The Next Together

Written by Lauren James
Review by Nicole Evelina

This multi-layered book tells the story of Matthew and Katherine, doomed to meet, fall in love, and die tragically before their time down the centuries. We first meet them in Carlisle in 1745, as Bonnie Prince Charlie and his soldiers sweep down from Scotland to besiege the castle before marching on London to restore the Stuarts to the throne. Matthew is desperate to prevent them. Katherine isn’t sure whose side he’s on.

Then we move to the Crimea in 1854. Matthew is a reporter for The Times, intent on uncovering the truth about army incompetence; Katherine, disguised as young boy, is helping Lord Raglan to conceal that very truth. In both Carlisle and the Crimea, they end up on the same side, in love, in danger and with time running out.

Gradually, the reader realizes that another agency is at work. Operating from the future, a force is manipulating the lovers to change the course of history. But why? The story swings back and forth from past to future (2019 and 2048) using handwritten notes, newspaper cuttings, emails, online information and so on, getting nearer and nearer the crunch point. The reader is kept on tenterhooks as to who is manipulating Matthew and Katherine’s lives and what’s at stake.

I enjoyed this. The two historical episodes are well-researched and convincing, particularly the horrors of cold, rain and disease in the Crimea. One caveat: I doubt that any commanding officer in 1745 would take advice from a woman!

Unfortunately, The Next Together is sometimes almost illegible. The small handwritten notes on a grey background, for example, can be difficult to decipher. Some of the computer information was in a light, thin typeface, in what looked like 8pt. and I needed a magnifying-glass to read it, which didn’t help. For 13 plus.