Anywhere You Are

Heaven on Earth

Here and Now

Once and Forever

Time After Time

 
Shifting Love
by Constance O’Day-Flannery
(TOR, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-765-34889-6
**
Frankly, I found the premise of Shifting Love more than a little creepy. Here’s the deal: Maggie O’Shea (full name Magdalene – that’s a clue) gets “involved” (that’s meant euphemistically) so that the men she’s assigned to be “involved with” (euphemistically again) are then emotionally open to love another. She moves out; they move on. And she thinks this role as a Professional ... (supply your own euphemism here) is a life sentence to make up for past misdeeds. In order to do this emotional/sexual healing, she uses her shape shifting abilities to introduce herself into their lives.

Who’s her present assignment? Wealthy venture capitalist, man about town, Julian McDonald, whose wife and son died, and now he’s a love ‘em and leave ‘em type.

Marcus Bocelli, a fabulously gorgeous Italian shape shifter, is Maggie’s mentor and former lover (something else he’s fabulous at). He gives her assignments from the “foundation” – some centuries-old organization that balances energies to keep the world from destroying itself or something cosmic like that.

Maggie, who owns and operates Soul Provisions, some kind of New Age book/gift/music/coffee store in Philadelphia, meets Julian McDonald at a high society charity auction. She deliberately places herself in opposition to him over a painting. Just as she’d planned, he’s intrigued. But even though she gives him her business card, he doesn’t call.

Apparently her store doesn’t have a copy of “He’s Just Not That Into You” because Maggie is not so easily discouraged. Utilizing shape shifting (does anyone else wonder what happens to her clothes when she goes from human to animal?), she enters his New York apartment and puts her business card by his phone.

Once again her plan works. Julian calls and soon they’re “involved.” But this assignment isn’t going to go the way of others in her past. Maggie’s feelings are engaged, and the foundation has plans.

Established author Constance O’Day-Flannery is best known for her time-travel romances. In Shifting Love, set exclusively in the present, the romance is secondary to other elements – the plot, the machinations of the mysterious foundation, Maggie’s shape shifting abilities, and politics.

Yes, politics. Interspersed at regular intervals throughout the story are mini-lectures on political theory and the need for balance and giving back. It becomes a bit much after a while. The romance (if that’s the proper term) between Maggie and Julian often seems less important than her need to establish a life separate from the charismatic Marcus and the shadowy foundation.

It’s hard to regard a story as a romance when the initial contacts so closely resemble stalking. Maggie’s no novice at this. Julian might as well have a bull’s eye painted on his chest given the chance he has of avoiding his fate. Moreover, the increasing depth of their “involvement” could be charted on a geometric grid. Date number one: kiss. Date number two: kiss some more. Date number three: more than kiss. It all feels too programmed and calculating to be very romantic.

The story bogs down some in the middle. That lovely halcyon period of a love affair – right at the beginning when the sun is always shining and life is one big smile – is a wonderful time in real life, but it doesn’t translate well into fiction in this story. Maggie and Julian eat great food, drive around in his convertible, watch videos, and let his dog Max sniff trees ... between kisses and more “involvement.” I’m sure it’s sweet and they’re having a good time, but it doesn’t make for very engrossing reading. This is a couple who seems more animated when they’re in conflict.

The paranormal elements in this book aren’t where it goes wrong. There are a number of unappealing aspects to Shifting Love – chief among them the plot device of the foundation, which purports to be operating for the benefit of the world, intentionally using a woman in such a way. (A twist at the end makes it even more repugnant.) There’s a word for that. And it’s not romance.

--Lesley Dunlap


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