Cupid: The Amorous Arrow
by J.M. Jeffries
(ImaJinn Books, $7.50, PG) ISBN 1-893896-01-3
**
It's hard to know what to think of Cupid: The Amorous Arrow. If you are in the mood for a very fluffy read and aren't too particular about overwrought descriptions, this might do you just fine. I had little patience with it after the first few chapters, though.

Cupid is in trouble. He's messed up on the job once too often (Jerry Hall/Mick Jagger) and the gods aren't happy with him. He's given an ultimatum: find mates for Cecilia "Sticky Fingers" Luna (another failure from forty years ago) and her niece, Amberlin O'Rourke. Otherwise, it's demotion.

Aided by his mother, the beauteous Venus, Cupid heads to the city and Barrett's Department Store. He hopes Jeremy Barrett, computer whiz, will be the perfect match for Amberlin, a plumber with artistic aspirations. Cupid arranges their meeting by destroying the ladies restroom on the first floor, necessitating a call to Amberlin. Amberlin and Jeremy meet, and are instantly attracted. But Amberlin is caring for her Aunt Cecilia, a kleptomaniac determined to exact revenge on Barrett's for ruining her marriage forty years earlier. Every day, Cecilia shoplifts at Barrett's. Every Friday, Amberlin returns all the stuff to the manager, who has known about this for years, as has Frederick Barrett, the owner (and Jeremy's grandfather).

So Cupid's job is to get Amberlin and Jeremy together, and also Cecilia and Frederick. Before long mayhem abounds.

This is a story that cut way too many corners and left out way too many details just to stick the plot together. Coupled with overwrought writing in which hyperactivity abounds (Jeremy doesn't just leave the room, he storms out; the burst toilet doesn't just create a mess, it shakes the building to its foundations, etc.) and the reader is left with a feeling that this is an apprentice work that needed more polishing. The toilet incident has far-reaching implications in the plot, but realistically, the resulting flood (described as "a small tidal wave") would likely never have happened. Public restrooms have floor drains, a detail left out of the plot. A wet floor, yes; flooding the first floor of a store, no.

Okay, stuff like this seems picky, I admit. But when one is reading along, comes to an initial climactic scene, and finds oneself thinking "hold it, what about the floor drains?" it's a sure sign that the plot needed a bit more work.

Amberlin's job as a plumber was a nice touch, although the artistic aspirations weren't necessary, and neither was the chip on her shoulder about her job. What's wrong with being a plumber? ImaJinn, new press that it is, can afford to step outside the standard definition of heroine. As for Cupid and Aphrodite, they spend most of the book masquerading as Mr. Cupidano and Ms. Venusia, names that left me groaning. The conflict between Amberlin and Jeremy soon sinks to "what could he see in me?" and "how can I get her attention?" There's not much keeping these two lovers apart.

Who knows what the writing team of Jacqueline Hamilton and Miriam Pace have up their sleeves for the planned sequel to this book, but I hope it involves a tighter plot and a stronger conflict. Cupid: The Amorous Arrowis a book that will delight some readers and leave other laboring to finish it. I'm afraid I fell into the latter category. Proceed at your own risk.

--Cathy Sova


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