Stranded (The Shorten Chronicles #1) by Rosalind Tate #SPFBO

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Stranded is the first book in my first batch of books as part of the SPFBO Competition.

Stranded

This is historical fiction with light fantasy elements and a hint at romance not yet realised but slowly coming to fruition.

Sophie Arundel has arrived at University, with her pet dog Charlotte.  It’s her first day, she’s allocated a room and as she makes her way across campus she spots a former classmate – Hugo – although the two were from completely different circles and not exactly what you’d class as friends.  To cut a long story short, the two of them, plus the dog, after entering what they believed to be a lift, are taken back in time to an alternate history.  The lift was a portal that disappeared not long after dropping our two main characters into the middle of the countryside with little idea of when and where they were.

From here the book is predominantly about coming to terms with the different period, living in a world where social norms are much more restricted, trying not to offend everyone whilst at the same time as trying to figure out the mystery of the portal and how and when it might become available again, on top of which there is an unknown person who seems to be taking Sophie and Hugo’s meddling badly and is issuing threats.

In a nutshell I’d liken this to Pride and Prejudice (the characters) meets Downton Abbey (the setting) meets ‘insert cosy mystery of your choosing’.

After a slightly rocky start I found myself enjoying this.  The author clearly enjoyed writing a period style novel and, although I’m not an expert on the time, seems to have researched the time well – although, as this is an alternate history you need to exercise a little leeway because a number of events, highly significant to our own history and pertinent as driving forces of emancipation, have not occured and therefore certain elements are slightly skewed.

What shone through in particular from this was that the author enjoyed the period and telling a story that is descriptive in terms of setting, house and clothes etc.  In fact, I mentioned above that I found the start a little rocky and I think that could simply be because the author wasn’t quite in her element in a more modern setting and found her feet as soon as our characters were taken back in time.  I also enjoyed the other little nods – for example the dog being named for one of the Bronte sisters because of the main character’s love for Jane Eyre.

The setting.  1925, grand house, upper class family.  You could be forgiven for thinking that Sophie and Hugo have fallen on their feet as they’re lavished with attention, clothing, food, events, etc.  In fact this is where the Downton Abbey comparison came from.  It really does have a feel of that particular drama and I’m not pointing that out as a criticism as such, more a simple observation that at times this almost feels like an alternate style fanfic.

The plot.  Well, as the story begins we pretty soon learn that a number of people have also come through the portal, in fact the ‘Lady of the Manor’ herself and indeed the local landlord and the head gardener at the house are all from similar modern backgrounds.  Sophie and Hugo spend some  time trying to figure out what links the travellers in particular but to be honest the mystery of the portal plays second fiddle to the developing friendship (potentially budding romance) between Sophie and Hugo and the ever increasing number of faux pas made by Sophie as she tries to come to terms with the restraints of the period – the corsets being the least of her problems.  As I mentioned this is an alternate reality and certain ‘key’ events have not taken place leaving our travellers with the dilema, should they be unable to return to their own lives, of having an uncertain history ahead of them.  On top of this someone, unknown, is taking an interest in their investigations and sending warning notes.

The characters.  I struggled a little to really like Sophie.  I feel a little unfair saying that because she isn’t a bad character so much as slightly annoying in that for someone who has travelled to an alternate place she seems to have very little self control or self preservation.  She is constantly blundering around offending people willy nilly – okay, I think it might have been a lot more useful if the lady of the house had sat her down and outlined some of the pitfalls, but, even with that lack of guidance you would think Sophie might have acted a little more cautiously.  Hugo on the other hand, and quite in contrast to how he seemed initially, seems to be a studious fellow with an infinite knowledge of the period therefore much more comfortable when it comes  to fitting in – not to mention, let’s be honest, men didn’t suffer the same restrictions really, particularly in terms of reputation.

As I mentioned the author is clearly comfortable writing an historic style novel.  She certainly got her teeth into the period and it was obvious that she enjoyed writing this.  The pacing is fairy even and I had no problem with forging ahead.

