The Plot: Little Pembleton, 1913. Addy Morrow is fifteen and she wants something more out of life than being the town bastard, bullied by mean girls who think they are better than her because they have more money, a higher social class, and married parents.
Instead, what she gets is being taken out of school and put into service for a strange old man, Mr. Greenwood, who hasn’t been right since his wife died and his son disappeared. Mum tells her she is lucky! It could be worse, she could be a lowly scullery maid in a big house.
Addy enters a locked room in Mr. Greenwood’s house, sees a strange contraption, enters and finds herself in the year 1240. In her present, she’s nothing, a servant. In the past, she can reinvent herself into a lady.
The Good: Time travel! And romance!
Addy is initially mistaken for a lady because her modern clothes, even though they are those of a servant, are better quality than those of people around her. After a brief visit to the past, she plots more carefully, takes a medieval costume from the local theatre company, and returns to the past to see if she can pull of being a real lady. Fifteen days, she tells herself. Stay fifteen days to see if she can pull it off. The plan works better than she even dreamed, because Addy stumbles upon a shipwreck and somehow is mistaken for a survivor of the shipwreck, Lady Matilda. In a comedy of errors, Addy assumes the identity of a lady, blames her lack of knowledge of local customs on a head injury, and begins to enjoy being waited on instead of waiting on.
You know it can’t be that easy, right? Addy/Matilda finds love, and it’s not with the person Lady Matilda is engaged to. Hard choices follow, because it turns on that a lot is riding on Lady Matilda’s upcoming marriage.
I loved the historical details of the past, whether it is 1913 Addy living life as a servant or Addy’s initial dining experiences in the thirteenth century. And her dilemma! She gets what she thinks she wants (being treated like a lady), only then what? It turns out that a lady has just as many constraints against her choices as a servant.
It’s like the lady or the tiger, with harder choices: marry a lord she doesn’t love; run away with the handsome falconer and endanger her new-found friends in the castle; or return to a future where she is servant and alone.
The choice Addy makes and the resolution to the story rings true. It’s not just the choice, it’s also that she grown to realize that she does have choices. It may seem that her world is constrained because she is either the bastard child who has to do what her mother says, or the lady who has to marry as her king insists. Addy realizes that reality may not give her what she dreams, but it’s not as limited as she fears.
Is it giving too much away to say I want a sequel? But maybe that’s just because I know World War I is on the horizon.