I have been reading some more Jennifer Crusie! Top-tier Jennifer Crusie, this time.
My favorite of the three was Faking It
, which I devoured in a sitting on a plane ride today. It is definitely, DEFINITELY screwball -- 'let's have a running gag of calling each other by the names of side characters in screwball comedies' screwball -- and features the romance between Tilda, a reformed art forger desperate to recover some early false-identity paintings before they are exposed, and Davy, a reformed con artist that she meets in a closet belonging to the owner of the paintings while he is attempting to ineptly burgle the house at the exact same time that she is. SO MANY hijinks ensue. Also, so much time in the world's largest fictional closet. At one point three separate people are hiding in that closet and TWO OF THEM DON'T KNOW THE OTHER ONE IS THERE. I kept expecting them to find Narnia in the back of it.
This is also definitely another of my favorite kind of trapped-in-an-inn sort of comedy which features a number of zany side characters who all end up living in the same house with our leads, including:
- Tilda's sister Eve, a nice kindergarten teacher who has a wild dance club alter ego named Louise; it has reached the point where people buy Eve and Louise separate Christmas presents
- Eve's best friend and ex-husband, Andrew, who owns the night club where Louise works and is hypocritically a little concerned about Louise's wild ways
- Andrew's very nice new lawyer husband Jeff, whom everybody loves and relies on in his role as (ironically) the zany family's token straight man
- Eve and Andrew's teenage daughter Nadine, who is constantly trying on boyfriends in an attempt to see if their career paths will suit her; Nadine and her boyfriend du jour are also constantly accompanied by Nadine's loyal retainer who appears to be perfectly content with his lot as the one permanent member of Nadine's rotating harem
- Tilda's mother, who channels all her frustration at being fifty-something and trapped in an art gallery she hates into constantly tearing through Double Acrostics until she finds herself suddenly caught in a dramatic love triangle between
- the boring rich man who owns all the paintings that Davy and Tilda keep attempting to burgle
- and the cute hit man who might be attempting to murder Davy and is definitely attempting to get Tilda's mom to come away with him to Aruba
And these are just relatively major characters, and does not even mention Davy's father who seduces the depressing painter who lives upstairs, and Eve/Louise's temporary love interest who hasn't yet figured out they're the same person, and the caterer who is secretly an FBI agent, and -- I mean, there are five billion things going in in this book and they're all completely ridiculous, but it's all super cute family-who-cares-about-each-other ridiculous which is just about my favorite kind of ridiculous. Welcome to Temptation
, to which Faking It
serves as a sequel, is also very much about families, but rather less zany (although not zero amounts of zany.) Welcome to Temptation
stars Davy's sisters Sophie and Amy, who have been hired to come to small-town Temptation in order to shoot some very tasteful
soft-core porn. The love interest is the town's single dad mayor, and the book's emotional focus is on figuring out how to break out of dysfunctional family patterns without completely destroying the important relationships at the heart of them, which is one of the reasons it feels more serious and bittersweet than Faking It
despite the fact that the actual plot is "SMALL TOWN SCANDALIZED WHEN ASSHOLE FOUND MURDERED AT PORN SHOOT."
The best part of this book is definitely the end, when ( spoiler )
And then there is Bet Me
, perhaps the first Jennifer Crusie I have read that features no dead bodies, gangsters, or hit men whatsoever! Instead it has a lot of good solid adult important friendships, which is actually really nice to read about. It is probably also the most satisfying of the three as romance, with a nice slow-developing Beatrice and Benedick kind of trust-and-friendship-out-of-irritable-ri
valry thing. I keep trying to come up with a pithy summary of the plot, but there isn't one really -- mostly it's really just various scenes of Min and Cal and their pals hanging out and forming one friendship-family out of what was previously two friendship-families, held together with a great deal of banter.
(...that said, I realize what Crusie was going for with the whole 'Cal appreciates chubby Min's body exactly the way it is and therefore pushes her to eat what she wants,' I know the sexy donuts thing worked for many people as body positivity, but dang, DO NOT SHOVE FOOD INTO SOMEONE'S MOUTH IF THEY'VE SAID THEY DO NOT TO EAT THE FOOD, do not do this, consensual donut eating only please!)