In terms of criticisms.  Well, firstly, although this is a portal story and alternate history it’s very light on fantasy.  The main element of the story seems to be about Sophie’s struggles to fit in and even the mystery is relegated to the background.  I’m not really sure why the author felt the need to include a dog in the story.  Don’t get me wrong, I adore dogs and I’m always happy to have them included when and wherever possible but this felt more like a plot device not to mention a little unrealistic at times in both the way Sophie behaved and her expectations in terms of the dog.  There is also an element of Sophie and Hugo struggling very little indeed.  They definitely landed on their feet being treated like favourite visitors and lavished with attention – which is probably why I railed against Sophie so much.  She could have found herself in a totally different situation by mere fluke, perhaps a scullery maid for example, getting up in the early hours to light fires, etc, instead of being drawn baths and helped to dress by her very own lady’s maid.  I don’t know, the fact that neither character seemed to have any real regard for how lucky they seemed to have been, or how very precarious their situation could have been irritated me slightly.  Finally, the mystery feels a little like an afterthought, the characters don’t seem to have any urgency at all about getting back ‘home’ in fact they both become very settled with almost indecent haste.   Also, if you’re picking this up expecting romance then be warned that this is very subtle, clearly the two main characters are becoming attached but there is no real romance at this point.

Okay, criticisms aside, this is an easy to read, cosy, period mystery.  I would describe this as charmingly easy. It’s perhaps not a book that I would instantly pick up off the shelves but I had no problem reading this one.

I received a copy courtesy of the author, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

18 Responses to “Stranded (The Shorten Chronicles #1) by Rosalind Tate #SPFBO”

  1. Tammy

    This sounds quite different from a lot of the epic fantasy/grimdark that seems to be popular in this competition. I love the idea of the dog but like you said, it needs a purpose in the story. Thanks for sharing, Lynn!

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yes, quite different and quite light really in terms of fantasy but also very easy to get along with.
      Lynn 😀

  2. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    It’s a strange combination of elements, granted, but it sounds intriguing enough, despite your stated misgivings, to give it a peek one of these days… Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      I can think of a number of my blogger friends who would thoroughly enjoy this one. It is charming and cosy and easy to read. Not something I would usually rush to pick up but I enjoyed it.
      Lynn 😀

  3. Milly Banks

    Interesting take on Stranded.

    I found it to be subtlety intriguing from the start the author captures your attention with beautiful descriptive language, likeable characters and a perfect slow burn storyline that leaves you wanting more! And thankfully there is more. There are more books in The Shorten Chronicles to come which I don’t think your review allows for. Stranded is clearly introducing us to this world, the characters and more. From following the author I know the subtle elements will all come through in the next few books… Charlotte (the dog) included!

    • @lynnsbooks

      Hi Milly – thanks for stopping by. I enjoyed Stranded and found the writing very easy to get along with. I wasn’t particularly enamoured with Sophie however and so this did hold me back from loving the story wholeheartedly. I am aware that there are more books planned and I’m not sure how my review doesn’t allow for that – I think the mystery element was very low key, I don’t particularly have a problem with it, I simply point out such things to make others aware of that – if somebody was going to pick this up after reading my review I’d sooner they are aware that the romance is very slow burn and the mystery is a very gentle element to the story. As I also mentioned, this is not my usual type of ‘read’ but I found it charming and cosy.
      Lynn 😀

  4. Graves Robbed, Heirlooms Returned (Reed Lavender #1) #SPFBO | Books and travelling with Lynn

    […] Graves Robbed, Heirlooms Returned by Ashley Capes is the second of the books I’ve read this month as part of the SPFBO Competition.  Stranded by Rosalind Tate was the first book I read and my review can be found here. […]

