The Iron Bridge

David Morse, Author
David Morse, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) $25 (448p) ISBN 978-0-15-100259-7
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The sooty hardships of 18th-century England and the ecological horrors of 21st-century civilization are vividly rendered and imaginatively entwined in this intriguing, if occasionally preposterous, hybrid of historical romance and SF dystopia. Feisty, cunning heroine Maggie Foster travels back in time from her American commune of 2043 to the provincial town of Coalbrookdale, England, 1773, where the world's first iron bridge is to be built, a symbol of the burgeoning Industrial Age. Maggie's mission: to set in motion an alternate chain of events without changing the delicate course of history too much. Masquerading as a widow from the colonies, she schemes to sabotage the bridge while introducing her futuristic brand of feminism, political correctness and t'ai chi to the bemused Quakers of rural England. Lecherous entrepreneur John Wilkinson, dashing bridge financier Abraham Darby and his brother, visionary architect Samuel Darby, all fall for this anachronistically independent woman, yet Maggie prefers the amorous company of a sassy chambermaid before finding a partner who best appreciates her progressive ideals. First-time novelist Morse has drawn on his experience as a journalist and restorer of old houses to construct a solid, thoroughly researched historical saga buttressed with suspenseful plotting and a winning protagonist. His skillful shifts between past and future compensate for stretches of hackneyed prose and didactic moralizing that sometimes slow the pace of this otherwise engaging time-travel tale. (July)
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