Review first published 11/03/12
Meet Leigh… Deceased three years and out of the jobs available in the great Job Centre in the sky, Leigh picks the role of a Cupid (after flunking the tests to be an Angel or a Reaper).
Leigh now faces the prospect of the assignment from Hell… Ensuring that Natalie McIntyre meets her soulmate within seven days. Natalie’s Life File is thin on information and her personality is thinner still… well, if you don’t count the constant scowl and the anger management issues.
Leigh has the unenviable task to turn Natalie’s life around, because if she isn’t paired up within seven days, Leigh’s job prospects as a Cupid are going straight to Hell… Literally!!!
This debut novel by Leigh Parker is described as an “anti-romance”. Whilst this is predominantly true for the book, it’s also fits in a nice slab of romance, albeit in a quirky, offbeat fashion.
The conflict between the characters of Leigh (the Cupid) and Natalie is the driver for this book. Not only does it drive the relationship between the two characters, it brings out an element of truth to Natalie’s character, albeit in a growly, sweary fashion. I mean, which adult wants somebody interfering in their love life, especially when it’s a love life that’s flatlined and the person, or Cupid in this case, who wants to help is annoyingly nice and has a penchant for being embarrassing.
The conflict also makes for great comedy. This comedy is released in two ways. You get the comedy at the “chuckle” level with Natalie and Leigh trading barbs and bitchy remarks against each other and you get laughs at the “belly laugh” level with the Tom and Jerry-esque violence that is inflicted by the two protagonists, especially by Natalie due to Leigh’s ethereal nature.
The main characters are well written and you definitely get the sense of character progression through the course of the novel. The book is seen from “Cupid Leigh’s” perspective and the character is a two layered character by way of behaviour. On the outside, Leigh is overbearingly nice and chipper (Cupids come “programmed” this way when they take on the job), whilst on the inside you hear Leigh’s inner dialogue with the real emotions being explained.
Whilst I’m talking about Leigh, I did like the way that Heaven is explained away as a Job Centre for the souls that arrive there. Apparently, God hates nothing more than idle hands in Heaven as much as He dislikes them on Earth and that’s the reason for the jobs of Angels, Reapers and Cupids being assigned before than can achieve the level of Saint.
Natalie is a cleverly written character who initially comes over as somebody you love to hate. She’s uncaring, not only about her family and the people she comes across but also about herself. She’s also brash, sarcastic, an emotional blank canvas when it comes to anything approaching a positive emotion, and boooooooyyyyyy is she aggressive. However, as in the nature of characters such as Natalie, there are pockets of light and her character is written with layers that are gradually peeled away.
The supporting cast, whilst small as the main focus of the book is upon Leigh and Natalie, are varied from the likeable, such as Sam, Natalie’s PA, and Flo, a pensioner who befriends Natalie, to the downright loathsome such as in the case of Natalie’s parents, well written and provide a background to Natalie’s character
The writing style of the book sets up a conversational tone which doesn’t feel false, except for the fantastical elements such as Leigh’s invisibility to people other than Natalie, and helps the reader relax and enjoy the ride.
The author does advise that the book contains swearing, and it does… quite a lot, but I feel that to remove this would neuter the impact of the characters, especially Natalie’s whose swearing supports the anger and aggression that the character puts out.
There are a few typos to be found within the book, but I have to be honest here and say that they didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the book. Plus, the book is a steal at it’s £0.77/$1.22 price tag.
So, to sum up. If you want to an “anti-romance” book which contains elements of a romantic comedy, along with it being a story about the meaning of friendship and what it is to be live as a human being, rather than just existing, please give this book a try.