Willis' first novel since 2002 has been worth the wait. Characterization is one of her strengths, and here even the secondary players are memorable. Told with her trademark wit and attention to detail, the travails of Polly, Eileen and Mike as they navigate through World War II England are so vivid that readers will feel as if they're right there with them, dodging bombs and seeking shelter. This book is sure to captivate readers and leave them wanting more but, luckily for us, the second volume in this duology will be out later this year.
Three history researchers from a future Oxford University have been inexplicably stranded in World War II-era England. Mike is researching what causes ordinary people to become heroes; Polly is working as a shopgirl in London and observing people's behavior during the Blitz; and Eileen is a maid at a country manor full of evacuated children. All three must find each other when their drops to the future refuse to open -- but is it too late? (BANTAM SPECTRA, Feb., 528 pp., $26.00)