I was excited to download Jeaniene Frost’s latest, Shades of Wicked, and delighted that my favorite couple, Cat and Bones, make a cameo appearance in the novel. The main characters, however, are Ian, an irreverent, scofflaw man-whore, and Veritas, an uptight Law Guardian with a deep, dark secret working for the Vampire Council. What could possibly go wrong? A lot, of course, on the way to their inevitable and oh, so satisfying HEA. But it’s what goes right that makes my beloved paranormal fantasy books so damn compelling. In this novel, the story revolves around one of my favorite themes, the transformative power of love. 

It’s almost impossible to go to a wedding and not hear 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, which begins, “Love is patient, love is kind...” It was one of the readings at my wedding because I thought it was so beautiful. While this passage extolls many of love’s virtues, Paul  failed to mention its most salient aspect: love transforms. For Ian and Veritas, love turns a playboy into a choirboy and a law enforcer into a law breaker—all in the name of love. Love changes people. Always.

Love inspires us to more. More loving, more generous, more beautiful, more interesting… better. Better, like Jack Nicholson’s character  in the movie As Good As It Gets, where he tells Helen Hunt that she makes him want to be a better man. My heart melted. High praise. Love gives Ian the strength to morph from a sex addict to a faithful husband. His transformation is Kafkaesque, straining credulity… almost. Happily ever after is the name of the game. Change is hard. And scary. But Ian’s and Veritas’ love overcomes their resistance. It’s a paranormal fantasy, after all. 

Is there truth in this particular fantasy? Can love change who we are, fundamentally? Or does love just bring out our innate potential?. There are those who don’t believe a leopard can ever change its spots and that people never really change for the better. I feel sorry for those folks because I believe in the power of humans to evolve. As one of my best friends pointed out, if people didn’t change, she and I would probably be dead, as much of our youthful behavior was reckless and self-destructive. But I’m not the same woman I was back then and neither is my friend. We helped each other change. Because that’s what loving friends do. 

True friendship is as transformative as romantic love, especially over time. For me, the bone deep knowledge that my friends have my back is a defining aspect of my worldview and has contributed significantly to who I have grown to become. My friends’ love for me and mine for them has taught me trust and love without judgement. Such lessons change a person over time. 

Other kinds of love are also transformative. Most parents know our worlds tilt on their axes when we first hold our children. Most of us would move heaven and earth to be the people our kids can admire and rely upon. I changed enormously so that I could be the mother my children deserved. I barely resemble the woman I was before I had kids. I like this version of me a lot better; she’s less selfish and self-centered, more willing to make sacrifices and to tolerate pain and uncertainty if it means helping my children. I have more strength, more courage and more patience than I ever thought possible before I became a parent. Love is powerful. 

And, of course, there’s romantic love. A love which moves mountains and crosses oceans, a force that can convert the most defended heart into a warm and welcoming home. Romantic love turns us all into bionic men and women and it makes us more beautiful.We shine as we look at the world through eyes that suddenly sport rose-colored glasses. Love provides a safe haven from which to take risks and to explore uncharted territory. Love is inspiration, the willingness to do more or less or differently. 

Love opens our hearts to its transformative power; we can undergo the metamorphosis from caterpillar to butterfly. But, change means vulnerability and vulnerability means risk. Love might bruise or break our hearts. That is another kind of transformation—you know, like a human to a cockroach.That kind of metamorphosis is best avoided.

Love transforms all things and makes and remakes us in ways we cannot anticipate or imagine. We can resist it, like Ian and Veritas, only to be overwhelmed by the tsunami of love that transforms everything in its wake. I’ll take the tsunami every fucking time and ride that wave like a rented mule.