Andromeda Miller left her husband, North Archer, after only a year of marriage – after his uncle died North became increasingly absorbed in the family law business and Andie felt less and less important to him. Andie’s ready to wed again, to author Will Spenser, a man who is North’s antithesis in every way – he not only looks different (tall, blond) but unlike North Will’s genial, amiable, stable, and won’t forget about her because of the demands of his job. All Andie needs now is to return to North the decade’s worth of monthly alimony cheques she never wanted, and she can have the grown up, settled adult marriage she knows is right for her.
Despite her certainty and clarity of purpose, Andie somehow finds herself agreeing the take care of North’s orphaned wards for a month, with the assistance of a housekeeper. Their mother died delivering Alice, now eight, and their father, then grandmother, then aunt died in relatively quick succession, and none of the nannies North hired would stay on. Carter has been kicked out of the schools he was sent to, and the children are apparently decidedly odd. School teacher Andie feels quite sure there’s nothing here that she can’t sort out, with the aid of a plan, love, kindness, compassion, acceptance, structure and good food.
Within minutes of arriving, and clashing with housekeeper Mrs Crumb, Andie finds herself asserting her position as North’s wife. There’s no question the mansion is spooky, and the children are a little stranger than one might expect, even given their unhappy lives to date, but there’s more going on here that Andie realises, and before it’s all over she’ll be haunted, possessed, and invaded by a cast of unwanted family members and extended hangers on.
It’s not easy to capture the flavour of Crusie’s most recent novel; like all her recent work it combines a romance narrative with multiple other story lines to provide a deep, textured, satisfying whole. Maybe This Time is also peopled with some outstanding characters, including the couples’ mothers, hippy Flo and society matriarch Lydia, psychic Isolde and searcher Dennis, North’s brother Sullivan and his reporter girlfriend Kelly, and the spirits of the dead. Second only to Andie and North are Alice and Carter, who are more fully fleshed than the plot moppets that usually stand in for children in this genre.
I also like the dialogue – for some reason Andie’s response to another insight from Flo on how she and North are astronomically compatible really resonated:
“You know what I’d like for Christmas, Flo? Boundaries. You can gift me early if you like.”
I thought the way Andie began disconnecting from Will without realising it was beautifully done, and I also really liked the way Crusie set up and depicted the biggest difference of opinion between her hero and heroine – the existence of spirits. How? You’ll just have to read it to find out! - Alex