Bet Me, by Jennifer Crusie

>> Sunday, April 25, 2004

Bet Me (chapter one), by Jennifer Crusie is one of the books I've anticipated the most in the last few years. I even bought it new in hardcover... enough said!

Min Dobbs knows that happily-ever-after is a fairy tale, especially with a man like Cal Morrisey, who asked her to dinner to win a bet. Cal Morrisey knows commitment is impossible, especially with a woman as cranky as Min Dobbs. When they say good-bye at the end of their evening, they cut their losses and agree never to see each other again.

But Fate has other plans, and it’s not long before Min and Cal are dealing with meddling friends, wedding cake, a jealous ex-boyfriend, Krispy Kremes, a determined psychologist, chaos theory, a frantic bride, Chicken Marsala, a mutant cat, snow globes, two Mothers-from-Hell, great shoes, and more risky propositions than either of them ever dreamed of including the biggest gamble of all--unconditional love.
Wow! Crusie's back! I didn't really like her books since Welcome to Temptation much, but this one reminds me of what I find so incredibly good about her books.

Bet Me is a fairy tale romance with an edge. It is very much a romance, with the focus firmly on Min and Cal together, but it had many of the elements I enjoy of chick-lit, like a characters who are more realistic (no huge martyr complexes, no 30 y.o characters who are really 55 inside, no preposterous virgins, lol!), have friends and don't exist in a vacuum. The best of romance + The best of chick lit = a winning combination. My grade for the book is an A.

With the advent of the seemingly obligatory suspense subplot in all contemporaries, I always appreciate when a good character-driven story comes along. In Bet Me there's nothing but Cal and Min's story, and the only threat they encounter are the efforts of their exes to get them back. I really enjoyed the story. It all started with the very clichéd bet alluded to in the title, but even that element felt fun and original. I especially liked the fairy tale feel of the story, how circumstances conspired to keep them together. Usually such coincidences are groan-worthy, but Crusie wrote this in a way that it was funny and cute.

I adored the characters. Cal was the perfect fantasy guy, especially in the way he adored Min and desired her so much, no matter what her weight was. Some things are better made of butter, and you're one of them, or words to that effect. *Sigh*, I wish someone would tell me that! I loved the way he fed her, and most especially, the way he saw the real her.

As for Min, she started out a bit tedious with her insecurities about her weight, but, well, that is nothing if not realistic, I'm afraid, and it made the way Cal helped her get over them even more romantic. I liked the way she had real friends she could fall back on. In fact, Cal had a group of close friends, too, and all those people were an enjoyable supporting cast and enriched the story.

Something else I loved was the way neither Cal nor Min kept silent when their families were out of line. Some of my favourite scenes in the whole book were those where each told off the other's family for being disrespectful to the person they loved. This was really beautiful, IMO.

The book was written in Crusie's signature funny, witty style, which I adore. Her dialogue was priceless, and so were her love scenes. Loving, tender, steamy, all at the same time, I loved it!

And to top it all, and make it one of my favourite Crusies ever and so far the best 2004 read, Cal and Min didn't want children. I know most people won't like this and some will even be put off by this fact, but for me, this was great. I don't want children myself, so it's very rare for me to find a book where the protagonists' ideal projected future exactly matches mine. I mean, I'm fine reading about people who want children. I even think that it's the right decision for the most of those characters. It's just that sometimes it's nice to see that part of me reflected in a book I love. The last chapter, in which we see what finally happened to everyone, was perfect.

Anyway, I enjoyed the way their not wanting to have kids was dealt with. It wasn't the focus of the book, but it was recognized as an important issue. It was even used to show how Min's ex didn't know her at all, when he offered her that if they married, he'd even be so kind as to consider having children immediately... that said with an air of doing her the greatest favour imaginable. The contrast between he and Cal couldn't have been greater right then.

This was funny, well-written, cute and emotionally satisfying. I don't think I could ask for more.

I just visited Crusie's site and I want to read that You Again book mentioned in her Work in Progress page RIGHT NOW!! Please hurry up and write it!!


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