St Martin’s Press, $6.50, ISBN 0-312-97871-5
Contemporary Romance, 2001
Recently I’ve heard some interesting grumblings from romance readers that contemporary heroines have come to a full circle. Where once heroines take on male-dominated jobs to be “one of the boys”, now they are bridal gown designers, librarians, kindergarten teachers, or agony aunts whose sole ambition in life is to (a) please daddy, and (b) have a baby before they hit 30. These readers should stay away from Dear Cupid, because heroine and agony aunt Kate Bradshaw will definitely make these readers look uncannily like that red-eyed smoke-puffing-from-nostrils bull that Bugs Bunny tease with a matador cape in those cartoons.
Kate is an agony aunt columnist (“Cupid”) whose job is in jeopardy because she isn’t “fun” anymore. She has been dumped and now, overworked, underpaid, and a single mother to boot, she, apparently, is telling her readers that “all men are bastards, so don’t you dare let that boyfriend pressure you into having sex, missy!”. And this, according to the editor, is not fun.
So, if Kate is burned out, she should attend a motivation seminar, right? Take a long vacation? Call a male stripper who does housework as well? No, she decides to flirt with a guy to get back her old silly-fool romantic self. That’s a great idea, I must say. Really.
Naturally, flirting is the greatest evil ever. You know, if you flirt, you are nothing but a cheap, easy tramp. Yes, this is an agony aunt telling you that flirting is evil and all female flirts are whores. Anyway, she flirts with a Mr Gorgeous, Michael Cameron, at the airport and then starts beating herself up. How could she… she is such a cheap tramp!
Here, here, how about an arsenic tablet to make her feel better?
Mike sees her, and likes her. But he frowns – she seems like a businesswoman, you know, the modern, ambitious sort. Definitely not his type, because we all know modern women all make bad mothers and they always put their careers ahead of making babies. Then he sees our Cupid lady smiling wistfully at a baby, though, and he decides, no, she’s not like those evil modern progressives – this one is a born stay-at-home mother, and hence the sole model all womanhood should aspire to. She’s the one for him.
Ah, but Cupid Lady doesn’t want his attentions, no sir. Yes, she does, but you know, all men are bastards, et cetera. So Mike has a plan. He will ask her to help him have a makeover so that he will find a wife. Cupid Lady then decides to help him, and predictably enough, gets all hot and jealous when women flock to our man. Will she love him? Does he love her? When he sleeps with her, is it because he loves her? Oh, oh, oh, the dilemma of our modern lady’s dating scene, I tell you.
Frankly, I think someone should just fire this Cupid Lady. For an agony aunt, she is the worst candidate for the job. Then again, for some reason romance authors love to think that agony aunts are all messed up inside. This story isn’t the first of its kind.
Julie Ortolon has a snappy style of writing, but her heroine here is a mess. The plot is a mess and half the time it’s stupider than a love-compatibility quiz in Cleo magazine. The hero is decent though. This Dear Cupid is severely in need of a jumbo-sized shot of coherence. You know, working women with ambitions are not the root of all evil and flirting is not one step above whoring. Bad storytelling, however, now that can be evil.