Courting Cupid by Charlotte Maclay
(Harl. L & L #61, $3.50, PG) ISBN 0-373-44061-8
***
Apprentice cupid Eloise Periwinkle may be on her last job. Thus far, she's been a failure at every heavenly job to which she's been assigned. As a guardian angel, while she saved one person, the person she was supposed to be guarding jumped off a bridge. While working in the baby department and while working in the prayer answering department – well, she thinks that they're still recovering from her presence there. If she fails on this assignment, she may be sweeping clouds for eternity.

There are powers at work that don't want Eloise to succeed as an apprentice cupid. Affirmative action hasn't reached this department yet. All the cupids are male, and they aren't welcoming Eloise with harp music. If word gets out at how easy it is to be a cupid, that knowledge could lead to severe downsizing. Eloise is given an impossible paring: Blake Donovan and Margaret Wykowski, business rivals. These two are as compatible as cats and water.

All of the top managers of the corporation where Blake and Margaret work are on a retreat at the owner's estate. The winner of the yearly treasure hunt will be named the new VP. When Eloise meets Blake, she's surprised that she feels tingly around him. That's not supposed to happen. She knows that the meeting will only last four days. She's got to use her love arrows right now and rid herself of this feeling. Her aim is true when she shoots Blake. As she aims at Margaret, her arm is jostled and the arrow falls, right into her foot. Oh, merciful Heavens, what's she supposed to do now? She can't fall in love with Blake, and he certainly can't fall for her. Margaret's the one for him. Right?

The rest of the story revolves around Eloise trying – and failing – to get Blake and Margaret to fall in love. To me, this is where the story went awry. Eloise and Blake are attracted to each other, but Eloise is forever reminding Blake of how much more compatible he and Margaret would be. Any fool can see that Blake and Margaret won't be good together, but all Eloise wants to do is to pair them off. Several times she's reluctant to help them because she feels deeply for Blake, but she always does her duty and praises Margaret.

Eloise is a delightful, part sprite and part ingénue. Blake is written with less detail. His motivations are sketchy; we're given glimpses of his less than 'Leave It to Beaver' childhood, but it's still vague. There's a bit of a mystery involved surrounding the treasure hunt. When a gold doubloon is found, most of the employees abandon the boss's hunt and begin an actual treasure hunt instead. Eloise also has angelic help, but he's one of the cupids who doesn't want her to succeed, so his help is negligible at best.

Harlequin's Love and Laughter series advertise that these books must have love and laughter. Courting Cupid has love and laughter, but it takes a bit more to make it a successful love story. The heroine mustn't try to pair the hero with another woman, over and over and over. Courting Cupid is a gentle story, with a charming heroine and a good guy hero, but that incessant dangling got in the way of my total enjoyment. To dangle participles is bad enough, but dangling the other woman for the better part of the book dilutes the romance too much.

--Linda Mowery


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