A Willing Spirit
A Willing Spirit, the newest addition in Jove’s “Haunting Hearts” line, is not exactly what I’d call a hard-core paranormal. So if you avoid these types of books like the plague you may just want to take another look at this one if the plot appeals to you. It’s more of a slice-of-life story about a small town that just happens to be haunted by a meddlesome ghost. The main characters are decent people who are often too full of stubborn pride for their own good, but it’s not a bad choice if you are in the mood for an unhurried love story and are tired of the profusion of murderous subplots in recent romances.
Tessa Bright, a pretty young widow, desperately needs a helping hand around her ranch. She is not the least bit interested in finding a new spouse and wants to make it on her own but Will, the ghost of her former husband, has others plans up his sleeve. He intends to find her a respectable man so that the townsfolk will finally accept her as one of their own. When he is convinced she is safe and sound, he will be able to move on to his final resting place.
When drifter Micah Fox strolls across Tessa’s property, she offers him the job before taking a good look at his features. He accepts before she realizes he’s a half-breed Indian and way too good looking for her own good. Refusing to rescind her offer, she sets her fears of a ruined reputation aside and lets him stay on in her barn.
Will is none too happy with these goings-ons and sets off to find his Tessa a man the townspeople will accept without question. The handsome new Reverend will do just fine, he thinks, even though he is short quite a few brain cells. Despite Will’s meddling, and their own inhibitions, Tessa and Micah develop feelings for each other but they have much more to overcome than an ornery ghost before they find happiness in each others arms.
This is a leisurely paced read that deals with several issues besides the developing romance. Tessa is a quiet, lonely woman who longs to become a part of her community. For reasons that are not disclosed until the end of the book, most of the townspeople treat her very badly. She accepts their unfair criticisms for far too long and allows her fears of “what they may think” to color her romantic choices. As a result, she comes across weaker than I would have liked throughout most of the book. She occasionally shows glimmers of strength and does, in the end, come out of her shell, but it takes her far too long to do it.
Prejudice is another issue that this story tackles. Micah’s half Indian blood has made him a misfit. Whites do not welcome him in their world and because of his upbringing he does not feel comfortable in the Indian world. He has become a drifter and feels unworthy of love. He is attracted to Tessa, and secretly longs for love, but he refuses to ruin her once he realizes how badly she wants to fit in with the townsfolk. He is an admirable man with a haunted past but has an abundance of stubborn male pride.
This couples’ biggest problem is a lack of communication and their refusal to freely admit their true feelings even to themselves. They vacillate between fiercely wanting each other and keeping themselves at a distance for the other’s “own good.” This creates some great sensual tension but becomes a tad repetitious.
Despite my frustration with the characters’ inability to open up to each other, I did care about them. They are likable, realistically portrayed people. There is also a strong secondary character who snubs the townspeople and befriends Tessa. I loved her for it. She is an outspoken flirt with big marriage troubles who would have made a terrific heroine. The author also does a good job when describing the sights and day to day life in a small Texas town in 1855. Her portrait of the earthy, sensual life on an Indian reservation was especially vivid.
A Willing Spirit was a decent way to spend a few hours. I came away satisfied that all was finally well with these two characters who had suffered so much heartache and with the belief that their love was strong enough to survive any future adversity. Still, fans of Americana romances and slower paced love stories might want to look for this one in the used book stores in a couple of months – it’s not quite worth full price.
|Review Date:||May 21, 1999|