Canadian writer Melling attempts, in this first novel, one of those daring feats of literary ambition in which metafiction, fantasy, and a conventional love story are all effortlessly combined in one slim volume. The nameless Canadian-born narrator is staying at a writer's retreat in the Irish countryside while she writes a novel about Michael, a talented young Irish musician with red hair, who falls in love with Raffie, a Canadian-born student studying obsession and ecstasy for a dissertation. Both Raffle and Michael feel a kinship that hints at other lives in other times. They may have been magicians, able to manipulate events, but they are also aware of ancient enemies--a wolf and a serpent--and a contemporary presence--Gabriel, the sinister manager of Michael's musical group, who dispenses drugs as a way of keeping members of the band in his power. The narrator, as she works on her novel, is also haunted by memories of her failed marriage to red-haired and Irish Damian, whom she had met while studying in Dublin. The self-reflective and fantastic patterns are established almost from the first page, and--taking the story within the story even further--the author begins an affair with Michael, a young fellow writer at the center, who, yes, does have red hair and, yes, is Irish. Michael, the writer, reads the story in progress about Michael the musician, which adds a further bit of recta fictional conceit. The mythical and fictional lovers triumph, and the narrator, though her affair with Michael ends, still has the consolation of writing--of fiction which is ""more bearable than reality."" While the execution and the concept here are impressive, the material itself comes very close to that of your everyday romance fiction. The lovers and their clones are disappointingly familiar types, not worthy of Melling's considerable ambitions.