Hartshorne’s engaging time-slip opens with one chilling scene after another. Hawise, a young Elizabethan woman, is drowned as a witch on All Hallows’ Eve, the bells of York Minster ringing in the background. As the River Ouse drags her skirts down, she dies in fear, knowing she’s leaving her daughter Bess in the hands of an evil man.
In the present, Grace Trewe awakens in her late godmother Lucy’s house in York, having dreamt of Hawise’s last moments. Or perhaps she’s having flashbacks to past trauma, as a survivor of the ´04 tsunami. After traveling from Asia to claim her surprising inheritance, she hopes to move on quickly but finds herself caught by Hawise’s life. Grace’s neighbor, single father Drew Dyer, is a local historian who offers his help. He’s not quite handsome, but she finds his solidity and strength attractive.
There’s no mistaking this novel’s genre. In the first 40 pages, Grace experiences déjà vu, sees an apparition, and has multiple visions of a long-ago time. Rotting apples mysteriously appear, along with their putrid scent (a unique and eerie touch). The supernatural elements feel overdone initially, and some words in the text repeat too often, but the two women’s stories are equally gripping and deftly blended together. In 1577, Hawise is a mercer’s servant whose future turns unexpectedly bright, but her unconventional habits and an unwanted suitor’s obsession lead to her downfall. As Grace and Drew grow closer, Hawise’s presence becomes more intrusive. Is Grace possessed or suffering from PTSD? Will she die from drowning, just like Hawise and Lucy?
A novel of jealousy, passion, revenge, witchcraft, and coming to grips with the past, Time’s Echo is haunting and dramatic, with a sterling sense of place. Tudor York comes marvelously alive with its bustling marketplace, cobblestone streets, and plenty of interesting details on running a household. Enjoyable escapist reading.