So, like, can we talk about Jennifer Crusie? Can we talk about how Jennifer Crusie is, like, the most adorable contemporary romance writer, like, ever? Can we talk about my enormous writer-crush-slash-girl-crush on Jennifer Crusie? Can we talk about how funny Jennifer Crusie is, and how much I like all of her characters? And how, even though I’ve never seen a picture of her, I’m pretty sure she’s gorgeous and has really shiny hair and also probably would be a lot of fun to get drunk with? Also can we talk about how one time Jennifer Crusie came to Pittsburgh on a book tour RIGHT AFTER I finished reading my first-ever Jennifer Crusie novel and I chickened out of going to see her because I would have had to go alone and it’s one of the biggest regrets of my life? JENNIFER CRUSIE, you guys!! I have so many feelings!!!!!!
Anyway. I love Jennifer Crusie. (“Obviously.” – everyone) Plus it’s been awhile since I recapped a contemporary romance! And also my soul needs to be soothed after this streak of stinkers. Jennifer Crusie, at the absolute very least, can be trusted to be non-offensive. I will try to be funny, but I can’t promise anything, and this may turn into a two-thousand-word Jennifer Crusie lovefest. Jennifer! Call me! Let’s be BFFs!
Here’s the setup: Victoria is going to a possibly boring academic-y pop lit conference and she wants her nephew to go with her. Alec, the nephew, is some kind of secret agent and he has a feeling that this guy he’s been tracking will show up to this conference, so he says yes. Alec’s boss, Harry, isn’t so sure, but he grudgingly agrees. The bad guy, Brian Bond, has been swindling people with bogus land deals. He also works with a lady accomplice, Sheree. Meanwhile, Dennie, works as a wedding reporter but she decides to take a risk and pursue a story about a hot-shot feminist academic so she goes to the conference hoping to find her big break. But the feminist academic, Janice, isn’t interested in being involved in any damn story. Do you have all that straight? So many characters! I know! Here’s the part where I complain about how the plot is too complicated and who cares about all these assholes taking up space but I’m not going to do that because JENNIFER CRUSIE. She has this under control. TRUST!!! JENNIFER!!! CRUSIE!!!
All right, so, the theme of this book is TAKE RISKS! Don’t live a safe, boring life! Be daring! Shake your shit up! This book should basically be dedicated to me. “Dear Cate: Stop being such a chicken. Love, Jennifer Crusie.” Seriously. GET OUT OF MY HEAD, JENNIFER CRUSIE! I literally JUST made a huge game-changing decision after a lifetime of waffling and now I’ve pretty much got the Jennifer Crusie stamp of approval!!!!! Argh, ok, calming down (but seriously!), so Dennie arrives at the conference and immediately crashes into the bad guy, Brian Bond (who’s going by the alias Brian Bondman – AWESOME DISGUISE DUDE), who does not impress her with his “aw shucks” stupid act. Then she tries to get Janice to talk to her, but Janice freaks out and threatens to have her arrested for stalking. But Dennie is taking risks and confronting her fears! She perseveres! (She also describes the interior of the hotel as looking like “Whores R Us” – Jennifer Crusie, ladies and gentlemen!) She meets Alec, who is doing a similar “aw shucks” stupid routine and thinks that she’s working with Brian Bond so he pursues her and gets her to agree to have dinner with him. And they are SO HOT for each other! Even though she hates his “gosh golly gee” routine and calls him on it and recognizes that he’s a smart cookie just playing dumb. (According to the characters in this book, men acting stupid makes women like them, but is this true? I think it sounds obnoxious. Obviously I don’t spend any time with stupid men so I don’t know!) And then he escorts her back to her room and they MAKE OUT and it’s so hot! They are so hot for each other! Meanwhile, Harry has arrived and met Victoria and they bicker and antagonize each other but really they want to rip each other’s clothes off and bone for days. OF COURSE THEY DO!!!!! Age is just a number! They don’t call them the Screwin’ Sixties for nothing! (Someone, somewhere probably calls them that…) Also Victoria is being courted by this kind of dumb, boring guy who is Brian Bond’s mark for his latest scam, so Alec and Harry convince her to wear a wire and get some incriminating dirt.
