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Spirit Willing, Flesh Weak is another title from the Little Black Dress series, aimed at modern women and meant to be something of an antidote to Mills & Boon or Harlequin romances. It's written by Julie Cohen, an American born writer married to an Englishman and who currently lives in Berkshire.
Rosie Fox is an American stage psychic or a fraud, depending on your point of view. When she makes a prediction concerning a train crash which comes true she starts a media storm. One of the journalists looking for a story is Harry Blake, a cynic who is intent on proving Rosie is nothing more than a charlatan but when their relationship becomes more personal Rosie may be about to make a big mistake....
Little Black Dress books range from women's fiction dealing with issues facing twenty-first century women, to straight romance and this definitely falls into the latter category. The story outline had great potential for humour and romance and I think in more capable hands it would have delivered but, for me, this story just failed to hit the spot somehow.
This could well be because it's rather difficult to get under the skin of either of the main protagonists. Rosie is a self-confessed fake who makes a living from defrauding the public attending her shows convinced she's a bona fide clairvoyant and although she makes every attempt to prevent passengers from boarding the train she's predicted will crash, she still isn't the easiest person to like. She also remains largely unrepentant until well past the halfway mark in this book, which didn't leave the author much time to redeem her in the readers' eyes. She also lies to Harry, the man she supposedly has grown to love. Little white lies are acceptable, of course, but she is lying about a fundamental part of who she is.
Harry is only marginally more likeable. He's a cynical journalist determined to 'out' Rosie, even though he's romancing her as well. Harry is a bitter man having been the victim of a faker which resulted in him losing his position on a prestigious broadsheet so it's perhaps understandable that he would want to prove Rosie isn't as genuine as she claims but at the same time, he's trying to get in her knickers. But, hey, that's men!
Apart from Gina, Rosie's agent, the other characters in this story are almost incidental or two dimensional, even the baddie. Gina, however, provides the one piece of realism in this book. On the surface she's a hard-nosed business woman clawing her way to the top of her chosen profession but when she admits to a devastating event in her youth which has coloured the rest of her adult life, there is real poignancy and top marks to Julie Cohen for creating such a real character.
The story, which is described in the back cover blurb as a hilarious romantic comedy, doesn't really come up to scratch. I had expected something along the lines of a Doris Day/Rock Hudson rom-com instead of which I got a fairly pedestrian story with very little hilarity and a romance which was verging almost on the unbelievable.
My understanding is that most loving relationships are predicated upon honesty and affection rather than simple lust, although I admit that lust has it's place in the grand scheme of things! Here, though, we have two characters who are determined to outwit each other. Not a good basis for a lasting relationship.
The story is set in Reading, although apart from mentioning the local newswpaper, it could just as well have been anywhere in Britain, but I must give credit to Julie Cohen for not slipping up with her English dialogue. Very often American writers put words into their British characters' mouths which are blatantly American and which no self-respecting Brit would ever utter, but her years of living in this country have paid off and she doesn't make a single mistake.
This book isn't a complete turkey but, to my mind, it lacks a certain lightness of touch to be regarded as a romantic comedy and doesn't have the necessary plot twists to keep the reader guessing. The story is enjoyable enough though and would make for a light and easy holiday read.