by Gwyn Cready, paranormal (2010)
Pocket, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4391-0724-9
Gwyn Cready's Flirting With Forever has a plot that can be a bit hard to explain, so bear with me. We have the Executive Guild, a group of... people, let's just say, who is in charge of ensuring that souls of dead artists get reincarnated according to the scheme of things. The Guild realizes that some time in the future, someone will use a time portal thingy to go back to the Restoration Era, know some intimate details about the artist Van Dyck, and publish a tell-all book about the sordid details of his sex life that will apparently ruin Van Dyck's legacy. After all, knowing as we do of the sordid details of Picasso's personal life really ruined that poor fellow's legacy and rendered his paintings worthless.
So, they assign Peter Lely, who is dead, to go back to the Restoration era, intercept this Campbell Stratford person, and feed that person lies about Van Dyck's personal life so that the book will be ruined forever. At least, that's what I get from this story. There are some things that don't make sense about this plot, but I guess we need something to get the story rolling.
Campbell Scott is actually a woman. She's an art historian who is currently in a war of attrition with her sister Anastasia, who also works at the same place in the same position. They are fighting for an upcoming promotion. When she accidentally travels back in time to the Restoration Era via the Amazon home page (don't ask), she is thrilled to meet the great artist Peter Lely in person, especially as she's a big fan of his portraits of bare-breasted women (really, don't ask). Now maybe she can probe him a bit about Van Dyck, the subject of her book that she wants to get published in order to have one over her sister in terms of credibility... Of course, she gets screwed and screwed over by Peter, but that's okay, she goes back to her time to discover his betrayal and to lick her wounds. But Peter follows her back to her time, this time for round two of her public humiliation. How on earth will Ms Cready sell this off as true love? You have to read this book yourself to discover the answer, naturally.
As you can tell, I'm not too wild about the romance, because this story is pretty much Peter humiliating Cam all the way to the last few chapters, where he decides to feel bad about his actions. The problem here is that Cam's humiliation is public and therefore quite brutal, and she is humiliated over reasons that seem overblown to me. For example, the Guild using Peter to ruin her credibility and almost destroying her chances of promotion over a time-travel incident that she was caught in by accident is pretty much equivalent to shooting the stray dog that accidentally stumbled into one's back lawn. Protecting a long-dead artist's dissolute reputation from being exposed is such a trivial and silly reason to destroy a woman's future over, don't you think?
Round two has Peter coming to the present to finish off what he couldn't do with his previous lies because this time he wants to stop Cam from writing a petty fictitious story about him and a woman in his past. In this instance, I am not given a good idea of Peter's relationship with Ursula, so I don't get his determination to completely destroy Cam's good name, over something that should not matter as, let's face it, very few people know who Ursula is (even the Guild doesn't know of her). So to humiliate her in front of her employers, patrons, colleagues, and members of the press over this? While sleeping with her in the meantime? All this is played up in a lighthearted manner, but the whole result is like a story by Anne Stuart set to laughing tracks.
But still, Flirting With Forever is still a solid entertaining read where I am concerned. Let me make this clear: I've given the reasons why I have a hard time warming up to the romance. While this story isn't much of a love story where I am concerned, it is still very amusing to read.
Peter and Cam are not the most well-drawn characters around - another reason I find it hard to buy that they are in love by the last page - but they do have plenty of sizzling chemistry together. Indeed, those scenes where Cam pose nude for Peter have to be some of the most erotic I've come across. Seriously, those ridiculously hot scenes are far more heated than some of the books out there marketed as erotic romance.
Also, there are some very good lines here and some memorable non-intrusive secondary characters that bring on more fun.
Yes, the plot could have been put together better and the characters could have been better developed so that the romance remains believable despite the nonsense the self-absorbed Peter subjected Cam to. However, the story is still a very entertaining read despite the flop of a romance. If you want to read this book, just remember that it follows chick-lit sensibilities closer than the packaging would suggest.
This book at Amazon.com
This book at Amazon UK
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