Jonna L. Miller,
Haunting for Time
(PublishAmerica, 2006)

Haunting for Time, by Jonna L. Miller, combines historical fiction with elements of contemporary fantasy topped by romance.

The story begins with Melody Bliss, a young woman who lives in Gettysburg, Pa., in the 1860s. As battle lines cross her farm property in June 1863, she befriends and falls in love with a Southern soldier named Jonathan "Johnny Reb" Peterson. But he is killed during Pickett's Charge, and Melody is left carrying his child. Even after baby Johnny is born, Melody continues to mourn her true love's passing. When she dies two years later, a curse is placed upon the house. A trace of Melody's handprint is left on a pane of glass in the kitchen door.

In contemporary time, Wisconsin native Harmony Shelton takes a television news anchor job in Harrisburg, Pa. While visiting Amish friends in the area, she decides to buy a small farm in Gettysburg, on land that had been part of Pickett's Charge. She and her friends spend much time and money fixing up the long-vacant house and barn, but no amount of scrubbing will get rid of that handprint on the kitchen door. A few days before an annual battle reenactment, Harmony meets Jonathan Peterson, one of Melody and Johnny Reb Peterson's descendants, who has come from Virginia to participate in the event. Odd things begin to happen. Everyone visiting Harmony's house has only period clothing to wear. She herself has seen wounded soldiers lying in the barn. Harmony and Jon are eventually transported back to 1863, where they must change history so that Melody and Johnny Reb will be able to share their lives together.

Along the way, their own relationship begins to change -- as it must, before they are permitted to return to the 21st century. Harmony learns firsthand the truth behind the advice her father had given her all along: The future is no more set in stone than the past is. She and Jon manage to change both, with multiple time-travel trips between now and then. The handprint disappears from the kitchen door.

While Miller's inventive plot contains surprising and intriguing twists and turns, the writing itself sometimes gets in the way, and readers are left with more questions than answers. Sometimes the fantasy segments are more believable than the real life ones. A publisher's disclaimer on the title page notes the author refused "editorial input." That decision might have been a mistake. An editor would have lent advice to tighten up the text, tie up loose ends, straighten out modifier inconsistencies and determine how much backstory to include. Also missing is an explanatory note from the author telling how true the foundation for the story is, and whether or not a similar farmhouse and barn were used by Southern soldiers as a field hospital during Pickett's Charge. Fans of historical fiction expect to be told how much of the narrative was based on fact.

Still, Haunting for Time may appeal to Civil War buffs with a penchant for ghosts, time travel and characters who do their best to live happily ever after.

by Corinne H. Smith
9 September 2006

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