Read a full summary of The Next Together by Lauren James below. If you can’t remember what happened in The Next Together and you need a refresher, then you’re in the right place.
This recap of The Next Together was written and submitted by the author, Lauren James!
The Next Together follows the lives of Katherine Finchley and Matthew Galloway over four timelines, as they are reincarnated throughout history without their knowledge. The book follows their lives from the moment they first meet, unaware that they’ve known each other before, through their falling in love, and the realisation that they are placed at that point in history for a specific purpose.
Three of the timelines are told in alternating chapters of prose from the point of view of ‘Katherine’ in 1745, ‘Katy’ in 1854 and ‘Kate’ in 2039. A free eNovella called ‘Another Together’ also follows the life of ‘Kitty’ and Matthew in 1940, told from the point of view of Matthew.
At the start of each chapter are epistolary documents from another life in 2019, showing all forms of communication between Katherine and Matthew. Each document is marked with an unexplained file number called a ‘Folios’, e.g. ‘Folios/v7/Time-Landscape-2019/MS-113’. As they live out their lives, a mysterious computer program is monitoring their progress, with the ultimate purpose of ensuring that they achieve their goal, whatever that may be. It’s unclear whether this program is malicious or good.
what happened in The Next Together?
- (The four timelines run concurrently in the book, but are separate here to make it less confusing.)
- In the prologue, a version of Katherine and Matthew in an unknown time period are chased across a building, and share a last kiss before their deaths.
- In 1745, 17-year-old Katherine’s grandmother (and guardian) dies, and she moves to live with her Aunt and Uncle in the city of Carlisle on the England-Scotland border. She’s never met them before, as her aunt didn’t talk to her mother, Katherine’s grandmother, for an unknown reason.
- She spends time with her Aunt’s Scottish coachman, 19-year-old Matthew, and often escaping parties to spend time with him in the garden. Deep in mourning for her grandmother, she is surprised when he tells her about the Jacobite Uprising, where Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Scottish Highlanders are invading England in an attempt to win independence for Scotland. He says that it might only be a few weeks before they reach Carlisle, and the city’s ancient castle defences are quickly being repaired and the canon’s restored to prepare for their arrival. A computer message warns that ‘Danger in Time-Landscape-1745 is imminent’.
- As the Rebels approach Carlisle, the terror of the city’s residents increases. One day, Katherine overhears a conversation between Matthew and his cousin Anise, one of the other servants. They are discussing something which they have to do when the Rebels attack. o Matthew: There is still a long way to go until victory. o Anise: Yes, but the attack is the first step. After that, everything that happens is important. o Matthew: What do we do? o Anise: Nothing, yet. You only need to act when the siege happens. That’s when you can change things.
- As they are both Scots, Katherine suspects them of being spies, working undercover in the city, who might help the Rebels during the Uprising. When he tells her that he’s planning to help a group of volunteers who are rebuilding the castle, she thinks that he’s going to sabotage the canons to help the Rebels.
- Katherine decides to follow Matthew and uncover more evidence of his betrayal. She flirts her way into making Matthew agree to let her him volunteer, and borrows some of his clothes so she can do it in disguise as a boy.
- When Anise brings the clothes to her room the next morning, Katherine uses the opportunity to quiz the maid about the Uprising, trying to get her to reveal something which will prove that she’s a spy too. Anise just runs out of the room without answering.
- Matthew and Katherine, dressed as a boy, go to a meeting in the town square for volunteers. They are assigned to help remove rust from the canons. Half of the volunteers are a group of rowdy boys who make up the town militia, and don’t really seem interested in helping with the defences.
- They work together on the canons, and Katherine fails to uncover any signs of Matthew’s spying. Instead, they spend a lot of time flirting outrageously.
- The next day, Matthew confronts Katherine about her interrogation of Anise, asking her what she was doing. She accuses him of being a spy. Surprised, he tells her that he’s trying to help the English not the Rebels, as he doesn’t think that Bonnie Prince Charlie being on the throne would do any good for Scotland. She misinterpreted his conversation with Anise.
- Matthew is horrified that she was only spending time with her to prove that he was a spy, when he thought that they were friends. He eventually forgives her, but their friendship can’t go back to the way it was before, because it wasn’t right. He was a servant, and she was a noblewoman. Katherine is hurt, and realises with horror that she’s fallen in love with Matthew.
