Flirting with Forever
Campbell Stratford desperately wants the post of Executive Director at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh. She feels she deserves it, and with a donation of a million-dollar piece of artwork by famous seventeenth century artist Van Dyck coming through based on a contact of hers, she thinks the post is in the bag.
Unfortunately, her amoral sister Anastasia also works at the museum; she wants the job and is better at playing The Game than Campbell. To give herself a better chance at securing the position, Campbell decides to write a fictography based on the life of the artist Van Dyck. It’s a good idea, but the problem is she’s been dragging her heels with it and thinks it’s turning out a bit boring. Her online research to spice the story up a bit is also plodding along until she clicks for a sample chapter of one particular book and finds herself sucked through a portal into the seventeenth century – and artist Peter Lely’s house.
Peter is expecting Campbell Stratford to appear. He’s a dead painter, also from the seventeenth century, who is the favoured portraitist to the King. The Executive Guild, a body charged with finding new lives for dead artists, has asked Peter to intercept Campbell and stop ‘him’ from writing titillating details about Van Dyck’s life which would sully his name. Then as a reward, Peter would get to be reborn as an artist in his new life. Peter agrees to go back to his old life for a short period to stop Campbell, but his ulterior motive is to fix a wrong which caused him to die a lonely, broken-hearted man. Though Peter was known as a playboy in his time, he really only loved one woman. He did her a wrong and hopes to fix it in his short sojourn back to his past life.
When Peter and Campbell first meet, there’s an instant attraction, but both are focused on other things – Campbell on digging up salacious dirt on Van Dyck for her book and Peter on fixing the wrong he did to the love of his life. Despite their mutual distraction, they act on their physical attraction. When Peter finds out that Campbell is not a lovely surprise but his prey, it is with a heavy heart that he completes his job.
Back in the twenty-first century, Campbell has to deal with her malicious sister, her cheating ex-fiancé, her feelings for a long-dead artist, and the promotion that seems to be slipping out of her grasp. Despite working long hours to punch her book out, it turns out all the wonderful on-dits she had thought she was getting from Peter were details of another story. She’d been plagiarising without knowing it. I would have thought that this would mark the end of Campbell’s career, but her editor didn’t ask any questions, didn’t shut the project down, and just let her get to work on revising the story. This, along with other elements to Flirting With Forever was not especially believable, but seeing as I was reading about dead artists and ‘time-jump accountants’, a cell phone working in the seventeenth century, and an editor not too fussed about plagiarism – these were things I just rolled with.
The book is quite funny. Maybe not laugh out loud ha-ha, but the dialogue is fast paced. Campbell has a dry, sarcastic friend who subsists on one-liners, and Campbell herself has patches of self-deprecating introspection which made me smile. The romance between Peter and Campbell was nice. However, I kept thinking that it was not as deep and “real” as the romance between Peter and his lover of the seventeenth century. That relationship would have developed over many years and was so strong that Peter was willing to risk the wrath of the Guild (who could say how he would be reborn) to see that he did right by her. In contrast, he and Campbell’s combined alone-time wouldn’t top a month. In addition, I felt that Campbell had unresolved issues with her ex-fiancé and her sister that needed resolution. The book ended without that resolution – in my opinion. Campbell at the end of the novel is comfortable with her relationship with the two of them, but I was not quite a believer.
Still, I enjoyed Flirting With Forever. It has a movie feel to it. While reading, I easily imagined it as a feature-length romantic comedy, coming soon to a theatre near me. I would read more from Cready.