Time Travel, with Tea

"History is just one damned thing after another," historian Arnold Toynbee is credited as saying.  For the motley tea-drinking crew at St. Mary's Institute of Historical Research in England, the equation is rarely that simple. Instead of one thing after another, history is more like one thing (or a dozen things) piled atop one another, often at precarious angles, frequently accompanied by explosions. In Jodi Taylor's Chronicles of St. Mary's series (eight books and counting), historians don't only study the vagaries of time: they jump in and out of it, usually with disastrous--and hilarious--results.

Madeleine Maxwell, known as Max, narrates the series (which begins, aptly, with Just One Damned Thing After Another). Max--short, redheaded, tough as nails and lonelier than she'd ever admit--finds her people at St. Mary's, whose cast includes the all-seeing director, Dr. Bairstow; Mrs. Partridge, his indefatigable assistant who moonlights as the Muse of History; unflappable Leon Farrell of the Technical Section; and various fellow historians, all of whose skills in sarcasm and tea-making match (if not surpass) their academic knowledge. As Max and her compatriots navigate the intricacies of time-jumping, they also argue, fall in love, narrowly dodge time-traveling villains and wrestle with the big human questions. When is it ethical to alter the course of history, even a little bit? Are theft, murder and other crimes ever justified in service of the greater good of humanity? Can they capture live footage of dinosaurs and make it back to St. Mary's for a round of drinks? And what caused that loud bang in the general vicinity of R&D?

While the pace of Taylor's series picks up with every book, she always steers her characters (and readers) back to home base. St. Mary's, and its revolving (but never revolting) cast of history nerds, is a true delight for Anglophiles, time-travel aficionados and anyone who loves a highly improbable adventure story. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

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