- Her aunt finds Katherine crying, and Katherine asks her why she never spoke to her mother – Katherine’s grandmother. Her aunt admits that they had fallen out when Katherine’s mother eloped with a servant. She returned home pregnant with his child, and the servant was never told that she’d given birth, even after Katherine’s mother died, leaving the baby to be raised by her grandmother. Katherine is shocked that her father was a servant, just like Matthew. The knowledge changes her decision to stop talking to him. She tells him when they’re next at the castle, and they nearly kiss.
- Before they can get together, the Rebels arrive outside the city. The teenage militia who spend all their time messing around freeze up, and Katherine and Matthew have to take over and fire a canon at the Rebel army. Proud of themselves, they return home to find that Katherine’s Aunt and Uncle are packing up to flee the city, and Katherine is being forced to go with them.
- She doesn’t want to leave Matthew, and at the last minute jumps out of the coach before it leaves the city gates. She runs back across the city in the dark, and when she gets home, Matthew hugs her, telling her she should have gone with them.
- Matthew and Katherine stay together alone in the house. When she asks him where his cousin Anise has gone, he says sadly that she had to leave. They kiss, and Matthew asks Katherine to marry him. She agrees, and they decide to elope after the Uprising is over.
- Each day they go to the castle to watch the siege of the defences. Finally, the Rebels send the city a message asking them to surrender, otherwise the residents will all be killed.
- There is a town meeting in the cathedral about whether to surrender. There is a fight between two sides, half who want to defend their city and half who want to surrender, like the nervous teenage militia.
- One of the militia pulls out a musket, and the leader of the side who want to stand up to the Rebels, Durand, is in the line of fire. Katherine runs forward to try and help him, but Matthew pushes her out of the way and helps Durand instead. He is shot.
- As Matthew dies, he begs Durand not to surrender, to keep Katherine and the city safe. Durand agrees. He tells Katherine that he loves her, and asks her to look after Anise for him.
- The computer program says ‘Situation critical, Intervention in progress. Searching for the closest match. Match found in adjacent time thread. Transferring male candidate.’
- As Katherine cries over Matthew’s body, suddenly the body changes. Matthew’s wound is gone, and he’s living and breathing again. He opens his eyes and stares at Katherine, saying “Katy? You died….?”
- It’s revealed that Matthew thinks he’s from 1854, and at the Crimea during a battle, when Katy was shot. Katherine registers that there are some differences in his appearance from her Matthew. She decides that he’s a monster, and doesn’t trust him. She leaves him in her bedroom, going to mourn the loss of her Matthew, while this version of him vomits and suffers with some mysterious illness.
- Finally, she understands the truth: that he has been transported here from 1854. They decide that a witch must have done it.
- 1854-Matthew tells her that in his time, Katy died during the first battle by a river. Afterwards, a rocket hit a tent where the Army’s leaders were meeting and they were all killed. He thinks the English are going to lose the war to the Russians because of it.
- He tried to remember everything he knows about the history of the Uprising, and they realise that they need to stop Durand from surrendering Carlisle until the English Army has gathered to defend the border. Katherine and 1854-Matthew go to the castle and persuade Durand how important even a few more days could be. He agrees not to surrender.
- Matthew’s health gets worse, and his skin is covered in redness. The computer program notes that he still hasn’t recovered from the radiation poisoning from the transfer.
- Eventually Matthew dies, leaving Katherine to mourn the deaths of two different Matthews.
- In 1854, 16-year-old orphaned Katy is living as a boy called Kit, working as a manservant. When she was twelve she had been kicked out of the orphanage and a girl she met on the street had got her a position as a kitchen boy with Lord Somerset, a general in the British Army.
- Four years later, Katy was blackmailed by her employer into going to work for a journalist for The Times, Matthew Galloway. He is travelling to the Crimea to report on the war, and Lord Somerset wants Katy to work undercover as his assistant, and make sure he doesn’t spill any Army secrets in his reports back to The Times, which might make their way into enemy hands.
- Katy meets Matthew Galloway on the docks, and is surprised to find that he is 21, only a few years older than her. He mentions that it only occurred to him to advertise for an assistant when a woman on the bus suggested it, and Katy was the only applicant.
