River of No Return (Ridgway)

The River of No Return 
Bee Ridgway, 2013
Penguin Group (USA)
464 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780142180839

Devon, 1815. The charming Lord Nicholas Davenant and the beguiling Julia Percy should make a perfect match.
But before their love has a chance to grow, Nicholas is presumed dead in the Napoleonic war. Nick, however, is lost in time. Somehow he escaped certain death by leaping two hundred years forward to the present day where he finds himself in the care of a mysterious society,– the Guild.

Questioning the limits of the impossible, Nick is desperate to find a way back to the life he left behind. Yet with the future of time itself hanging in the balance, could it be that the girl who first captured his heart has had the answers all along? Can Nick find a way to return to her? (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Birth—ca. 1971-72
Where—Amherst, Massachuesetts, USA
Education—B.A., Oberlin College; Ph.D., Cornell University
Currently—lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

In her words
I was born and raised in Amherst, Massachusetts, in a parsonage made from three stuck-together old cottages. I attended Oberlin College. I worked for a year in features at Elle Magazine, then went to Cornell for a doctoral degree in English literature. After several years spent chasing research materials and true love around the UK, I settled down to teach American literature at Bryn Mawr College. I live with my partner in Philadelphia. The River of No Return is my first novel. (From the author's website.)

Book Reviews
[A]n accomplished if sometimes slow-going literary mash-up. In the midst of battle, Lord Nicholas Falcott suddenly jumps 200 years into the future. Finding himself in 2003, Lord Nicholas forges a new life as “Nick Davenant."... Ridgway offers a well-crafted blend of science fiction, romance, mystery, and historical fiction, but stumbles with overlong explanations that, while helpful in untangling the story’s convolutions, stall the plot.
Publishers Weekly

A highly entertaining romp; [Ridgway’s] historical details are accurate, and the characters are believable. Fans of Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander” series should enjoy this time-traveling romantic adventure, which may also attract readers who like historical fiction with a twist.
Library Journal

In her stellar debut, Ridgeway manages the permutations of the time-travel trope with originality and aplomb. Lord Nick Falcott was an early nineteenth-century aristocrat, until he unexpectedly “jumped” into the twenty-first century while engaged in bloody battle.... [T]he entire premise and plot capture unwavering attention. Recommend this engaging, nuanced read to fans of A Discovery of Witches.... —Julie Trevelyan

Literate time-travel exercise by English professor and debut novelist Ridgway.... [Nicholas Falcott is in] Napoleon’s dragoons one minute and recovering in a London hospital nearly two centuries later.... [He] goes with the flow anyway. Not much happens for all that, but Ridgway’s talky narrative is smart and often funny.... It’s not especially distinguished, but bookish fantasy fans who make it a point to keep up with Doctor Who will like this one
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
1. Throughout the novel, Nick struggles to reconcile his knowledge of the future with the tide of the past. What do you think he finds to be the most difficult adjustment and why? What would be the greatest challenge for you, personally?

2. When do Nicholas Falcott and Nick Davenant seem to be the most similar? How much of Nick’s personality is determined by his location in time and space?

3. After learning that she is the talisman, Julia worries over the different meanings of the word and even fears for her life. Do you agree with the choice Ignatz made to keep her in the dark about her origin and her powers? In what sense of the word do you think Julia most embodies the talisman?

4. Nick’s return to his natural time affects his sisters in many ways, limiting certain freedoms while affording them power. What do you make of Clare’s idea for a model community and Arabella’s desire for education? Are these women trapped in their historical context? Or in what ways, if any, are they able to swim against the tide of history?

5. Time travelers harness emotions in order to travel up and down the river of time, and yet despair repels them. What implications does this have for human history, and why does Mr. Mibbs seem to be able to use despair to his advantage?

6. At the Guild compound in Chile, Nick becomes close friends with Meg and Leo. But when Meg and Leo grow suspicious of The Guild, they decide to leave Nick behind, reasoning that he is not ready, and leaving him to assume they are dead. What do you think motivated their decision to desert Nick? What would you have done in their position?

7. This novel presents many strong female characters, each of whom does what she can within her historical perspective. Consider the strengths and weaknesses of characters like Clare, Arabella, Alva, and Peter. As a time–traveler who has yet to travel in time, where do you think Julia fits within this spectrum? In what ways do you think she’ll continue to grow?

8. Throughout the novel, various characters rely on objects to keep them emotionally grounded, or even to stay rooted in time. What symbolic differences do you see between the Guild members’ rings, Nick’s acorn, and Julia’s box of trinkets and fairings?

9. At the end of the novel, Julia and Nick jump forward in time, and Nick sees a new version of the future. Castle Dar is standing, and so is the couple’s special oak tree. What else do you imagine is different, and what effect do you think Julia ultimately has on the past, present, or future?

10. How do you imagine Nick and Julia will resolve the problem of the encroaching Pale? Can you see the Ofan and The Guild working together to save the future?
(Questions issued by publisher.)

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