation gone really wrong and to end up with the right man. Her wish granted, the main character struggles through a number of iterations of the holiday and of course does eventually piece together enough clues and insights to reach the Happy Ever After. I thoroughly enjoyed this one.
The Girl I Was by Jeneva Rose is another contemporary romance where the heroine travels back in time to correct her life. In this one the twist is she also still exists in the time frame (revolving around her life as an 18 year old in college which is apparently where everything went wrong). Solving anything requires the main character to persuade her younger self that she is truly from the future and then working together to make sure their destiny will be brighter.
In Before Time Runs Out by Amy Matayo, the hero and the heroine time travel separately to the same time, each propelled to the year 1870 by a mysterious Charles Dickens book. The underlying problem here is that if they solve their challenge to get home again, they’ll be in different times. I thought that was a cool spin to add into the dilemma. No spoilers from me though.
The Outlander Series by NYT Best Selling author Diana Gabaldon is well known and much loved, especially since becoming a STARZ television series, which is now on its sixth season. No offense to Ms. Gabaldon and her readers/viewers – and much respect to her success – but I’m just not that big a fan personally of trips to the Scottish Highlands through time; however, her series certainly energized the subgenre and every week brings quite a few new Sottish Paranormal Romances, complete with kilts and time travel. (A lucky heroine can also time travel to the Old West, to the waltzes and whimsies of the English Regency, to the time of the Vikings or pretty much anywhere else her heart desires.) Kelley Armstrong, Sky Purington, Lana Percherczyk, Bethany Claire and Denise Day are some favorite time travel authors to check out for the different eras to which their characters are transported.
Jackie North wrote a MM time travel romance series, Love Across Time, of which Honey From the Lion is probably the most well-known, although I also thought For the Love of a Ghost was very good. Talk about the challenges of a time spanning romance – the author added in a ghost story as well.
Wishing you many hours of happy reading, whatever era you find yourself in!