- She boards a ship to Bulgaria with him, along with a regiment of soldiers, and is surprised to learn more about his point of view about the war. Instead of wanting to spill Army secrets to the enemies, he wants to improve working conditions for the soldiers by providing information to the general public which might start a reform. Katy is concerned, as suddenly she isn’t sure whether she feels happy to be spying on him.
- Matthew teaches Katy (who he calls Kit, thinking she’s a boy) to write using shorthand, and he mentions that she should write a letter to her Aunt and Uncle. Katy is confused, as she’s orphaned and doesn’t have an Aunt or Uncle. But it jiggles something in her memory, which makes her think at some point in time, she did have an Aunt and Uncle – and they met Matthew. This is the first in a series of memories from past lives which are re-remembered by both Katy and Matthew.
- Katy is struggling to decide who to be loyal to, her employer Lord Somerset, or Matthew, who she’s starting to develop feelings for, as they’ve been spending a lot of time together, playing card and talking.
- One day, when the soldiers and other crew the ship – all men – start undressing on deck to wash, Katy is forced to reveal that she’s a girl to Matthew. Shocked, he walks away from her. The computer program comments that Katy’s ‘dishonesty may severely hamper desired progress’.
- Later, she finds him and explains that she was an orphan and this was the only way that she could survive. When he understands that it wasn’t personal, and that she’s been living as a boy for years, he forgives her. Katy is left feeling awful about the other things she really is lying to Matthew about.
- Matthew and Katy’s friendship has become more romantic now that he knows she’s a girl, and he seems to blush a lot more. Katy decides that she’s going to woo Matthew with everything that she has.
- The ship arrives in Bulgaria and Matthew and Katy move into a small tent together, flirting as they fight over who gets the cot and who will sleep on the floor.
- Matthew gifts Katy her own fountain pen, and Katy persuades the locals to sell them a fresh chicken, so they don’t have to each the stale Army rations. When Matthew goes to kiss her, Katy avoids it at the last second. She feels too guilty about lying to him about spying on his work to kiss him back.
- When Katy sees the awful conditions in the hospitals, she finally decides that Matthew is right, and something needs to be done to improve the conditions. She lets him send back accurate information to be published in The Times, and Lord Somerset writes to her, complaining that she’s let him down.
- When the regiment starts marching to the front, someone who knows Lord Somerset recognises Katy as his manservant. He tells Matthew that it’s nice that the Army general lent him his manservant to accompany him on the front.
- Matthew connects the dots and realises that Katy is here to spy on him for the general. Furious, he storms off. A soldier comes to collect Katy and tells her that she’s been reassigned by Matthew to work with the medical officers.
- A few days later, she finds him and tries to explain why she did it. They are interrupted by Lord Somerset, and Katy admits to them both that she’s not been spying on Matthew for a really long time, practically since she met him. She says that Matthew’s dispatches have already improved the conditions for the soldiers, and it’s the right thing to do. Lord Somerset rids his hands of her. Matthew looks considerately at Katy, but still refuses to talk to her.
- Katy keeps having dreams (which are actually memories) about Matthew being shot, and during the first battle, she sees him in the middle of the action, trying to help a Scottish soldier who has been shot by a river. She runs to him to try and stop her dreams from coming true, and dives on top of him, forcing him to the ground. Above them, the Scottish soldier is shot and his body falls on top of them both.
- They run for safety, and in an abandoned building they realise that their memories of their past lives have come back. They remember that they were alive in 1745 too, and Matthew had been shot in a cathedral. They discuss their lives in that time, and Matthew forgives Katy, and admits that they’re meant to be together. They kiss, and he asks her to marry him.
- Katy remembers the transfer of 1854-Matthew to 1745 after he was shot, and that he mentioned that a rocket killed all the commanders of the Army during a meeting.
- Katy and Matthew run to help rescue the commanders by warning them about the rocket. They manage to raise the alarm, but the rocket hits seconds later and Katy is killed by the collapsing tent.
- In 1940, Kitty and Matthew are working at Bletchley Park during World War II as codebreakers working to decipher the German Enigma code. They go ice skating on the lake and discover a corpse.
- Another codebreaker, Ella, identifies the corpse as a mathematician. Kitty decides that they should investigate the death after Matthew notices marks around the corpse’s death that look like he was strangled, even when the death is announced as an accident because the mathematician slipped into the lake.
