Annie's Hero

The Baddest Bride in Texas

The Baddest Virgin in Texas

Born in Twilight

Brides of the Night


Forever Enchanted


The Husband She Couldn't Remember

Infinity by Maggie Shayne
(Jove, $6.99, PG) ISBN 0-515-12610-1
Maggie Shayne's second Immortal Witch romance, Infinity, isn't as strong as its predecessor, Eternity. Shayne puts an interesting new spin on a familiar topic, but a weak second half relegates the book to 3-heart status.

Arianna is a feisty, independent girl of 17 whose behavior is very unusual for 16th century Scotland. She scorns the rules of her village and regularly visits three old ladies who are rumored to be witches. Since she was a child, Arianna has known that she has a special bond with Nicodimus Lachlan, a distant cousin to the village's laird. She senses that they share something very unusual and believes they are meant for each other.

Nicodimus knows the secret of their connection. They are both High Witches, granted immortality after they saved the life of another witch in a previous life. Nicodimus has already lived 700 years and is weary of dodging his mortal enemies, two brothers who blame him for the death of their sister. He is attracted to Arianna but wishes to keep his distance; he has no desire to put her life in danger, and he will never let himself fall in love again after losing his beloved wife and sons centuries ago.

But despite his best intentions, Nicodimus finds himself deeply involved with Arianna. All too soon, however, Nicodimus' reluctance to tell Arianna the truth about their true natures backfires, and the two are parted forever. Or are they? Part two of the novel occurs in present day Scotland, where Arianna, now reunited with her sister Raven (heroine of Eternity), discovers that there may be a way to be with Nicodimus again. But will he remember her? And will he hate her for the incident that left him buried alive for almost 500 years?

As always, Maggie Shayne relies on sheer emotion to carry her story, and she nearly succeeds. Despite somewhat awkward writing and too much reliance on artificial-sounding old-fashioned language, she makes the reader feel the passion between Arianna and Nicodimus. The shifting point of view, from Nicodimus' first-person to Arianna's third-person, is somewhat puzzling but not an insurmountable obstacle.

However, the book falls apart after 200 pages. First of all, Arianna and Nicodimus are parted by a really stupid Big Misunderstanding that comes out of nowhere. We're supposed to buy that fact that Nicodimus suddenly thinks Arianna has utterly betrayed him, despite the fact that she has given him no reason to mistrust her? I don't think so.

Then when the story shifts abruptly to the 20th century, the emotional intensity is compromised further. Shayne rushes through a recapitulation of the dramatic encounter between Arianna and Raven's mortal enemy that concluded Eternity. If you haven't read the first book, you will likely scratch your head in confusion. Because of the second part's brevity, the reader never fully experiences the renewed bond between Nicodimus and Arianna. Another 100 pages in this section would have been welcome.

Several golden opportunities are missed. In one humorous scene, "Nic" has a close encounter with a twentieth-century article of clothing. I wish Maggie Shayne had explored this "fish out of water" aspect further. Finally, for a book about witches, surprisingly little magic occurs. There is a lot of discussion about Arianna's superior strength but not enough conjuring or other magical activity.

In a recent interview, Maggie Shayne promised that there will be at least one more book in this series. Infinity introduces readers to the heroine of the next installment. She could anchor a very interesting story. The problem is, I'm not 100% sure I want to keep reading. Loyal fans will no doubt devour Infinity, but it's not Maggie Shayne's best work.

--Susan Scribner

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