Here’s an interesting scenario. Eleven years ago, a friend divorces his wife because of her drug addiction and unwillingness to seek help and wins sole custody of his little girl. You promise to care for his child in the event of his untimely death even though you’ve never met her. Now, your friend has died unexpectedly, and his lawyer contacts you, expecting you to follow through on that promise. What would you do?
Such is the case of Merry in Blame it on Cupid by Jennifer Greene. Merry is one of those people who doesn’t know what she wants. She drifts from job to job and can never become attached or committed to anything. So naturally, when she hears from her friend Charlie’s lawyer, she uproots herself from her home in Minnesota and moves to Virginia, ready to face the challenge head on, much to the dismay of her family and friends.
Charlene is not what Merry expects. At eleven years old, she deals with her grief for her father by appearing as a boy. She wears her father’s clothes which of course are too big for her. She puts wax in her hair and insists on being called Charlie, her father’s name. She even gets in a fight with a boy at school who calls her gay because of her clothing and hairstyle.
Merry understands Charlene’s behavior because her own mother abandoned her and her father to pursue a career when she was Charlene’s age. Unfortunately, the girl’s behavior does not meet with the approval of June, the guardian ad litem appointed by the court to determine what is in the child’s best interest. A battle of wills ensues. June is an older woman apparently set in her ways about child rearing. It’s not known if she has children of her own. She suggests that Merry take Charlene for counseling and insist the child dress more appropriately, but Charlene refuses the counseling, and Merry doesn’t want to make her change her appearance because she’s trying to bond with the girl and earn her trust. June does research on Merry and confronts the other woman about her lack of commitment during a home visit. Charlene, from her bedroom, overhears this conversation and automatically believes that Merry will abandon her as well. This doesn’t help with trust and bonding issues.
Despite the challenges, Merry leaps head first into her role as a parent. After dropping Charlene off at school the first day, she visits with the principal and volunteers in this and that capacity. She takes Charlene to and from extra curricular activities, bakes cookies, and even hosts a slumber party in which most of the guests are boys, only because Charlene doesn’t tell her that most of the friends she wants to invite are of the opposite sex. Naturally, although the other parents seem okay with this arrangement, it doesn’t meet with June’s approval.
In the process of building a new life with Charlene, Merry falls in love with Jack, the next door neighbor, a divorced father with two teen-aged sons who get along great with Charlene. As it turns out, Jack’s ex-wife left him and the boys to pursue a career, and as a result, Jack has some trust issues of his own. But as you would expect, everything is resolved by book’s end.
According to Jennifer Greene’s Web site, the author won the Rita ward six times and in 2009, she received the RWA Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award. Her real name is Alison Hart, and she writes under other pseudonyms. Blame It on Cupid was a Rita finalist in 2008. She sold her first book in 1980 and has since sold over 85 contemporary romance novels. She has been on a number of best seller lists, and her books have been published by Harlequin, Avon, Berkley, and Dell. They have been sold all over the world in over twenty languages.
Born in Michigan, she started writing stories when she was in the seventh grade. She graduated from Michigan State University with degrees in English and psychology. Her exploration of women’s issues first motivated her to write, and she has become an active supporter of women’s fiction.
One thing I like about Blame It on Cupid is that there isn’t a lot of narration at the beginning explaining how Merry gets herself into this situation. The book begins with her arrival in Virginia, and we learn what happened through her conversation with Charlie’s lawyer. This is a good example of showing and not telling. I also like the humorous touches the author adds to offset the themes of trust and relationships.
There’s one thing in this book I find hard to believe. Would parents nowadays allow their sons to attend a girl’s slumber party? If you’re a parent or grandparent, you’re welcome to share your thoughts in the comment box below. Here’s what I think. As a writer, I can see why Jennifer Greene wrote it this way. If after Merry calls parents to let them know the situation, they all rush over to her house, grab their kids, and call Charlene a slut and other unspeakable names, it would be a disaster, and the story would go in a totally different direction. As it happens, when Merry gets no negative reaction from parents, she calls Jack who comes over, much to the delight of Charlene and her boyfriends, and they all watch movies together. As a result, Charlene’s friends think Merry’s a cool mom which helps with the trust and bonding issues. I recommend this book to anyone who likes a heartwarming, funny, and romantic story.
To learn more about guardians ad litem, visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guardian_ad_litem#Guardian_ad_litem You can find out more about Jennifer Greene and her books by going to http://www.jennifergreene.com/
Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome