August 29, 2016

Confusion by Cupid by Janet Lambert (1950)

Gwenn Jordon missed no opportunity to remind her step-brother, Peter, that his favorite girl, Tippy Parrish, had found a great admirer in young Lieutenant Prescott in Germany, and as the present story opens Peter is thoroughly mad. Especially at women. If it had not been for Alice, his other step-sister, he didn't know just what he would do. Of course, there was a pretty little lass from out of town, but just how much did she count?

Meanwhile Gwenn and Alice went to a house party at Bill Hanley's where Alice was to have been the guest of honor. Gwenn, however, having just fallen out with her own fiancé, decided to get even with him by making herself the belle of the house party.

After that what happened? Was Alice, sweet, reliable Alice, able to extricate her thoughtless sister from a wretched situation that jeopardized the happiness of two families? And presently just how did Bobby Parrish feel when he found Alice admitting that Jon Drayton (remember Christy Drayton's brother?) was an awfully nice chap? And what finally became of the lad to whom Gwenn had been engaged? Truly--all was confusion--with Cupid hanging his head in discouragement.

All ends well though, as it always does in Janet Lambert's inimitable stories for girls, with all the characters settling finally into their perfect if unpredictable positions in the intricate pattern woven for them. (from the inside flap)

Confusion by Cupid opens with Peter Jordon in a drugstore, stewing about an argument he had with his sister Gwenn, where she tries to get him to go out with her friend, despite his continuing devotion to Tippy Parrish. He meets Maxsie in the drugstore and:
"Peter Jordon, who was never going to look at a girl again, at least not until a very special one came home from Europe, or until he became a second lieutenant in 1951, presently found himself with a very pretty one, sitting on the upper deck of a Fifth Avenue bus and forgetting his own mild trouble in the greater tragedy of hers."
She got fired from her job at a dress shop for stealing, though she didn't do it. Peter provides a sympathetic ear, and wants to help the very pretty Maxsie out. After all, his nickname at West Point is "Wrecker," because he's always hauling people out of trouble.

Peter heads out to Penny Parrish's place in the country, where Alice is spending a few days to get her help with the Maxsie dilemma. He finds her having to entertain bratty actor Bill Hanley. I adore this description of this fabulous fifties outdoor room:
"The MacDonald's back lawn was a combination flower garden and kitchen. A small pavilion had been built against the high background of a hedge. It had a striped canvas roof, a brick floor and back-wall; and against the wall was a brick stove and flames dancing up through its grill, a built-in sink, and a small refrigerator. Copper pans, long-handled forks and basting spoons hung in a row above the sink beside a small cabinet gleaming with enameled plates."
Peter and Alice go and visit Maxsie's ex-employer and persuade her to take Maxsie back. They stop by her apartment to give her the good news, and Peter ditches Alice and takes Maxsie out to lunch. He invites her up to West Point for a hop, and heads back to the Point.

Alice and Gwenn and the younger children are left at home. Gwenn is engaged to a cadet, Budge, but bored with him, so when Bill Hanley calls up for Alice, Gwenn butts in and invites him over, but proceeds to have one of her customary tantrums. Loyal housekeeper Ellin talks Alice down from her tremendous guilt she has whenever Gwenn misbehaves. Despite her earlier tantrum, Gwenn makes an entrance during Bill's visit.
"From then on the afternoon sped like a runaway street car that has jumped its track and is having a gay, mad time on the loose. Gwenn twinkled and laughed. She flitted about like a fairy, refilling Bill's glass and rapturously echoing his praise of himself in a soft Southern accent that had been laid away for four years."
When Gwenn finds out that Bill has invited Alice to a house party, she demands that Alice go and that she be invited as well. She has an alleged breakup latter from Budge (which Alice doesn't read) and sobs and sobs, until Alice relents. They head out of town to the party at Bill Hanley's where they meet Christy and Jonathan Drayton and Roger Lynn, who seem surprisingly nice, unlike the blowsy, Hollywood Hanleys. Jonathan mistakenly thinks that Alice is the extra girl, not the one that Bill asked down, especially since Gwenn is very attentive to Bill.

Bill and Gwenn go off on a drive and don't come back all night, to the house party members' consternation, particularly Alice's. Bill phones the next morning, saying the car broke down, but with little other information. A few stressful days pass, and finally a phone call comes with the news that Gwenn and Bill are married. The Hanley publicity machine goes into action, and Alice returns home, driven by Jonathan, "big and dependable," who provides a sensible shoulder to lean on.
'"This is Gwenn's mess,' he went on sensibly, when they were on their side of the white line again. 'I know it has to affect you some, it's bound to, but stop blaming yourself because you introduced her to Bill and took her to that fool house party. A gal like Gwenn needs a keeper, but you can't be it. Let Bill have the job.'"
This cheers Alice immeasurably, though she returns home and has to break the news to General Jordon and the rest of the family. She goes to the Waldorf and gets the full story from Gwenn. It took three days to get a marriage license, so they mostly drove around and fought, sleeping where they could (but not together. Even bad Gwenn is not THAT bad.)

Jonathan drives Alice up to West Point to break the news about Gwenn to Peter in person, where they promptly run into Bobby Parrish, ever devoted to Alice. Alice sees Jonathan and Bobby side by side and flighty, silly Bobby does not come off that well. Jonathan drives Alice home and asks when he'll see her again and they make plans for a dance. Alice comes upstairs only to find Gwenn, waiting for her in their room, having left Bill. Sheesh. Gwenn calls up Budge, her ex-financee, who comes to visit and tells her all about herself. Gwenn returns to Bill, much to Alice's relief.

Up at West Point, Peter 'recognizes' Bobby and they have a heart-to-heart about Tippy and Alice. We return to the adventures of Maxsie, and her plain roommate Anne. Maxsie and Peter have been dating for a bit, but he's pretty sure she's taking him for granted. There's a big game (Peter is a football hero) and Maxsie asks for an extra ticket. She doesn't tell anyone that the ticket is for the boy from back home, who Maxsie is hoping to impress. When Maxsie doesn't show up for the game, Peter goes to her apartment to find her and finds her with Page Jameson. She expects that Peter will be mad, but he surprises her.
"'I don't know how I might feel about having another guy bust up my large evening in New York if I didn't have something of my own to worry about. You see, you and I were pretty well dated up for tomorrow and I just had word that Tippy Parrish is coming home. I was wanting to ask you to let me off to meet her plane.'"
Maxsie is ashamed, but Peter keeps it light and invites both Page and roommate Anne to the party at the Waldorf. Yay! Everything turns out just fine, including plain Anne meeting a nice cadet. We end the book with Alice and Peter driving like heck to get to the airport to meet Tippy.

"'Gosh,' he groaned, forgetting Alice had ears, 'what if she isn't Tippy?'"

But don't worry. He sees her getting off the plane:
"Her tan curls were brushed up around the same small cap with its perky feather; her face, eager and laughing, was above the same brown suit. Her whole body was tense with joy and excitement. A year or an hour might have passed since he had seen her, and Peter caught a deep, ecstatic breath."
And end book. A sweet book with a lot about relationships. The complicated, sister relationship between Alice and Gwenn, and how much of a relief it is for Alice when Gwenn marries. At least she's off Alice's shoulders now, even if she went about it with her customary nuttiness. We get to know Peter a bit more, as he dates Maxsie and struggles with his devotion to Tippy, even when she is far away. Bobby has always been devoted (in his own goofy way) to Alice, but when she meets Jonathan, she finds something in his calm strength that she really likes.

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