Three men are trapped in time. One woman could save them all.
Historian Lia Carrer has finally returned to southern France, determined to rebuild her life after the death of her husband. But instead of finding solace in the region's quiet hills and medieval ruins, she falls in love with Raoul, a man whose very existence challenges everything she knows about life-and about her husband's death. As Raoul reveals the story of his past to Lia, she becomes entangled in the echoes of an ancient murder, resulting in a haunting and suspenseful journey that reminds Lia that the dead may not be as far from us as we think.
Steeped in the rich history and romantic landscape of rural France, In Another Life is a story of love that conquers time, and the lost loves that haunt us all.
"The Cathars believed that death doesn't always mean the end to the soul. They believed the soul of someone who died tragically could remain in some sort of suspended afterlife, seeking resolution through perpetual reincarnation."
Lia Carrer has returned to Languedoc in an attempt to pick up the pieces of her life. After eighteen months of grieving her husband's tragic death, the loss of her teaching job has finally spurred her into rejoining the land of the living, so she accepts friends' invitation to stay in their villa while she works on finishing her dissertation examining the Cathars' belief in reincarnation and following a controversial theory about the murder of Pierre de Castelnau, which touched off a crusade to eliminate the Cathars, considered heretical by the Catholic Church.
She expects to find support from her friend Father Jordi, a Cathar scholar who had encouraged her to explore the truth behind Castelnau's murder, but when she arrives, he is surprisingly discouraging and evasive, even going so far as to avoid her. But she meets Lucas, a handsome stranger working on a book about the Cathar ruins who wants to work with her and seems to know too much about her. And her dreams are haunted by Raoul, a scarred man who calls her by another name and then disconcertingly appears in the flesh. These three men all played a role in the Cathar crusade of 1208, and all three will play a role in helping Lia bring the truth of history to light, and the story unravels in alternating chapters of the present and the past.
I knew next to nothing about the Cathars before reading this, and that was the main selling point for me. What a great idea to take a thirteenth-century murder that touched off a religious war--that has all but been forgotten today--and combine it with the Cathars' belief in reincarnation and a modern-day love story. Unfortunately, I found the execution to hinder what could have been a great story.
An awesome first chapter really sucked me in, but from there, the plot developed way too slowly. I appreciate description to set the scene and create ambiance, but there's too much of it here. And too much time spent on brooding about, drinking coffee or wine, chit-chatting with friends over dinner, etc., time wasted on scenes that really didn't contribute to the heart of the story. All of that combines to really drag the story out. There are many points of view, some of which come from characters in the past who are not present in the modern storyline, and toward the end the author started head-hopping. That became a little distracting and confusing, especially since we were dealing with characters in both past and present threads.
It took me a while to connect with Lia. She slaps a man, calls him crazy, but suddenly she's in love with him; she confides secrets to a stranger she has misgivings about, and she always seems to be blurting out the wrong thing to say. I did warm up to her as she drew closer to solving the mystery of Castelnau's murder and the threads tying Jordi, Raoul, and Lucas together. But the ending, while understandable and beautiful in its own way, still left me a bit unsatisfied. It was never made clear to me why Lia was the one tasked with righting a centuries-old wrong and releasing three souls from the cycle of reincarnation.
All in all, In Another Life didn't quite live up to my expectations for a delicious time-slip novel a la Susanna Kearsley, but I think it's worth a read for its insight into the Cathars and their beliefs and into a little-known murder that brought down the wrath of the pope and the Knights Templar and sparked a religious war whose effects can still be seen in France to this day.
My Rating: 3 Stars out of 5