Anywhere You Are

Heaven on Earth

Here and Now

Once and Forever

Shifting Love

Time After Time

Colliding Forces
by Constance O'Day-Flannery
(Tor, $ 6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-765-35102-9
In this stellar sequel to Shifting Love, Constance O'Day-Flannery explores the idea of letting go, releasing control and living in the moment. And, let me tell you, she writes some amazing moments.

Deborah Stark is a woman on the fast track. She's shed her small town Jersey roots, moved to Philadelphia to anchor a news desk and hasn't looked back since. In fact, she's barely even been back. But her mother's unexpected death forces her to return home and she finds herself uncharacteristically looking for a shoulder to lean on. Enter Marcus Bocelli, D.'s (no Debbie for this hard-hitting anchorwoman) former one-night stand.

Marcus is a man who just can't pass up a damsel in distress. No, really, he actually can't. What D. doesn't know is that Marcus works for a mysterious foundation whose goal is to bring light into gloomy lives. Or, as Marcus puts it, his job is to extinguish fear. His mission in life is to help others find something special about their lives. So he finds himself drawn into Deborah and her inability to process her pain. What starts out as a bit of freelance work soon becomes serious when Marcus realizes that underneath the cynical anchorwoman fašade is a woman whom he was literally made to love.

Colliding Forces is an extraordinarily intelligent tale. Not only are both main characters witty and well spoken, but the story itself discusses serious issues. As D. investigates a story of corruption, the writer manages to slip in some blunt political commentary that goes well beyond the usual two-party line and explores a conspiracy theory that would intrigue any X-phile. Whether one is a conspiracy theorist or not, one is left questioning current economic trends and the future of not just our country, but also our world.

Beyond just spinning a smart yarn, O'Day's writes fascinating main characters. Deborah starts out as a cold woman whom the reader isn't certain they should actually be cheering for. But as D.'s history is revealed in bits and pieces and she begins to thaw out, she becomes very relatable. Throughout the course of the book, the reader understands why D. eschews all traces of her femininity, and gets a good laugh as she tries to recapture them.

As for Marcus, I was impressed at the way he is portrayed. O'Day has written a flawed hero to go with her less than perfect heroine. He is kind of flighty, and a bit of a baby at times. Not to mention deceptive, since he uses his shape-shifting abilities (a perk of the job) to spy on Deborah during some very vulnerable moments. Despite these flaws, Marcus is an interesting character that spouts some startling philosophies, which should definitely make most readers think twice before over-planning their lives.

Marcus is intelligent, kind, compassionate and sexy, without being too good to be true.

Colliding Forces is a refreshing take on the traditional boy meets girl love story. Sure, it's filled with "big misunderstandings," too good to be true sex scenes and the usual tidy ending, but O'Day adds just enough eccentricities to make it something special. Let's face it, not all romance novels deal with international cabals, shape shifters (who aren't werewolves) and heroines who grew up amongst the "working poor." These elements, along with the hero's stop thinking and just be philosophy, make this a heartwarming and inspiring love story.

--Amanda Waters

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