Nita Hughes
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Book Reviews

Valerie Storey
10900 Haines Ave. NE ~ Albuquerque, NM 87112
505-292-4578 ~

Nita Hughes, AuthorHouse Books, 2003

Reading Past Recall by Nita Hughes, I was transported to another time and dimension that went far beyond the strong story line and sympathetic characters; in fact, I found myself so involved with the lives of thirteenth-century Clotilde de Mirepoix and her modern-day counterpart, Dana Palmer, I began to dream about them!

Both Clotilde and Dana are on separate, but related, heroine's journeys to reclaim a secret so profound it can literally change the world.  But there are no guarantees of success.  In the eyes of the medieval Roman Catholic Church authorities as well as those of her envious neighbors, Clotilde and her Cathar friends and family are heretics, no better than criminals.

Centuries later, living in the southern United States and reeling from the recent breakup of her engagement, photographer Dana Palmer is also an outsider.  As she contemplates her next step as a single woman without a real sense of direction, Dana feels strangely drawn to the Cathars and their inclusive spirituality, beliefs that were the forerunners of many "New Age" ideas today.  When she is suddenly offered an assignment to photograph historic sites in southern France for a commissioned article series on the Cathars, Dana cannot ignore the call.

Once in France, and in an effort to concentrate on her work rather than her personal life, Dana throws herself into the assignment.  Seemingly safe behind her camera lens, Dana tries to mask any untoward excitement she feels from being in Cathar country at last.  Instead, she focuses on getting the perfect shot and proving she can fulfill her professional obligations.  But the camera is quick to disarm her, as she discovers when her first rolls of film are developed, and Dana is plunged into a mystery only she can solve.  Together with her colleague, Eric Taylor, who is as much of an enigma to Dana as the peculiar and disturbing sense of déjà vu she encounters around almost every corner, Dana comes to realize that life is more than what she can view through a camera; there are forces afoot much stranger and more powerful than our ordinary comprehension can perceive.  As she makes one unsettling discover after another, Dana is pulled into both a physical and a mystical test of self-discovery that carries the reader right along with her.

A thoroughly modern woman, Dana is still deeply feminine, as is her kindred spirit from the past, the gentle yet fiercely loyal, Clotilde.  The contrast of the two women set against their respective time frames and patriarchal challenges-Dana trying to save a spiritual treasure from the greedy, suspect archaeologist, Benjamin Carter, while Clotilde is literally trying to save her life in a world gone mad-will provide plenty for group discussion.  Whether the topic turns to history, spirituality, or the role of women in brutal times, Past Recall makes an excellent choice for a book club or discussion group.

Through Clotilde and Dana, Nita Hughes has woven a magical narrative tapestry.  Set against a backdrop of passion and fear, spiritual insight and the courage of faith, Clotilde's terrifying struggles to survive the political machinery of her day makes for a genuinely compelling drama.  No less vivid are the scenes of Dana Palmer traveling through more peaceful present-day France in search of Clotilde's legacy.  Many of the travel sequences are portrayed so realistically (and deliciously!) readers will feel they've truly stepped into the French countryside.

I wanted to savor this book, and read it slowly in the same way I would enjoy a good meal or a glass of wine.  Rather than rushing through in my usual reading style, I wanted to take the time to fully appreciate the research and work that went into creating such a believable and powerful story.  I'm glad I did.

This is a marvelous work combining romance, travel, metaphysics, and yes-the meaning of life.  For me Past Recall is one of those alchemical reads that left me a different person than when I first opened its pages.  The title is apt, making me recall the characters and their lives with a deep sense of  "what if?" and wondering if we really do hold the power to "change the world." 

My only regret?  That it had to end!  Maybe we can expect a sequel?