Labor of Love
Labor of Love is a small press book and, apparently, Carol Costa’s first work of fiction. It’s pretty clear why no bigger publisher picked this one up. What’s less clear is why Avalon is charging $19.95 for 184 pages of not-very-well-written story.
Margo Conroy is the head of the display department at Dixon’s, a large department store. Margo and her co-workers have become so disgruntled by management’s treatment of its employees that they have taken steps to unionize. When her boss, David Martin, gets a letter from the National Labor Relations Board, he calls her up to his office so she can explain what’s going on. Margo is prepared for the confrontation, but she is not prepared for David’s reaction to her. Immediately, he takes a personal interest and invites her to dinner. Margo can’t help feeling attracted to her handsome, seemingly charming boss, but she can’t shake the suspicion that he’s using their relationship to hinder the employees from forming their union.
Reading this book, I was strongly reminded of many of the series books I’d read in the early eighties. The kind where the heroine has a job, but the hero is always far, far above her on the social and vocational ladder. The woman is beautiful (of course), and spunky, and she seems like a career girl at first glance. But once she meets the hero her focus changes, and he becomes her everything. In these types of books, the HEA translated to: Good-bye, career, hello, society wifedom.
Labor of Love doesn’t exactly fit every nook and cranny of that mold, but it does resemble it. Margo is supposed to be so passionate about her career and her co-workers. She’s in charge of the unionization effort, for goodness sakes. But almost from the moment David takes notice of her, she loses all interest in her cause. She takes off with David whenever he asks her, regardless of her responsibilities. She allows him to fondle her at work. And even though she wonders about his motivation for seeing her, she never makes more than a token effort to discourage his intentions. And how can she find him attractive? Anyone who has worked for a hated boss knows that that kind of animosity sticks around. It doesn’t just dissipate when you come face to face for the first time, even if he is incredibly gorgeous.
As for David, he may be gorgeous, but he’s also incredibly condescending and does not always act appropriately. On his first morale-boosting trip around the store, he tells a female employee how pretty she is. Not a wise move. His pursuit of Margo is very unprofessional and his behavior toward her would be considered sexual harassment if Margo weren’t willing. He’s also quite patronizing. When she makes a personal request of him, he kisses her and says, “As long as we’re not on company time, you’re the boss.” The book is full of these kinds of remarks.
Costa’s writing is not very polished. Huge chunks of narrative contain no action or dialogue. She consistently violates the Show-Not-Tell rule. Some scenes might have been charming if they had dialogue while other scenes had dialogue that was unnecessary. The whole book is told in Margo’s point of view, and so, in the absence of good characterization, she is the only one who has any depth at all.
The only interesting part about the book was the suspense Costa built over David’s motivation. He seemed creepy quite a lot during the course of the book, and the way the story unfolded felt just like a cautionary tale. More than once I wondered if there would be a happy ending to this. The book would have actually been more interesting if there had been a twist and the ending had been horrific. Alas, it was all smiles and hearts.
To sum it up, Labor of Love was a short, brisk read, but the characters weren’t too likable or worthy of respect, and the writing style was amateurish. I’d pass if I were you.