Body and Soul by Jennifer Archer
(Lovespell, $5.50, PG) ISBN 0-505-52334-5
****
Newcomer Jennifer Archer delivers a solid, entertaining, and often hilarious first novel with Body and Soul, part of Lovespell’s Wink and a Kiss series. Lisa O’Conner, thirty-five, has two kids and a husband she adores. The problem is, he doesn’t seem to see her anymore. A fortune in a cookie at a Chinese restaurant tells her, “Today your wish will come true.” Little does Lisa realize where her wish will take her.

Later that same day, while sitting in a line at the drive-up bank window listening to her kids bicker in the back seat, Lisa spots a young woman in a red Volkswagen. The girl is twentyish, polished to perfection and radiating the vitality of youth. Oh, how Lisa wishes she could have that girl’s life -- young, carefree, no squabbling kids or abstracted husband. Before Lisa knows what hit her, she’s sitting in the red Volkswagen -- and the face looking back from the mirror is twentysomething and gorgeous. Her kids are driving away in the family minivan -- with another “Lisa” behind the wheel, just as confused as she is.

Lisa has switched bodies with Tory Beecham, a college student. The real Tory is unable to remember who she is, leaving Lisa’s husband, Michael, with an amnesiac wife who isn’t quite familiar, and stranding Lisa inside a body and life that she doesn’t know. Improvisation is the name of the game here, as Lisa finds that she’s living Tory’s life -- complete with sexy boyfriend, cheap apartment, and a totally unfamiliar set of friends.

There is one familiar thing, though. Tory had just applied for a job as an errand girl at Michael’s law firm, and the firm decides to hire her. This provides Lisa with the perfect opportunity to stay close to her husband while she tries to figure out what to do. Michael finds he’s inexplicably drawn to this vivacious college student, who reminds him so much of his wife. Or, his wife as she used to be, before she lost her memory, became obsessed with working out, and let the house go to hell in a handbasket.

Body and Soul offers a plot complicated enough to satisfy the choosiest reader, and the author delivers it with style. The outrageous premise was handled in a way that made it almost plausible. Lisa’s quick realization the there’s no place like home is contrasted nicely with her longing to enjoy Tory’s great body while she has the chance, and Michael is admirable as a man who refuses to let himself yearn for another woman, no matter how tough his home life. And the secondary character spice things up nicely.

The middle of the book drags a bit, and there’s a scene involving roller hockey that felt a bit forced and somewhat cartoonish, but overall, Body and Soul is a fun, fast read that’s going to please a lot of readers. It’s easy to recommend this one!

--Cathy Sova


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