Readers first encounter this message in Through the Veneer of Time:
“Physical. Sexual. Mental.
Crimes against women take different forms, but the ultimate effect on the survivors is always the same: lasting damage.
Some women learn to live with it. Some do their best to cope and move on.
But for others, the only way out is through settling the score. Even if it takes more than one lifetime. Even if they don’t know it yet.
In this life, my name is Siena Forte Casey.
This is my story.”
In the front matter of her debut novel Through the Veneer of Time, Vera Bell offers a succinct summary of the story about to unfold. Siena, an artist and muralist, seemingly lives a relatively normal life: great job, handsome husband, close friends. And yet, some factors in her equation don’t add up: her fear of sexual assault, for instance. It’s almost as if Siena misses a part of herself she doesn’t yet know exists. Something only discovered when she enters the world of dreams.
In those dreams, she takes on another persona: Neave McConway, daughter of a noble house in 16th-century Ulster, Ireland. Neave marries her love, Aedan, the King of Tyrone. For a while, they share halcyonic days…until the threat of Aedan’s enemies presses on them. Neave suffers a horrific and traumatic experience that changes her life forever.
In the present, Siena balances her past life regression experiences with her current project: a mural for an upcoming exhibit at a prominent museum. It seems like the perfect job, until she meets the curator Ken Worgen. Something about the suave man troubles Siena. But what? Does he relate to her past somehow?
And, amidst all this, a terrifying serial killer known as the Ghost stalks among them, hunted by Siena’s husband, Ryan. How does he figure into all of this?
In parallel storylines, Siena and Neave must come to terms with their past, present, and future in this riveting tale about love, loss, and vengeance that spans across time.
Vera Bell is one of those rare authors who can evoke emotional responses in her writing with seemingly little effort. Her choice of words and scenes amplifies the drama and romance readers experience as the characters experience them. This type of emotional evocation rarely occurs in a lot of novels I’ve read, but Vera Bell exemplifies this. This, in addition to her plausible characters, high-stakes plots, and character development, makes Through the Veneer of Time a worthwhile novel.
If I had one criticism, sometimes the violence and intimate scenes felt a little gratuitous, but were well-done for the most part.
If you’re looking for a different type of historical fiction in a similar vein to Witness to the Revolution, I’m sure you’ll love this one. From the bustling streets of Washington D.C. to the rolling Irish hills, Through the Veneer of Time is one story you won’t want to miss.
Note: Vera generously gave me a copy of this book in exchange for a review.
Title: Through the Veneer of Time
Author: Vera Bell
Publisher: Champagne Book Group
Publication Year: 2023
Page Count: 332pp (PDF count)
Featured image: Dunguaire Castle, Galway, Ireland (Getty Images/Hoaru)