Spirit Willing, Flesh Weak
by Julie Cohen, contemporary (2006)
Little Black Dress Books, £3.99, ISBN 0-7553-3481-7


Spirit Willing, Flesh Weak is a problematic story for me because of a sequence of events that take place very late in the story right until the last page. Because I can't explain my reaction to this story without delving into those events, this review is going to have major spoilers all over the place. Therefore, if you intend to read this book in the future, you are advised to stop reading and hit the back button on your browser.

Rosie Fox is an American who is currently touring Great Britain as a very successful stage performer, oops, psychic. Rosie is not convinced that she's a genuine medium, so she alternates between feeling guilt about lying to her audience and telling herself that she is doing some good because she is helping her audience feel better about dealing with their departed ones. However, one fine day Rosie actually has a Final Destination moment when she senses that something terrible will befall a train. She rushes to warn the appropriate authorities, only to be dragged away while screaming and looking like a total lunatic. When the worst happens, however, she is soon thrust into the media limelight as the genuine psychic who predicted a disaster. Now that she is a celebrity, she also has to deal with Harry Blake, a disgraced journalist turned spiritualism TV show host/reporter who believes that exposing her will be his ticket back to respectability.

There are some genuinely funny moments here, but on the whole, Rosie is so determined to play the martyr that it's like watching a train rush ahead toward a ravine as Rosie very foolishly sleeps with Harry and allows him to know intimate details about herself when she knows very well that he can't be trusted. As you may predict, late in the story Harry has had enough to nail Rosie to the wall and, even if he is sleeping with her, he's not going to let that stop him from exposing her. As he tells her in a most patronizing manner, he can't let her keep lying to people. Rosie is heartbroken, but in all honesty, I can't feel sorry for her. She pretty much asked for this humiliation to happen by giving away the milk for free. If I'm her mother, I'd be so embarrassed, because I'd have raised my daughter right - my daughter would have at least secured a written contract of silence before she sleeps with that man, hmmph.

How does Rosie win back his love? Well, she uses her psychic magic thingy - it is never explained in this story how this ability can "suddenly" appear when it's convenient - to clear Harry's name and give him a chance to play the hero. How nice. Then he shows up, professing to have loved her all along and Rosie goes, oh, his love for her is the one true thing in her life. Excuse me? The timing is way too convenient to be believable. Call me cynical, but I don't believe him and I don't believe in the romance in this story. Rosie plays the victim way too readily and Harry has happily betrayed her, in a way, once without hesitation, even if he knows that his exposure of her will leave her with nothing left to pick up when he's done.

The way I see it, it seems like I'm expected to sympathize with Harry and agree with him that Rosie is so, so wrong to be lying to people like that and she deserves to be exposed. Well, that's not what I feel here, I'm afraid. I don't see what Rosie is doing to be anything that awful. It's show business, after all. And frankly, I see Ms Cohen doing a big cop-out by turning Rosie's manager into a ridiculous taskmaster in an attempt to portray Rosie as a wounded doe even more. That attempt backfires spectacularly: it makes Rosie come off as even more of a ridiculous willing victim who lets people walk all over her.

Ultimately, the few good funny scenes in this story are ruined by the overwhelming feeling of watching Rosie tied to the tracks and being run over by the train as I read this story. While I won't be averse to reading another book by this author since she can write some pretty good humorous and sexy scenes here, this story depends too much on the heroine playing the wounded doe to the point that she often abets her own victimization. And when she finds love, the whole thing comes off like her being so pathetically happy for the first time in her life that she is willing to settle for less. He used her, she let him use her, and... now they are in love? Oh, please.

Rating: 68


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