Aphrodite's Workshop for Reluctant Lovers by Marika Cobbold

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Aphrodite's Workshop for Reluctant Lovers by Marika Cobbold

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Category: Women's Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Trish Simpson-Davis
Reviewed by Trish Simpson-Davis
Summary: The Goddess Aphrodite meddles in the twenty-first century to bring lasting love to Rebecca Finch, a successful but disillusioned romantic fiction writer. An enjoyable read which had me laughing.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 320 Date: February 2009
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
ISBN: 978-0747577928

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There is no mistaking where this novel belongs with such a great title. And what a marvellous conceit the book turned out to be: the reactions of Aphrodite to today's scrambled personal relationships.

Marika Cobbold made the Goddess of Love seem … well, almost human, in a godly kind of way. I loved Aphrodite from the start. She was head and shoulders above most romantic heroines, with eyes changing their sparkly jewel-colours, curvy, pre-Raphaelite body and melodious voice. However, Aphrodite is also a depressed, single parent suffering from romantic inclinations/sexual urges at all the wrong moments. Her status and self-confidence have been eroded because romantic love has declined to the sorry state of transitory dream time in modern humans' lives. Mount Olympus politics being what they are, other goddesses are trying to unseat her and even Zeus swings in occasionally with some warning one-liners.

This part of the story is told by Eros, her lazy teenage son, narrating in modern American-speak. His character is as well-rounded as the little Eros figures growing up the front cover. Currently he's beautiful, messily inept with his bow and arrow, snarling in teenaged insecurity at everyone, and desperate to please his mum and stand up to the bitchy goddesses.

In order to stitch up her critics, Aphrodite beams in on Rebecca Finch, her favourite romantic fiction writer, and plots to match her with John, a successful lawyer. Since Rebecca's imaginary childhood friend has reappeared and John has an obsessive compulsive disorder, it's an easy matter for Aphrodite to slip herself into the role of therapist to manipulate them into position. The consulting room scenes are wonderfully funny, as 'Angie Bliss' manages to pull off good old-fashioned advice-giving while convincing both clients that she is dispensing therapeutic professionalism. 'Do you not think it's time you stopped flitting from relationship to relationship?' she pounds at ultra-conformist John. As a send-up of therapy, it's a fair cop, and I loved every far-fetched what if word.

Clearly, a romantic fiction writer is just the right career choice for Marika Cobbold's heroine, although I must admit to being a little tired of fiction in which authors, usually best-selling ones, are the viewpoint character. Rebecca's crisis of confidence in her writing revolves around her disillusion with romance. Suddenly, she sees her romantic stories, duping a public desperate for happy endings to counterbalance the unhappy realities of separation and divorce, as opium for the female mind. Well, she makes the issue sound as single-mindedly serious as Marx, anyway.

I didn't like Rebecca. I thought her cold, making up for her lack of inner life by interpolations from Coco the clown, her irritating animus. She seemed the antithesis of fiction writers I've met, who are long on emotional intelligence and usually what my husband calls 'a character' to boot. I wondered how on earth she'd managed to become a best-selling author? Suffice to say that after the splendid characterisation of Aphrodite and Eros, Rebecca, as a boring old human being, didn't really work for me as a major player.

The plot was neatly turned, even if I grew a little confused by the plethora of male candidates for Rebecca's interest. I wondered why John was Aphrodite's chosen hunk when they all seemed … well, pretty ordinary, really. I had to rely on Aphrodite's attraction to John to carry me through to the inevitable end …which was inevitable, of course, because the ending was in the lap of the Gods.

This is Marika Cobbold's sixth novel, so many will already know Guppies for Tea or Shooting Butterflies. For a humorous take on the realities of writing for a living, I'd recommend Marian Keyes' anthology of articles Under the Duvet. We also enjoyed Drowning Rose by Marika Cobbold.

The Bookbag would like to thank the publishers for sending this book.

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Buy Aphrodite's Workshop for Reluctant Lovers by Marika Cobbold at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Aphrodite's Workshop for Reluctant Lovers by Marika Cobbold at Amazon.com.


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