  5. Barb

    @Lynnsbook
    Stranded is really a great read. I loved how each character had a different view on their dilemma.
    There are more than the original characters that have happened across tbis traveling problem and it really makes the story that more intriguing. Sophie has
    some anxiety, and she finds herself in what would be an extremely stressful situation. I’m glad she made the friends she did along either way, and some not so good friends as this helps her character evolve.
    I can’t wait too see what happens in the 2nd book. I don’t like to give away too much of the story as I am not a writer and I don’t think I would do it any justice. It’s an easy read, and the characters are presented well. I’m curious to see what will happen to Sophie, the townsfolk and the friendships she’s made along the way. Where will each character end up if the opportunity presents itself?
    I would recommend this book to anyone that loves an unconventional time hop. Without the mushy love
    stories that can consume too many pages when I would rather get back to the storyline.

    • @lynnsbooks

      Hi Barb, thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I also thought this was a very easy read, quite charming and not too strong in terms of the romance elements. I hope you enjoy the second instalment just asmuch.
      Lynn 😀

  6. sleepysarah76

    I love almost anything time travel, but this was nice because I didn’t get bogged down by the mechanics of “how” it happened, and could enjoy the story.

    Regarding your review, I thought one is supposed to “review” what is *in* the book not remonstrate on what you *wish* was in the book?
    Your review complains about things that could possibly change once further installments are released. It doesn’t seem to acknowledge that there is that possibility.

    • @lynnsbooks

      Hi Sarah
      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I also enjoy time travel books and agree that too much ‘mechanics’ can sometimes bog the story down and become too convoluted.
      Everyone reviews differently of course, I like to include elements of the story that worked well but also if I have any issues I also include them as I think this is a balanced review, this is the way I review and I use the same approach for all the books I read.
      I actually would disagree that this review ‘complains’, it makes some very gentle comments about the issues I personally wanted to raise, it’s not a wishlist and obviously I can’t take into account what will happen in future instalments. This is a review for Stranded. I enjoyed the book, it’s an easy read, quite gentle, charming and cosy.
      Again, thanks for visiting.
      Lynn 😀

  7. Christine Dunleavy

    I am eagerly awaiting the next book in this series because I thoroughly enjoyed “Stranded”. You express some annoyance with Sophie, but I believe that her behavior is totally in line with a young girl of the 21st century – a certain naiveté coupled with (sometimes false) confidence that invites potential blunders. For me, the mystery is about trying to make sense of her and Hugo’s predicament but the best part is discovering how they have to acclimate to this new world they’re in.

    • @lynnsbooks

      Hi Christine
      Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment.
      Yes, unfortunately, I did occasionally find Sophie a little frustrating, but I take on your point about her being a modern young woman cast back in time. I just wish that she had sometimes been a little more cautious.
      On the whole I enjoyed reading about their experiences and found it an easy read.
      I hope you enjoy the second instalment.
      Lynn 😀

  8. Deathborn (Sovereigns of Bright and Shadow #1) by CE Page #SPFBO | Books and travelling with Lynn

    […] Deathborn by CE Pages is the third SPFBO book that I read this month as part of the SPFBO Competition.  Graves Robbed, Heirlooms Returned by Ashley Capes is the second of the books I’ve read (review here) and Stranded by Rosalind Tate was my first book and my review can be found here. […]

  9. Gail Cook

    I read and loved “Stranded” by Rosalind Tate. I cannot agree with your opinions of Sophie but that is your opinion and we are all entitled to one. I see Sophie as a very modern miss who has little appreciation of how women of a certain class had to live. I love that the author has included Charlotte, her dog, in the story as in doing so she has allowed herself plenty of scope for story lines. As for Hugo and romance, I was glad to read that theirs was not a frantic steamy love story. Although this is a time travel story and therefore not true to life, a slowly developing romance without overly gushy, slushy erotic scenes is much more lifelike and acceptable to me. I for one am looking forward to the next instalment of “The Shorten Chronicles”.

    • @lynnsbooks

      Hi Gail
      Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment.
      I couldn’t agree more about having no desire to read a ‘gushy, slushy, erotic’ style story. That definitely would not be for me.
      I hope you love the second instalment.
      Lynn 😀

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