Two years after Leigh’s absurd story, another event occurs involving the volcanic Natalie McIntyre, her life file and the Reaper that’s just pulled it from the Heaven filing system.
To save Natalie from her impending doom, Leigh goes back to Heaven to save her only to be given an ultimatum – pair ten people up in seven days or risk staying in Heaven indefinitely.
I read Leigh’s first book in this series, “10 Ways To Kill A Cupid”, and following the enjoyment I had with that one Leigh got in contact with me saying that she was in the process of writing Book 2, “Ten Ways To Piss Off A Reaper”.
The plot of the first novel was dressed as “anti-romance”. Due to the conclusion of the first novel which sees our hero and heroine falling for each other, the author has taken a new approach with this sequel.
The first part of this book sees our couple in almost domestic bliss with Leigh and Natalie being a couple for two years which suckers the reader into this story being an offbeat romance novel. However, the author makes a clever turn by introducing the threat to Natalie and Leigh’s happiness in Natalie’s Life File being lifted by an unknown Reaper. This change moves the plot in several ways.
Firstly, the novel becomes a “quest” novel with Leigh making a “deal with the Devil” or, more appropriately, God to become a Cupid again and accept a challenge to pair up ten people, either as friends or lovers over a period of five days, to keep Natalie safe. The size of the task – which is larger than the single pairing for Natalie in the first book, along with the short time frame, adds real challenge amongst the gentle humour which keeps a ticking clock aspect to Leigh’s quest which is reminded as the plot progresses.
The second aspect where the book changes direction, not only in comparison to the first part of this novel, but the entirety of the first novel, is that it is more intricately plotted with three plots main plots running alongside each other – Leigh’s quest to pair up his assignments, his quest to find out who is responsible for his predicament and retrieving his Halo ring (which he got at the end of the first novel) for reasons that become apparent as the plot progresses.
Thirdly, in comparison to the first novel, is that there’s less “Tom and Jerry”-esque violence and laugh out loud moments, particularly between Leigh and Natalie. This is partially due to the fact that the Leigh can’t communicate directly with Natalie for the majority of his time as a Cupid and partially because the story is driven more by emotion (see below).
Finally, there is real emotional tension throughout the novel, as Natalie’s fate is revealed – for various reasons. The belligerence that forms the cornerstone of Natalie’s character in the first novel, and early on in this book, is gradually softened as she has to come to terms with the fact that Leigh has taken a BIG risk to save her, along with a plot point which is revealed early on (but which I think is too much of a spoiler to reveal) and what I call the “killer” aspect of this novel with the unknown Reaper stalking the pair’s fate. That’s not to say that she doesn’t hold her own but her “angry Natalie” persona doesn’t become the be-all-and-end-all of her character.
Due to the plot, Ms Parker finds new emotional territory to prevent her characters going stale, but this doesn’t mean that she throws out everything that makes the first book popular.
As with “Cupid”, this book is written from the point of view from our lead character Leigh, former Cupid and now living in loved-up… well, not quite harmony but an understanding with his girlfriend, and former assignment, Natalie McIntyre. This device allows for consistency with the first book, along with acting as a bit of short hand exposition in case it’s been a while since reading “Cupid”, and, most importantly, using Leigh’s “voice” to sell the emotional stakes involved in this story.
Due to the story focus being predominantly on Leigh’s quest to keep Natalie safe, Natalie herself gets a slightly smaller role than in the first book. However, there is a trade off as Natalie’s role gets a greater depth than in the first book. Yes, she does snarl and rant against the people who get on her nerves, but the character’s trials and tribulations, along with the fact that she has been in a relationship with Leigh for two years, means that the author gets the chance to soften the edges and make her more rounded, whilst not weakening the character – something that definitely comes into play at the book’s conclusion.
There is a wider supporting cast in “Reaper” than with “Cupid” as the reader is treated to a mixture of returning supporting characters such as Natalie’s PA, Sam, work colleague “Fat Ken”, Natalie’s pensioner friend, Flo, and the Almighty Himself mixing alongside new characters such as the cat and sci-fi loving Amanda and the generally unlikeable Jamie.
Another area where the author has developed in her writing from the original book is that she doesn’t shirk from making bittersweet choices with her characters including one character dying as soon as they fall in love only with the prospect of them facing a trip downstairs and another becoming a fellow Cupid alongside Leigh.
In addition to this, Ms Parker has a definite direction with where this book is going by wrapping up the story with a fantastic cliffhanger which had me saying “Whaaaaaaaaaat????? Noooooooooo!!!!”
As with the first book, there are typos in this book, but as I said previously this doesn’t spoil the reader’s enjoyment and the book still has as very reasonable price tag.
If you enjoyed the first book, you will no doubt be giving this book a whirl. For those of you out there who haven’t tried “Cupid” or “Reaper”, please check them out for a great combination of humour, romance and drama.