Somewhere in Time - Merline Lovelace With much regret, 2.5 stars

I have a thing for guys from Ancient Rome, who (1) can pull off skirts and breastplates while fighting against a bear in the arena and (2) emerge victorious with the blood of the vanquished trailing down the deep crevices of their rippling muscles.

If the above really turned you on, boy, will you love this book.

I enjoyed the book. Really! But the bucket full of caveats dragged down the rating to 2.5. The entertainment factor was high, but the quality of literature...well...let's just say you had to try really hard to feel connected to the characters or even the world of the novel.

The story is pretty formulaic. A woman named Aurora, a US Air Force pilot, gets caught in a freak storm and gets hurled back into the past, right into a band of Roman centurions. Immediately, she encounters a senior centurion named Lucius, who decides to capture and interrogate her. It's only a matter of time that the bodice ripping--er...the toga ripping?--ensues.

But seriously, I reeeeally wanted to read this book because it took place during the Roman times. How often do you come upon that?!

I think it's admirable that Merline Lovelace was willing to go that extra mile and thrust our heroine back not just 1000 years in the past, but 2000! If you ask me, time travel romance needs more Ancient Rome settings, or even further back. I'm surprised that there aren't more gorgeous Roman and Greek (i.e. Spartan) men populating romance novels, considering the release of blockbuster hits like Gladiator and 300, and the ample supply of really muscled warrior men as potential alphas.

...Sorry (again), less drooling, more reviewing.

Anyway, the setting was new and a breath of fresh air. The novelty of the time period is what helped me get through the book, though the setting wasn't very developed and the characters' behavior (even the Roman centurion's) was much too "modern" for the time period they were in. 'Tis a rare time travel romance that realistically places you into the setting of the story while enthralling you with the romance (see [b:Outlander and Knight in Shining Armor), and unfortunately, this book was not it.

Besides the substantial lack research into Roman culture and administration of conquered territories, I had serious issues with characterization, particularly that of Aurora. I know she's dazed and confused, but if I were thrust back in time, I think I, like any thinking person, would maintain a little more reason and less impulsiveness. Where is her survival instinct? I assume that since she is in the military, she had some training in what to do if you crash land in enemy territory. I'm not in the military, but I'm sure that none of the lessons propose running your mouth off against the captor. Being headstrong is no excuse for being stupid, but she gets away with it. Again and again.

I also wish the setting were more developed. The story takes place in Roman-occupied territory near the desert somewhere near modern-day Iraq. While I didn't expect much, I couldn't help wishing that the writer could have taken advantage of the lush, exotic setting to really expand the story and incorporate the brutality and epic-ness that was the Roman world. The Romans were a race of conquerors and administrators who re-defined the livelihoods of the peoples they conquered, for better or worse. That the author chose to reduce all of this by using a group of rebellious desert bandits as the main antagonists was disappointing.

I have a different set of standards for romance novels. I don't expect considerable research of the time period, but I do want to feel like experiencing the world. However, here, I didn't feel like I was in Roman-occupied territory. I felt like I was in some fantasy world with resemblances to the Roman world. I also want to like the heroine and the hero, but while I found the hero tolerable and--at times, likable--I really could not respect the heroine. Though many of these expectations were not met, however, the novel was still very entertaining and unique, for its genre. The romance was hot, and while the plotting wasn't tight or realistic, it did propel the story forward somewhat.

Final verdict: You could do much worse, but you could also do much better. I would recommend this for a people looking for a quick, light read, especially if you are a fan of time travel romances looking for a non-European setting.