Since I wrote a story based on the Cupid and Psyche myth, I was interested to know what Ms. Neil would do with it. I transposed mine into Georgian England and made Eros (Cupid’s Greek equivalent) into one of a hidden group of people who had inherited the attributes of the gods. I did this partly because everyone was related in the originals, and you can’t write a romance about a brother and sister having sex and making babies.
Ms. Neil has taken these problems head-on, but, fortunately, the main couple of this story aren’t related. Cupid/Eros is a god and Psyche is a nymph.
If you’ve read Ovid’s The Metamorphoses (and who hasn’t? – no, I’m joking, honest!), then none of this story will be a revelation to you. Ms. Neil tells the story straight, with sexy bits.
The story can be seen in the later folk-tales of Sleeping Beauty and Beauty and the Beast. Psyche is sacrificed to a dragon, but she is whisked off to a beautiful palace, where she is to be the wife of a mysterious man who refuses to let her see his face. He comes to her in the dark. But her sisters, who are jealous (a touch of Cinderella there!), persuade her to get a light and see what he looks like. So she does, and she loses him, having to go through an epic journey to see him again.
I wouldn’t call this a romance, because it isn’t a story about two people falling in love. It’s a story of a girl’s efforts to be worthy of her husband, instigated by Venus, her husband’s mother. While she’s looking for him, Eros is “detained,” which neatly explains why he doesn’t come to her rescue, even when he’s miffed with her. The love is instant and the characters archetypical, as they have to be in a retelling of myth.
There are erotic interludes dropped into the story. Eros and Psyche, Venus and Mars and so on. I find the Venus and Mars interlude difficult, because, as in the original myths, they’re brother and sister, and that is so not my thing.
The gods are different, all right. Later we get to meet Hades and Persephone, and these were uncle and neice. The relationships aren’t emphasised, but they are there.
The story is told well and without too much complication, but I didn’t really feel a connection with poor Psyche. She was the “everyman,” the person at the centre of the story who was done to, rather than doing. Her quests were all at the behest of Venus, and she didn’t really develop in the course of the story, other than getting a bit more adventurous. Considering what happens to her, that’s not surprising. What is surprising is how she manages to remain faithful to Eros, despite being invited to join in several scenes, and witnesses a fair few others. Almost everyone who meets her, man or woman, propositions her. I never understood why, when there were gods and goddesses all over the place. She witnesses a lot of sex acts, but is never unfaithful to her husband, so it fits the requirements of a mainstream romance.
The story is nicely written, the editing is good, and it flows from one scene to the next in a pleasing way.
And the cover is a photo of one of my favourite statues, Canova’s wonderfully romantic “Cupid and Psyche.” It’s in the Louvre, in the same room as the two Michelangelo Slaves. You walk in, get hit between the eyes by the Michelangelos, and then turn around. The Canova is positioned by the window, where the sun falls on it. Everyone should have a chance to see it.
The celebrated beauty of Roman princess Psyche has enraged Venus, the Goddess of Love and Beauty. As punishment, Psyche is left naked on the beach to be sacrificed to a monster. When Cupid, the God of Love, swoops her up and flies her to the monster’s palace, Psyche mistakenly wraps her legs around his waist, looks into his eyes, and falls in love.
Blindfolded and tied to a bed, Psyche awaits the monster, vowing to be brave as she faces death. Yet when the monster arrives, he marries her on the condition she never see his face. As she grows to love her shadow husband, she can’t stop thinking about the God of Love. Consumed by curiosity, Psyche breaks her promise by lighting a lamp. Awaking in a rage, and furious with her betrayal, her husband banishes her from the palace.
Psyche begs Venus for another chance at love. Unmoved, Venus demands Psyche perform three impossible tasks. If Psyche succeeds, her husband will return. If she fails, she will be condemned to death.
Can Psyche satisfy Venus and win back her true love?
No excerpt available.