I found a book series I’m really excited to talk about. Let me start by saying I’m a writer myself and I read a lot of books. Many of these books I’d rather not mention, so when I find one I love, it’s a big deal. In this case it’s two books with a third that’s mercifully on the way. The series is called, “Matt Miller in the Colonies” by a relatively new author named Mark J. Rose.
There are three books in the series, “Journeyman”, “Prophet” and the soon to be released “Virginian” respectively. I don’t see any other selections from this author, which means this guy has quite a career ahead of him. The characters are rich with personal motivations and complexities, while the story takes us on a compelling adventure that challenges their beliefs every step of the way.
The Matt Miller in the Colonies series is fun, thought-provoking and educational for all, but it’s biggest fan base is men ages 17 – 54. The protagonist Matt Miller is a relatable every day man put into an extraordinary “fish out of water” situation. When I first read “Journeyman,” I immediately identified with Matt and was able to put myself in his place – a great accomplishment for any book. I was confused when he was confused, scared when he was scared and angry when he was angry, although I suspect that he adapts to his situation better than I would’ve.
Anyway, the point is if you’re a guy there’s a good chance you’re going to like these books, so let’s take a deeper dive.
The first book in the Matt Miller in the Colonies series “Journeyman” is about American scientist Matt Miller who is torn from his own century and dropped into Colonial America with nothing except a backpack. Intrigued yet? His phone, his money and his identity are all useless and he quickly finds that he is foreign and alone in his own country. Matt must meet the challenge to survive in a newly forming society where he seemingly has no relevant skills and no one he can count on. He suspects that his twenty-first century knowledge of science and technology could make him a king in the New World, but he quickly finds that eighteenth-century America is a dynamic place where nothing is guaranteed. The challenge to prosper, succeed and especially to win the hand of a beautiful Virginia farm girl is like nothing he has ever faced.
This book works on so many different levels. It has action, adventure, romance and a little, “man vs. wild.” What’s really interesting is the pace the author chose to tell this story. It starts with suspense, but settles into a nice rhythm that mirrors the slowness of life in 1800’s America. There are truly different stakes in comparison to Matt’s old life. Hard work and attention to detail can be the difference between life and death, which necessitates a slower pace. There is also a sense of community and family that Matt has never experienced before. After all, he comes from a time and place where technology has made it quite comfortable to live in isolation, whether it is a healthy thing or not. It’s both surprising and not that Matt finds himself quickly preferring to live in his new circumstances despite the immense struggles he must face.
When it becomes clear that there is a way back to his old life the question becomes, should he? The author Mark J Rose cleverly lets the reader join Matt in his decision about whether he should find his way home. Ultimately his choice is informed by the relationships he makes with the family who help him when he’s most vulnerable. I couldn’t help but ask myself, “Would I bother going back if I were him.” Even more intriguing is the question of “how isolated have I become in my own life without even noticing?”
What I found most fun in this compelling first book of the series was how Matt Miller discovered in what year he was now living. In this excerpt, Matt is attending church for the first time with the family who found him, the Taylors.
Jeb finally appeared from a group of people who had gathered around the vehicles. These people all seemed to be staying with the horses. They were black and Matt immediately felt that something was odd about this. He looked around at the people entering the church. There were many types, most elaborately dressed, but they had one thing in common: all were white. He looked over at the wagons and tapped Jonathan on the shoulder. “What about those people?” He pointed. “When do they go into church?”
“They have a separate church,” the boy replied matter-of-factly.
“Are they a different religion?” Matt asked.
“They’re Christian,” the boy said.
Matt pressed. “Why don’t they go to this church?”
The boy frowned. “Slaves are kept outside.”
Matt knew he had misheard. “Say that again.”
“The church people have rules,” the boy said, louder this time.
“Did you say slaves?”
“You can’t just let slaves enter the church!” the boy exclaimed.
Matt looked around and it all came together for him. The green leaves, the people, wagons, buildings, even the Taylor family—all were pieces of the same puzzle.
“Another question,” Matt said, putting his hands on the boy’s shoulders.
“Sure, Mr. Miller.”
“What year is it?”
“It’s seventeen hundred and sixty-two.” The boy said it in a singsong fashion, as if he had practiced it before.
“Did you say seventeen sixty-two?”
“Seventeen hundred and sixty-two,” the boy corrected.
If you’re concerned that there’s not enough action and suspense in “Journeyman” for you here is an excerpt from the moment Matt makes the first of multiple enemies. As kind and honorable as the Taylor family is, there is plenty of danger for Matt Miller in the colonies. Consider that 1772 might not be the safest place for a modern day scientist to live.
