May 01, 2004

Bet Me, a review

I finished reading Bet Me last week. Yes, I finally got my Jennifer Crusie fix. It was just as delicious as Iíd hoped and left me wondering why this one worked while the Jasper Fforde novel, arguably the same level of intelligent fluff, fell flat for me, or at least flatter. (I did like some elements of the Fforde quite a bit.) I think the answer may be simple: Character. I like these people. I believe in their problems. I enjoy watching them interact. I realize the characterizations are fairly shallow; these people are real enough but not deeply nuanced, but Crusie finds just the right amount of personality quirks, shadows and light, and they become three dimensional to me as I read. Thatís really all it takes.

Well, that and a satisfying story. This one had its deficits: a one note antagonist, a contrived misunderstanding (the oldest clichť in the romance novel arsenal). But Iím willing to overlook that when you give me clever and fun and slowly simmering, comedic relationship building. And though it was writ large and obvious, I enjoyed the thematic conceit, the exploration of why two people come together. One character posits that couples go through four stages on their way to what she terms mature love: assumption (you look for cues this is the right person), attraction, infatuation, and finally mature, unconditional love. Another says itís about the fairy tale. Some things are meant to be. Sometimes you find your prince, and heís meant for you though he might drive someone else nuts. And a third says itís all chaos theory, electrons madly circling around until they find a strange attractor, which pulls them together and makes everything work. Itís fun to watch the different theories play out as the relationship evolves. Itís also fun for a frothy book like this one to have a relatively abstract concept at its core.

I also liked another message in the book: love doesnít demand a perfect body. The man is drop dead gorgeous but the woman is overweight. Well, curvy. Her mother insists she diet, her ex-boyfriend orders salad for her in restaurants. But Cal, the male lead, loves her curves and teaches her to love her body as it is. I love that Crusie folded this wonderfully affirming and much-needed message into her romance.

Fun stuff. Satisfied my sweet tooth. Now Iím ready for something of a more literary bent.

Posted by Tamar at May 1, 2004 09:47 PM