- They are interviewing Natalie, a linguist who was dating the mathematician, when another corpse is found in the library. They find traces of poison in the latest death’s last cup of tea.
- The next day, it’s announced the new death was due to gone-off food. Matthew and Kitty suspect the police investigator of being the murderer because he’s ruling the deaths as accidents despite clear evidence that they aren’t. They break into the police officer’s office and discover that he’s meeting with Natalie that evening. They think she might be in danger, so rush to warn her.
- A dispatch rider called ‘Anise’, who is friends with Ella, lends them her motorbike, which they use to ride to Natalie’s house. They break down the door and discover Natalie strangling the police officer, not the other way around. They rescue him, and he arrests Natalie.
- They find out that Natalie is a German spy sending messages to the Nazis using the Enigma code. They decipher her messages and realise that she’s put poison in all of the tea urns at Bletchley Park, in an attempt to kill all of the codebreakers and stop them deciphering the German code.
- They rush back to Bletchley, rescuing Alan Turing from drinking the tea just in time. Their actions lead to the eventual defeat of the Germans when Turing cracks the Enigma code.
- Kitty and Matthew kiss, and realise that they remember their past lives together.
- In 2039 at the University of Nottingham, 18-year-old Kate meets a boy called Matt in her first Biology lab session. He’s Scottish which surprises her, as England and Scotland have been separate countries since the third World War twenty years earlier. He must have gone to a lot of effort to study abroad in England. When they touch hands, an unknown computer program notes that ‘First contact has been established in Time-Landscape 2039’.
- Kate has a funny feeling she’s met Matt before, and when she does some sneaky googling of his name, instead of finding his social media accounts she discovers that another man called Matthew Galloway died in mysterious circumstances at Central Science Laboratories twenty years earlier, along with his wife Katherine.
- According to the old news reports, they were shot when they attempted to steal a fatal bacterium from the lab where they worked as scientists, trying to release it in central London in a terrorist attack. The security guards managed to shoot them, but the bacterium was accidentally released, and was quarantined. The events took place just before WWIII started.
- Kate is surprised to find that the scientists Matthew and Katherine Galloway looked exactly like her and Matt. She also finds Katherine’s old tumblr, which abruptly changes from discussing fandom to saying that she and Matthew are caught up in something scary and she might not be online for a while.
- She goes to talk to her grandmothers, a couple called Nan and Flo. She asks her grans if they know of these scientists who died, and if they are related. They tell her that Katherine Galloway was their daughter – Kate’s father’s sister. They show her some documents about her life and marriage to Matthew Galloway.
- They admit that they never believed the claims that they were terrorists, but they were too scared to stand up to the soldiers who told them about what had happened, especially not when WWIII started.
- At their next lab session, Kate tells Matt what she’s learnt. He admits that he already knew about his uncle and aunt and actually moved to Nottingham to find out more about them. Matt says that he doesn’t think the couple were really planning an attack either.
- When Kate shows him a funny note from Katherine to Matthew, which she picked up at her grandmothers’ house, Matt asks if they had any more of their stuff. They decide to go and look for anything which might tell them more about the couple.
- Flo and Nan let them look in the attic, where Kate has a funny feeling she can’t explain that something is hidden in the chimney breast. She pulls out a brick and discovers a bag of documents and an old laptop, covered in dust.
- They go to Matt’s brother Tom, who is also a student at the university, to ask for his help in accessing the laptop’s harddrive. Tom told him about the Katherine and Matthew in the first place. He’s a political activist & hacker called Spartacus. Kate admits to Matt that she’s a huge fan of his brother’s hacking work. Tom and Kate tease Matt by flirting with each other, as Matt is clearly jealous that Kate is such a fan of Tom.
- The laptop contains emails which reveal that Katherine and Matthew Galloway weren’t terrorists, but had discovered that their employers were hiding the truth about the bacteria they were working on. The couple and their fellow scientists were told it was a pesticide for farming, but instead they were led to create a fatal weapon that would destroy the ecosystem.
- They realise that the couple were killed when they tried to reveal the truth to the general public, and used as scapegoats by their employers after the bacteria was accidentally released in the lab.
- Kate, Matt and Tom decide they have to keep investigating what happened, whatever it takes. They look through the other documents from the attic and find that half of an old diary of Katherine’s, which they discarded as useless, is actually in code.