The next day, Dennie goes to hear the speakers, including Janice and Victoria, and then she skips out on lunch with Alec because he promised to bring his aunt along (Victoria and Janice are friends, so Dennie is hoping that Alec can give her an in with Victoria who can give her an in with Janice) and goes to the library to do some research instead. SHE GOES TO DO RESEARCH! Research that does not involve the inside of Alec’s mouth! Who is this woman?! Some kind of journalist?!?!?!?! Later she and Alec and Virginia and Brian Bond and Virginia’s not-boyfriend all have dinner and Dennie is like, this guy is clearly a crook! But then Alec doesn’t want her to ruin his whole plot so he tries to spill his wine glass but then Dennie makes him spill it on himself. HAHAHA! And after they leave she accidentally elbows him in the face and gives him a bloody nose, so he has to go back to her room and clean himself up. OF COURSE HE DOES!!!! They do some more making out and it’s awesome. But then…it ends. Awww. Not so awesome. Although she does get a glimpse of Alec-as-Alec instead of Alec-as-dumbass, and she likes it. Also she gets a call from her boss who is all, I’ve been getting calls about how you’re annoying Janice and if it doesn’t stop you’re fired! And of course she doesn’t want to stop, because now she’s got TWO big stories (Janice and the Brian Bond guy) to pursue but also she doesn’t want to get fired. But would it be so bad if she did? I mean, taking risks and all? Making moves? Living without fear? BUT THEN HARRY GOES TO VIRGINIA’S ROOM AND THEY TOTALLY HAVE SEX!!!!! Oh yeahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. But then in the morning they have this conversation about What Happens Next because obviously after one night one of them is expected to uproot his or her whole life to move closer to the other one and I’m really hoping that it’s NOT going to be Virginia because she’s a cool old broad and she has things going for her but I think it probably will be Virginia. Argh.
Then Virginia and Dennie have breakfast and Dennie convinces Virginia to help her and also finds out that Alec thinks she might be a crook – haha, whoops! She also has drinks with what’s-his-name, oh, Brian Bond and he KISSES her and it’s totally gross because he is nasty and a crook. And Alec sees it! But instead of getting really jealous and ragey he’s like, I can’t believe you touched that guy with your mouth! And later after she smooches him too he’s like, I can’t believe you touched me with the mouth that you touched that guy with! That’s our hero, kissin’ ladies and crackin’ jokes. And then they STILL don’t have sex but they have some real talk about how he’s not a bad guy but he can’t explain it yet and she should just TRUST HIM ON THIS (get it? The title? The title of the book?) and Dennie’s like well that’s not really going to fly because I want to write this story and I need the scoop which means I need you to be honest, and he’s like OH WELL SORRY, so of course they decide to go their separate ways. And then later her boss calls her and…dun dun dunnnnnnn – SHE’S FIRED!!!! But won’t it suck to be THAT guy when Dennie gets the scoop on both of these stories and they end up being awesome and amazing and she sells them to some OTHER newspaper? Yeah! It will suck! Suck on that, stupid boss guy!
Also, bad news bears for Alec and Harry – Brian Bond is running a scam but it’s not an illegal scam. How will they ever arrest him now?! More importantly, how will Alec hold up after hearing this news? He should probably go have sex with Dennie in order to feel better! Right??? It will surprise no one that that’s almost exactly what happens. But actually it happens because they need Dennie to reprise her role as gold-digger to convince Brian Bond to do something illegal so they can arrest him. Alec weasels his way into her room and plies her with ice cream, which totally works, and they dry hump a little and she’s like, oh okay I’ll help but then I need YOUR help with my journalism and he’s like oh, fiiiiiiiine. So Dennie and her boobs have a nice chat with the con man, who slobbers all over her, but ultimately she’s successful and then she and Alec go away for awhile to give the bad guy time to draw up his illegal contracts and while they’re waiting for his call THEY TOTALLY DO IT and it’s magical and spectacular and there’s fucking fireworks and shit, man, yeah.
So the next day is the dramatic conclusion of all this Shady Business. But first, Sheree (remember her?) and Janice (remember her?) separately manage to get Dennie arrested, so that TWO cops are fighting over the pleasure of taking her to jail, but then Alec is like, hey guys she’s with me, so they don’t arrest her after all and she’s able to get the con man to sign the contracts and he gets arrested and sent to jail forever and ever, amen. But also! Victoria decides to quit her job and marry Harry. And also! Harry decides to quit his job and marry Victoria. And I guess this is an okay resolution to their storyline? I mean, they both sacrifice for the general happiness of their partner? That’s fair. Oh, and also! Alec and Dennie are already talking about love but FIRST Dennie is like I need to live my own life for awhile and then we can make a life with each other. And Alec is like, what?! And Dennie leaves to go get her interview with Janice, which enables her to write an amazing article, which opens up lots of doors for her. And then later she opens Alec’s door (with Walter in tow – Walter, her beloved dog, who has been all but absent from the novel until now, for shame) and they all ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after.
THIS BOOK WAS GREAT! I mean, this is why I love Jennifer Crusie. It’s fun! It’s light! It has genuinely funny moments! The hero/heroine aren’t horrible people! This book isn’t going to blow minds or change worlds, but it’s a great way to spend a few hours. It’s delicious fluff – which shouldn’t be taken as a criticism or a snobby book-classist remark. I mean that affectionately, reverently. It’s a good thing! And in the hands of a writer like Jennifer Crusie, well…it’s awesome all over. TRUST ME ON THIS!
(Did you see what I did there?)
PS. Here’s a curious little insight into the publishing bizzz, re: Walter the underutilized romance novel sidekick. Dogs sell books! We lady-readers want kissing and fucking and cute little doggies! FACT!!!!!!