Matt saw the punch coming in time to back away, but it still caught him across the front of his face. He dropped the sack containing his shoes and ducked, but Levi followed and punched him hard in his side. Pain shot through Matt’s ribs like an explosion and he went sprawling. He regained his feet, staggering as Levi came charging. Matt’s sidestep was automatic as he ducked to avoid Levi’s swinging fist. He caught Levi as he turned toward him and was able to drive his fist straight into Levi’s stomach. The blow was solid. Matt was satisfied that it was about as precise a strike as he could have made. His whole arm shuddered from the concussion like he had punched stone. The larger man staggered back, surprised at the strength of the blow, but was still on his feet. Matt had expected him to drop and had relaxed his posture. He saw Levi standing and resumed a fighting stance.
“I’ll kill you, you son of a bitch,” Levi said as he closed the distance between them. Matt timed his approach, braced himself with his back foot, and hit Levi in the chest with a sidekick. Levi dodged in time to avoid the full force of the kick. Matt realized that his timing was off and his flexibility was poor from not working out for so long. Still, the kick had hurt, so Levi stepped back to shake off the blow and reassess his opponent. Matt resumed his fighting stance with his fists in the air.
The tae kwon do fighting stance Matt was using looked like that of a boxer. His body was turned to the side to protect his vital organs from a frontal attack and to set up his back leg for kicks. His hands, as generally in tae kwon do, were up for protection or counterblows. He wouldn’t initiate attacks with his hands, since it would be prudent to keep the man beyond arm’s length for his kicks to offer any advantage. Once one of them closed the distance, it would become a brawl and the toughest puncher would win. Matt was now sure it wasn’t him.
If you like “Journeyman” you will love the second book in the Matt Miller in the Colonies series, “Prophet.” Though it continues a similar pace to the first book, “Prophet” takes a darker tone as the stakes are raised dramatically for Matt. Feeling more confident, Matt has come to terms with where he is and more importantly when. He has surrounded himself with new friends, but has also made an enemy who has sworn his destruction. Matt now leaves Virginia to make his fortune in Philadelphia, with the hope of returning and claiming the hand of the woman he loves. It seems predestined that he has been dropped into this new century to succeed on a grand scale. He soon finds that a sworn enemy in Colonial America is no small thing.
In this next excerpt Matt’s enemies catch up to him on the road to Philadelphia.
Matt looked over his shoulder, resolving to pull Thunder the remaining twenty-five yards. The horse bucked and Matt repeated his motion to the ground. Thunder stopped and yanked Matt backward. He bucked again, whinnied loudly, hissed, and snorted. His feet left the road as he stared over Matt’s shoulder. He whinnied again as he kicked into the air. Matt saw the reflection of movement in the horse’s eyes too late. He turned to catch a glimpse of one man’s face as another swung a club silently into his head. Matt recognized the face from the pub in Wilmington. Matt collapsed onto the ground next to his hat and his world went black.
He started moving through the time tunnel of his visions. Pictures surrounded him, moving faster than he had ever seen, and then abruptly, they were gone, replaced by nothing but white. Matt would remember this moment many times over the course of his life, knowing that he’d experienced death. He came very close to letting his life end as he lay there, comfortable and warm.
“What happened?” he asked into the white light.
His own voice answered. “Someone tried to kill you.” “Can I stay?”
“You would let your life go so easily?” the light asked.
“Life is so damn hard,” Matt answered.
“A life worth living is always hard,” the light said.
“Too hard,” Matt declared.
There was hysterical laughter from the light. “You would squander it all after being given so much?” “Nothing was ever given,” Matt said coldly.
“Breathe,” the light said.
“Breathe, if you dare!”
Once in Philadelphia Matt starts a thriving business using some knowledge from his previous work as a scientist. Nothing too sophisticated, just advanced enough to make him a success while changing as little as possible of his own history. Of course not altering the timeline is a task that may be too difficult after discovering a literal founding father in a local pub.
Charity was staring over Matt’s shoulder in the direction of a table in the corner. Matt turned to see three men sitting there. One was gesturing excitedly to the two others as he spoke. “It may come to blows,” Charity said to Matt, rolling her eyes.
“I’ve never seen them in here,” Matt said.
“Dr. Franklin hasn’t been for a while,” Charity explained. “He’s recently returned from England.”
“Yes,” she said simply. “Do you know him?”
Book 3 of the Matt Miller in the Colonies series “Virginian” will be released on May 31, 2019 and is available for pre-order on Amazon.com. Matt Miller has become a wealthy businessman and politician, with a beautiful wife and family, but the American Revolution looms on the horizon. When a prominent British leader mysteriously disappears, Ben Franklin summons Matt to London to help investigate the involvement of Patrick Ferguson, a man whose ambitions are to change the future. Unknown to them all, another time traveler, with separate motivations, will join them in a struggle across two continents to change the destiny of Western Civilization.
The Matt Miller in the Colonies series by author Mark J. Rose is marketed by Black Chateau Enterprises and is a wonderful look into our past, present and possible futures through the eyes of a very relatable, flawed but honorable protagonist. It’s historical fiction meets time travel.