- Kate and Matt kiss while decoding the diary, and hallucinate some of their other lives during the kiss. They ignore it.
- The diary entries explain how Katherine and Matthew uncovered the truth about the bacteria. The last entry says that they are going to break into the labs and take photos to send to a newspaper when they reveal the truth. The diary includes the login details of a storage website where Katherine says she’s going to upload the pictures.
- Kate and Matt try to access the site, but it’s defunct. They decide they need to go to the labs in person to find the phone, and the pictures it contains. Kate and Matt sleep together the night before they leave for the labs, commenting that it feels like they’ve done it many times before.
- They break into the lab and find Katherine’s blood-splattered office. Hidden inside a printer, Matt finds the phone. It contains video footage of Katherine and Matthew breaking into the labs and finding emails on their boss’s computer.
- The emails say that the bacteria was commissioned by the Ministry of Defence to be used by the British Army against Europe in the upcoming war. In the video, they then discover the bodies of inmates from Wakefield Prison, whom the bacteria was tested on. They destroy the entire stock of the bacteria, before the alarm sounds. They are chased down the corridor and hide the phone in the printer, leaving the camera running. It’s revealed that this is the moment seen in the prologue. There are the sounds of gunshots as they are killed.
- Kate and Matt are horrified. They realise that the building they’re standing in was never quarantined, as no bacteria was ever released here. Kate guesses that they quarantined it so that they could use the labs to secretly try to remake the bacteria after Katherine and Matthew destroyed it. They’ve had twenty years to work on it, and Kate and Matt realise that if their guess is right, they’re going to have to destroy the bacteria all over again.
- They explore the building, and in the basement find a freezer full of vials of the bacteria, enough to destroy the whole world. A logbook shows that the vials have recently started being moved somewhere – they are preparing to use the weapon.
- Kate and Matt steal a vial as evidence and escape the labs just before being caught by soldiers. They steal a military vehicle and drive back to the university to pick up Tom, then go on to Scotland, where they are going to release the evidence of the video and the bacteria to the press.
- Kate makes them stop at Carlisle, because she’s been having visions of her past lives and needs to know if they’re true. They go to the castle, and Matt and Kate admit that they’ve been reincarnated and had past lives. They believe that they were put there to help, and mention things they did in each of their lives which helped history. They realise that they must be in another pivotal moment of history right now, and they need to make sure they get this right.
- Matt gets breakfast on the way to Scotland, while Kate and Tom wait in the car. He sends Kate a message saying ‘I’ve just remembered Clove’ seconds before the police storm the restaurant. Tom and Kate flee, leaving Matt behind to be arrested. It’s only as they are leaving that they realise that Matt had the vial in his pocket, so they have no evidence that they’re telling the truth about the bacteria.
how did The Next Together end?
Kate flees to Scotland to release the conspiracy about the bacteria with Tom. Matt is imprisoned after been judged guilty of terrorism. No one believes their claims because Matt had the sample of the bacteria. They release the antidote to the bacteria anyway, so that if it’s ever used in war, people will finally believe them and be able to combat it.
Kate discovers that she’s pregnant with Matt’s baby. She stays in Scotland until she gives birth to a baby girl who she names Clove. She realises that this is the first time in any of their lives that Kate and Matt have had a child. She believes that this is the reason that they kept being brought back – because Clove is important, and they needed to conceive her. She believes that now they finally have, they probably won’t be brought back to life again. Then, seeing that England is going to war with Europe, Kate decides that she has no choice but to try and stop the weapon being used once and for all. She goes back to England to try and get more evidence of the weapon so it can be stopped, and rescue Matt.
At the end, newspaper articles reveal that Matt breaks out of prison, and an anonymous source revealed evidence of the bacteria to NATO, who dissolved the British government and stopped the bacteria being released. Kate seems to have succeeding in her mission.
A Wikipedia article from some time in the future, about Matthew and Katherine Galloway, states that they were parents of the infamous Clove ‘Anise’ Sutcliffe, and both played a vital role in the aversion of multiple possible historical catastrophes through their History Control. But in the epilogue, Clove is three and learning to do programming with her dad, who’s Tom – not Matt. It turns out Kate and Matt never came back from England, and disappeared forever, leaving Tom to raise their daughter. Clove’s childish programming looks suspiciously similar to the computer program which has been monitoring Katherine and Matthew throughout the book.