To sum up:
Jennifer Crusie’s Bet Me is number 15 on All About Romance’s readers poll of the Top 100 Romances of all time* and Welcome to Temptation comes in at number 20. I managed to take four of Crusie’s books out of the library, but not the one I really wanted which was Bet Me. I put it on hold and then just bought the darn thing on Amazon anyway. It was worth it, Bet Me is a definite keeper.
Welcome to Temptation
This was an extremely entertaining read. Sophie and her sister arrive in Temptation, Ohio to film a C-list actress’s demo reel and it expands into a full movie of dubious content. The internecine political squabbles only a small town can provide are the backdrop for Sophie to fall in love with the Mayor, Phineas (Phin) Tucker.
Welcome to Temptation was frequently laugh out loud funny. Crusie created likeable and believable leads with excellent chemistry and a sexy, light-hearted tone. There are multiple players and machinations to track and the whole thing careened along very enjoyably, buoyed by its own charm, until it veered into farce. Let’s just say that it’s a lot of larceny for one small town and the resolutions were ludicrous in proportion to events.
This was one of those books you read while quietly adjuring, “This is so awesome, please don’t mess it up, please don’t mess it up, this is so awesome, please don’t mess it up.” Crusie did not mess it up. The Come Here Go Away went on a bit, but Bet Me was absolutely delightful, a fantastic read that I highly recommend.
Do you need to know the plot, too? Fine. Minerva overhears an Adonis making a bet with her former, for all of thirty minutes, boyfriend that said Adonis, Calvin, can’t get Minerva into bed inside a month. Everything is exactly and absolutely not the way it appears. There were subplots involving an ex-girlfriend of Calvin’s and Min’s ex-boyfriend conspiring against their success as a couple which went on too long and veered into farce; time spent on Minerva’s sister’s impending nuptials which went on too long and veered into farce; and the coming together of Min and Cal’s groups of friends which was just fine and did not veer into farce. That’s still a lot of veering. What exactly is my problem with silly over-the-top fun? I think I need to re-calibrate my willing suspension of disbelief, if I’m complaining that a romance novel is insufficiently realistic.
From my limited experience of 2.5 books, I think I can safely say that Crusie traffics in romps. At some point, there will be a screwball scene with all the characters coming and going and causing a ruckus. It’s this in prose form —
— which is fine, but it provides a tremendous challenge to the writer to balance sincere emotional elements necessary for heartfelt romance against the escalating farce factor. If I were a less supercilious reader, I’m sure it wouldn’t bother me at all. I’m not, so it did, but I would still recommend both of these books, especially Bet Me. Crusie provides one heck of a ride.
Both Welcome to Temptation and Bet Me also had a rather delightful genre element that I hadn’t noticed until now in that they contain scenes of familial vindication. This quote from Jane Hamilton’s The Book of Ruth describes it succinctly: “We all needed people to tell us that we were the ones who had been deeply wronged.” Many of these books have family events or reckonings when the new love interest says, “You should be nicer to him/her,”, or “Get your act together, [insert gormless relative here],”, or “No, you’re right, your relatives are awful,”, and “Come with me. I’ll appreciate you.” The more serious romances have wounded souls finding succor in their new partner, the light-hearted ones go with, “It’s not you. It’s them. They’re nuts. You’re awesome.” It’s just one more element to enjoy in these novels.
*The list is an excellent resource for finding new authors, or you could consult my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful, or my So You Want to Read a Historical Romance abbreviated recommendations list.