Anywhere You Are

Once and Forever
by Constance O’Day-Flannery
(Avon, $6.50, PG) ISBN 0-380-80170-1
Maggie Whitaker is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. She’s recently divorced, has to pay her ex alimony, and she’s lost her job. Unemployed, depressed and fast approaching her 40th birthday, Maggie’s life is a mess. Then one day her Aunt Edithe sends her a plane ticket to visit her in England. Maggie knows that she should be out looking for a new job, but she desperately needs to get away for a while. So, she accepts her aunt’s offer and boards the plane.

Soon after her arrival in England, Maggie starts to unwind. Then one day she attends a local Renaissance Faire with her aunt. Maggie gets into the spirit of things and even gets dressed up in full Elizabethan finery. Then something weird happens.

While at the faire Maggie enters a maze constructed out of hedges. Feeling woozy, and stumbling towards freedom from the maze, Maggie comes out the other side and encounters Nicholas Layton. Maggie, of course, thinks she’s still in 1999 and wants to find her aunt. But little does she know that she has stumbled back in time to Elizabethan England, 1598.

Much confusion ensues, and Nicholas believes that Maggie is Lady Margaret, a woman betrothed to another man. However, Nicholas can’t help but be attracted to this woman who speaks strange words he’s never heard before. Will this case of mistaken identity be cleared up? Will Maggie get back to 1999? Will she and Nicholas be able to share a passion that has crossed centuries?

For a book that has the intrigue of the Elizabethan court as a backdrop, this book is surprisingly boring. I found myself a third of the way through the book before any type of action set in, and then it was rather subdued.

There were also moments when I got the feeling that the author dropped the ball. Maggie is 40 years old, and Nicholas is referred to as being younger. So how old is he? We never find out. Also, there is a romantic moment when Nicholas recites a beautiful love poem at a banquet in Maggie’s honor. Alas, the love poem is not included in the text! The reader is teased with Nicholas pouring out his soul, and we don’t get his words. The last straw was when Maggie and Nicholas first consummate their love and the chapter abruptly ends. No details, no soothing romantic prose, no pillow talk.

Maggie and Nicholas do experience moments of great sexual tension, but I was bothered by the lack of communication between to the two. O’Day-Flannery relies heavily on “love at first sight” which is painfully romantic, but personally I like my hero and heroine to have a “getting to know you” phase in the relationship. All Nicholas really knows about Maggie is that she’s some wacky, delusional, opinionated woman who thinks she’s from the future. In fact, all they seem to talk about is being “twin flames” and giving each other history lessons about their respective times.

What this story does have is lots of atmosphere and some charming secondary characters. Aunt Edithe is an appealing woman, and the same can be said for her 1598 counterpart Elthea. O’Day-Flannery also gives a lot of detail about 1598 and English history which some readers will no doubt enjoy.

Personally, I kept hoping for a deeper connection between Maggie and Nicholas, other than all the talk about “twin flames.” More action would have easily spiced up this tale of lovers who found each other across time. O’Day-Flannery is the “queen of time travel romance” according to the book cover, and I really don’t doubt it. There was potential and a lot of creativity in this story, it just fell flat.

--Wendy Crutcher

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