“The Fair” is book two (of 5) in the Time Box series and, yes, you do need to read them in order and no, they are not stand-alone stories. In this second book, the Lanes are hiding from the billionaire trying to kill them for stealing two of his time machines, theoretically stopping the him from going back in time and changing outcomes of wars in favor of the losing party. Except Robert Devereux COULD still do that, he has his own Time Box, which is what his assassin uses when chasing the Lanes, but it's about the principle of the thing now—you do not steal from the boss and get to live after. So, the Lanes decide to hide in 1893 in Chicago. Chicago, during that time, was the place to be with their World’s Fair (the Columbian Exposition) in full swing giving the Lanes a huge crowd to lose themselves in, and if you know your history as the Lanes’ seem to, you know that this was also the exact place and time where the serial killer H.H. Holmes was operating his Murder Hotel. Between the excitement of the fair, and the danger from the assassin and a notorious serial killer, this book should have been brimming with tension and excitement, but its focus was on more gentler aspects instead.
While the first book introduced us to all the players and the family dynamic of our main characters, as well as set up the stakes for their survival, this book takes a bit of a step back. Instead, this story is focused primarily on the older three siblings (Ashley has maybe 1 chapter to herself and is barely mentioned until about the 70% mark, and even the parents have limited chapters compared to the first book) and their love lives and friendships. Jordan, still grieving from his loss leaves the family to go to Nevada where he meets a charming, near-sighted librarian, while Jeremy gets tangled up in an affair with an engaged woman, and Laura makes friends with a boisterous Irish woman working at the fair. We watch these three get closer to these different women and experience the fair, and Virginia City, through their eyes. It’s charming and low stakes as the siblings are enjoying themselves and trying to settle down in 1893 in hopes that this place and era will be their home for the rest of time. That’s the vast, vast majority of this book. It’s not until about 80% that things heat up again with the assassin and the danger lurking at the fair ground.
I will say I am a big true crime aficionado, so I was looking forward to how H.H. Holmes would factor into this adventure since he was first introduced/teased early on in the novel. However, I was let down by his inclusion, and if the two-ish chapters where he’s active were removed, the book wouldn’t suffer, or even change, for it. I mainly found it surprising that the Lanes didn’t take more care about him considering that they knew about the Murder Hotel, or at least the parents did, so it feels unlikely that they wouldn’t take more caution, especially given they have a daughter that fit Holmes “type”. I also kept waiting for the assassin to be more of a looming threat, for that cat and mouse game from the first book to pick up again in full swing but it never really did. Yes, the Lanes will have to time jump again, but the urgency with which they will need to move just wasn’t there, especially in comparison to the first book.
All in all, if you’re looking for a cozy historical fiction that focuses primarily on relationships, then this second book in the Lanes journey is perfect for you! This book definitely felt like more of a respite for the characters, a bit of a treat, if you will, after what happened in the first book. But, personally, I would have enjoyed more excitement, danger, and tension given the characters are, once again, in an unfamiliar era and trying to blend in when fashion, medicine, and even local colloquialisms were so different then what they were used to. But given the length of the series, those things will most likely be more spread out throughout the next books. But, ultimately, that’s why I’m giving this 3 stars, the writing could be a bit repetitive at times given the characters all have a similar way of speaking, and I just wanted more to happen. But, like I said, if you want a cozy historical fiction, this is definitely the book for you! And thanks to the author for sending me a copy for an honest review.
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