When tragedy strikes Michele Windsor’s world, she is forced to uproot her life and move across the country to New York City, to live with the wealthy, aristocratic grandparents she’s never met. In their old Fifth Avenue mansion filled with a century’s worth of family secrets, Michele discovers a diary that hurtles her back in time to the year 1910. There, in the midst of the glamorous Gilded Age, Michele meets the young man with striking blue eyes who has haunted her dreams all her life – a man she always wished was real, but never imagined could actually exist. And she finds herself falling for him, into an otherworldly, time-crossed romance. Michele is soon leading a double life, struggling to balance her contemporary high school world with her escapes into the past. But when she stumbles upon a terrible discovery, she is propelled on a race through history to save the boy she loves – a quest that will determine the fate of both of their lives.
After settling into the 5th Avenue mansion she now calls home, Michele finds a journal in her room dating back to 1910. She gets the shock of her life once she discovers that this journal, combined with a necklace her mother left her, has the power to transport her back in time. One such trip takes her back to the Windsor Halloween Ball of 1910. It's there that she meets Philip Walker, a gorgeous young man with striking blue eyes whom she's stunned to discover is the very same face who has been haunting her dreams all her life! Though this Walker is engaged to Violet Windsor when he and Michele first meet, the Walker family later ends up being society rivals of the Windsor family.
Philip and Clara, Michele's great great aunt (during her teen years) are the only ones who seem to be able to see Michele. After bonding over a love of music, it doesn't take long for a romance to blossom between Philip and Michele. While he breaks off his engagement to Violet, turning his home life upside down, Michele struggles to maintain a balance between her contemporary high school life and this new and unexpected Edwardian romance she finds herself immersed in. Her one confidante in modern times is Caissie, classmate, friend and daughter of the Windsor residence housekeeper.
Which life should she commit to? The choice may ultimately be made for her when she discovers the danger her amour faces in his future. When Michele attends a class trip to Newport, RI to see the summer homes of the legendary wealthy families (ie. Vanderbilt, Duke, etc.), she visits the Walker's summer "cottage" and discovers a tragedy that occurred, tied to her relationship with Philip. She travels back to 1910 to warn Philip, deciding that the one way to save him is to break things off and beg him to move on with his life without her.
Timeless is nice historical fiction on the lite end. There's a bit of a Time Traveler's Wife vibe to it, if you picture that story, but gender-swapped. If you're curious to jump into the genre but are maybe also a little spooked by overwhelming heavy detail, this is a good toe-dipping point. For newbies to historical fiction, the story is still plenty entertaining, without the facts end being too overwhelming. That said, for historical fiction junkies... well, this first entry into this series is a mixed bag. Fun story? check. Solid work on the historical research? Check. Romance? Barely gets lift-off here... and then when it does, it advances way too fast to be reasonable. A little disappointing at first, but I will say the romance being a little flat may actually serve a purpose when you read how this book closes. Additionally, while the respectable (but manageable) amount of historical detail certainly creates an immersive environment for these characters, it did at times feel like character development withered in the shadow of it. The plot's pace runs a little slow, but does pick up momentum after Michele's Newport trip (though this puts the reader only a few chapters from the end of the book).
History nerds can enjoy brief appearances by author Thomas Wolfe and musicians Louis Armstrong and the Andrews Sisters. After the story closes, Monir also offers readers an extensive, pages-long resource guide on the books and other materials she referred to to create this time traveling experience.