|Blame It On Cupid has one of those totally unbelievable premises that only romance writers can think up and only romance readers can
swallow. Who else would believe that a devoted and committed father
might name a near stranger as guardian to his beloved eleven-year-old
daughter? Who else would accept that this guardianship comes with all
expenses paid, including a house next door to an attractive,
unattached male? And yet, however implausible this story sounds,
romance readers won’t regret their time. Forget the set-up! Jennifer
Greene gives us characters we can really care for.
Merry Olsen knew Charlie Ross years ago, when he was recovering from a bad divorce and a prolonged custody battle. They never progressed much beyond drinking buddies, but she promised to take care of his daughter should the need arise. When she learns that time has come, she packs up her Mini Cooper and heads for Virginia, determined to bring some love into little Charlene’s life.
The youngster in a marine brush cut, combat boots and army fatigues is nothing like the bereaved little woman Merry was expecting. She nevertheless quickly realizes that this gender-bending behavior is how Charlie (as the girl likes to be called) deals with grief. Others, including the court-appointed guardian ad litem (who must decide whether Merry is to keep her position), don’t see things the same way. To make matters worse, Merry’s ditzy attitude seriously undermines her credibility. She has her work laid out for her convincing both her ward and the court that she means serious business.
One reason why stories like this might irritate is because the
characters’ eccentricities are frequently as ridiculous as the plot.
Indeed, Merry’s unorthodox methods and scatterbrained inclinations
could quickly degenerate into annoyingly forced quirkiness. Because
Merry voices her insecurities and qualms, this never happens.
Instead, I slowly discovered the woman behind the posture and began
to admire her stoic but soothing outlook.
I wasn’t the only one. Merry also charms her next-door neighbor.
Initially, Jack Mackinnon is as turned off by Merry’s apparently
vacuous schemes as he is turned on by her body. He nevertheless finds
it hard to tune out his latent chivalry and repeatedly offers a
This contrast between what Jack thinks he wants and what he actually
wants makes him another complex character and a good match for Merry.
He likes his job as a cryptographer; appreciates the time he spends
with his twin sons; and enjoys his active social and sexual life.
Still reeling from his divorce, he is certainly not looking for any
new attachments. He is, in many ways, a man’s man: he is rather
clueless about grocery shopping, has a name for his most significant
body part, and is totally out of touch with his inner self. All this
might spell “jerk” were it not for the underlying vulnerability,
loneliness and basic decency that Merry quickly perceives. Watching
him admit (however reluctantly) to his emotional needs and actually
talk about himself and his feelings was one of the high points of
Jack’s teenaged sons, Kicker and Cooper, and Charlie are the main
secondary characters. Her tragic circumstances, while never
outrightly avoided, are frequently bypassed to acknowledge her other,
more typically preteen issues (first period, first crush, first
dance, first sleep-over). This may be one reason why the novel never
descends into melodramatic excesses. As for the two boys, despite
their relatively minor presence, they are well-rounded and their
problems terrifyingly believable.
All in all, Greene avoids the mawkish, the tragic and the saccharin.
She does an outstanding job creating something real and
multidimensional out of what is essentially category romance
material. If you like character-driven, feel-good stories, this one
is definitely a must read.