Anywhere You Are

Colliding Forces

Heaven on Earth

Here and Now

Once and Forever

Shifting Love

Time After Time

Best Laid Plans
by Constance O'Day-Flannery
(TOR, $6.99, PG) ISBN 0-7653-5403-9
Cristine Dobbins thinks she had everything she every wanted; the perfect relationship with her live-in boyfriend Charlie, a lovely house that they are restoring together and a good job. That all falls apart when she arrives home one evening to find Charlie with his bags packed. It seems he doesn't want to renew their seven-year "contract" and leaves Cristine heartbroken and confused.

Enter the Yellow Brick Road gang, Cristine's close knit group of girlfriends who dabble in everything from tarot to tea leaves. They come to Cristine's aid and stage something of an intervention where they make her realize that Charlie was not all she made him out to be and that she was actually being taken advantage of by him. To help Cristine rebound, the gang decides to send her to an exclusive resort hat specialize in hooking women up with fantasy men. Cristine reluctantly agrees to go but her lusty adventure is cut short when she throws out her back in the midst of making out with Simon, the sexy guy assigned to her.

Back home Cristine is as low as she can be, barely able to move and crushed by what has happened to her life. That's when she sees strange shimmering lights that enter her bedroom, engulf her and fill her with such intense pleasure that she has the most mind-blowing climax that she's ever experienced. Afterward she finds her back completely healed and her attitude changed. She is determined to take back her life. She's going to start by finally finishing the last bit of her home restoration. She meets Daniel Burns, a handsome enigmatic man who seems to have a magical way with kitchen renovation. Cristine soon becomes aware that Daniel is not the contractor she hired but an other-dimensional being whose true form is the shimmering, pleasure bringing lights. Daniel tells her that he answered Cristine's call when she was down and attained "unity" with her and that they are bound together.

If the first thought that crosses the mind is creepy, you're not alone. Daniel and Cristine's romance, if it can be called that, has no basis other than this mystical life force being called by Cristine's inner self and the joining (without even being asked) of their energies. The majority of their relationship consists of long boring conversations about string theory and metaphysics. Apparently Cristine finds this irresistible because she falls deeply and passionately in love with Daniel and convinces him to achieve unity "her way" and its no surprise what the consequence turns out to be. That particular plot device is ridiculous to the extreme.

I'm not sure how this book even classifies as romance, when it reads like a mish mash of every New Age, spiritual self-help book on the market. More time is spent exploring Cristine's manipulation of the life energy around her in order to win the lottery than any development of her or Daniel's relationship. Frankly, that whole concept is borderline offensive as Cristine chants that she's worth it and she's as deserving as anyone else - a woman with a thriving real estate career and a house. Right.

There's a whole lot of agenda going on in this book as well. They range from the subtle, Daniel's vegetarianism because killing other creatures for food is bad, to the more blatant "girl power." Not that feminism is a bad thing, but there was something very condescending about how the one member of the gang who has a husband and children is laid out as an object of pity. Cristine spends the better part of a whole chapter bemoaning how Paula used to be so young and vibrant, and now her five kids have sucked the life out of her. Her hair is getting so gray, her belly is all soft and stretch marked. Oh poor, poor Paula, she doesn't even have the energy to finish graduate school. There's got to be a way to help her because she can't possibly be fulfilled.

To be honest, I only graded this book as two stars because of the portrayal of strong female friendships. That part of the book works; these women care for and love each other (even if they are misguided a times). Otherwise there isn't much I can recommend about this book.

--Anne Bulin

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