The Mine by John A. Heldt
Northwest Passage, #1
In May 2000, Joel Smith is a cocky, adventurous young man who sees the world as his playground. But when the college senior, days from graduation, enters an abandoned Montana mine, he discovers the price of reckless curiosity.
He emerges in May 1941 with a cell phone he can’t use, money he can’t spend, and little but his wits to guide his way. Stuck in the age of swing dancing and a peacetime draft, Joel begins a new life as the nation drifts toward war.
With the help of his 21-year-old trailblazing grandmother and her friends, he finds his place in a world he knew only from movies and books. But when an opportunity comes to return to the present, Joel must decide whether to leave his new love in the past or choose a course that will alter their lives forever. The Mine follows a humbled man through a critical time in history as he adjusts to new surroundings and wrestles with the knowledge of things to come.
It was, overall, a good novel. I found the ending to be rushed and unbelievable and I wished there had been more history, more about how Joel’s time travel effected the future of the characters, but I still enjoyed it enough to give it 4 stars.
To be fair, I expected a lot from this book after Indiana Belle, which I absolutely adored. And, in many ways, I was pleased.
The plot was creative. Joel Smith, a college kid with everything going for him, steps into an abandoned mine while vacationing in Montana and finds himself in the ’40s. He has no way to get home, so he must try to settle into 1941.
Joel travels to Seattle – his home in the 21st century. There he rescues Tom Carter from a violent debt-collector. To return the favor, Tom helps Joel get back on his feet, taking him home, giving him food, clothes, and a roof over his head, introducing him to his parents, and helping him get a job at his father’s furniture store.
Oh, one tiny details. Tom is engaged to Joel’s grandmother. However, Grandma Ginny is not destined to marry Tom. Joel’s existence proves that. Ginny Gillette’s first fiancé died during the war. Joel and Tom become good friends, and Joel wonders if he shouldn’t try to warn Tom away from the coming war … but that, of course, might endanger his own existence, and he doesn’t want to fade away like Marty McFly (points for you if you get the reference).
Then Joel meets the beautiful Grace Vandenberg. Although she is already engaged, they strike up a friendship that turns into a romance, and Grace must choose between marrying a US Navy man who offers her a firm future and Joel, who she knows next-to-nothing about.
At the same time, Joel worries about the effects that marrying a girl from 1941. After all, Grace is likely destined to marry another man, have children, and lead a life … without Joel in it. If he marries her, could he tear about the fabric of time? Joel is also very worried about the impending war. Should he fight in the same war his grandfather fought in? What if he takes a bullet for a man who was meant to perish? What if he kills someone who wasn’t meant to be killed?
The characters were very vivid and well-developed. They may have been the best part of the book.
I loved Grace. It seems to me that strong heroines are usually stubborn, spunky, sparkly, exciting, brave; Heldt brings us a new female lead. She’s gentle, sweet, and cautious; however, there’s a quiet strength about Grace that I really admire.
Joel was the main character, and though he made decisions that drove me crazy (and his worrying also bugged me … serious over-thinker), I liked him. He was perhaps a little too perfect, a little too likable. Does the man have faults that don’t make you like him more? I think not.
I liked Tom, although I was determined not to because I knew he was going to die. That’s the one thing I always hate about war stories; at least one nice, cute guy always seems to die. And Tom’s just such a great, all-American guy. He reminds me of my baby brother. 😄
Ginny was sharp. I especially liked the way she seemed in charge of her friends. Very in-control. I wish I could have learned more about her life post-1941.
Katie was wonderful, a background who takes the spotlight in her own inconspicuous way. A real inspiration, very strong and impressive. I wish all people of ethnicities that people are inclined to be prejudiced again could be as awesome and open-minded about it as Katie.
I won’t go into the rest of the characters … but they were all interesting with stories of their own that didn’t detract from the main stories, Joel’s and Grace’s.
The setting … well, I was absolutely in love with it, but you might not be if you don’t live in the Northwest. There wasn’t a lot of history, at least not as much as I’d have liked. I think the reason I really enjoyed it was because I’ve been to these places.
I’ve been to Seaside … I’ve been to Portland … I’ve been to Forest Grove. I know these places! And so rare are the fiction books that allow me to take a peek at these places outside the pioneer-era that when I see it, I immediately fall crazily in love with the book.
I wish there had been a little more description of places. If I hadn’t been there, I wouldn’t have gotten a good grasp of the surrounding. For instance the turnaround at Seaside. If you haven’t been there, what does that mean to you? Nothing. If you’ve been there? It makes sense, of course. But who can conjure a mental image from the little description offered? I wish there had of been more.
What I’d really like would be another book from John A. Heldt about the ’40s at home. It’s one of my favorite eras, and I’d like to know a little more about it.
A historical fiction romance with a time travel twist, The Mine is definitely worth reading despite a few things that made it a little subpar.
3.5/5 (lower numbers = less content). A little more than in Indiana Belle. Some language (somewhat mild), no sexual content described except a few kisses, some mentions of mature topics/stuff from the modern world (by Joel).
4/5 stars. Although a wonderful book with vivid characters, a great setting, a wonderful plot, and a good concept, there were a few problems with the plot and the lack of description/world-building. I also removed a quarter of a star for the content, which I found to be a little more than I found comfortable. 😉
**I received a free ebook copy of this book in exchange for an honest review**
Thanks for reading and have a nice weekend,
p.s. An interview with the author is scheduled to follow in two hours. 🙂
About John A. Heldt
John A. Heldt is the author of the critically acclaimed Northwest Passage and American Journey series. The former reference librarian and award-winning sportswriter has loved getting subjects and verbs to agree since writing book reports on baseball heroes in grade school. A graduate of the University of Oregon and the University of Iowa, Heldt is an avid fisherman, sports fan, home brewer, and reader of thrillers and historical fiction. When not sending contemporary characters to the not-so-distant past, he weighs in on literature and life at johnheldt.blogspot.com.