16 April 2015

Bet Me

Synopsis from Goodreads: Minerva Dobbs knows that happily-ever-after is a fairy tale, especially with a man who asked her to dinner to win a bet. Even if he is gorgeous and successful Calvin Morrisey. Cal knows commitment is impossible, especially with a woman as cranky as Min Dobbs. Even if she does wear great shoes and keeps him on his toes. 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 meet again. Soon, they're dealing with a jealous ex-boyfriend, Krispy Kreme donuts, a determined psychologist, chaos theory, a freakishly intelligent cat, Chicken Marsala, and more risky propositions than either of them ever dreamed of. Including the biggest gamble of all—true love.

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback; St. Martin’s Press, 2004

How acquired: Received through Title Trader, of which I used to be a member some eight years ago

First line: Once upon a time, Minerva Dobbs thought as she stood in the middle of the loud yuppie bar, the world was full of good men.

My thoughts: When you pick up a Jennifer Crusie book you know you’re going to get:

- a relatable and realistically flawed heroine
- a charming hero
- a cast of quirky and eccentric supporting characters
- usually a dog but this time it was a cat
- fast paced slapstick humor right out of a Cary Grant/Rosalind Russell era movie

Min has just been dumped by her boyfriend, David, in the middle of a theme bar. They haven’t had sex yet, and he’s tired of waiting for her to put out. Her biggest concern? Now she doesn't have a date to her sister’s wedding in three weeks, and her mother will go ballistic.

David then runs into Cal Morrissey and tries to bet him ten thousand dollars that Cal can’t get Min into bed within one month. Cal isn’t interested, in Min or in a sleazy bet and tries to ignore David’s goading, but when David bets him ten dollars he can’t even get Min to leave with him, he takes that bet just to get away.

Min overhears part of the conversation about the bet-to-get-her-in-bed but not the bet-to-get-her-to-leave-with-Cal, and when Cal hits on her shortly after, she thinks he’s just bet David ten dollars to get her into bed. She’s pissed, but decides to string him along, go out with him, take him to her sister’s wedding, and then dump him and make him lose the bet.

However, when they part company that night, they are both agreed that not seeing the other person ever again is a sound plan. But of course their paths will cross and recross, especially since Min’s two best friends get mixed up with Cal’s two best friends. Min is not a thin girl, and her mother is constantly nagging her about not eating sweets and losing weight. Mom has crushed her self-esteem, and since she thinks Cal is out to win a bet, Min certainly doesn’t think he’s really attracted to her. Some of the sweetest moments in the book were Cal addressing her weight, which he doesn't see as a problem in any way, shape or form. And my favorite passage was Cal defending Min to her family at dinner:
"Look, I don't mind you grilling me about what I do for a living," Cal said. "Your daughter's brought me home and that has some significance. And I don't mind your wife asking about my personal life for the same reason. But Min is an amazing woman, and so far during this meal, you've either ignored her or hassled her about some dumb dress. For the record, she is not too big for the dress. The dress is too small for her. She's perfect." Cal buttered a roll and passed it over to Min. "Eat."

Cal’s family are just as bad as Min’s, albeit in a different way, and later Min gets her chance to sit at their dinner table and watch them belittle him and then tell them off.

As with all of her books, BET ME was a fun, fast, slightly manic, entertaining read. Fluffy chick lit (Min’s passion for silly high heeled shoes was a little ridiculous, but then I'm more into purses than shoes) with a feel great resolution.

13 April 2015

Rereadable Lines

"Look, I don't mind you grilling me about what I do for a living," Cal said. "Your daughter's brought me home and that has some significance. And I don't mind your wife asking about my personal life for the same reason. But Min is an amazing woman, and so far during this meal, you've either ignored her or hassled her about some dumb dress. For the record, she is not too big for the dress. The dress is too small for her. She's perfect." Cal buttered a roll and passed it over to Min. "Eat."

BET ME, by Jennifer Crusie

08 April 2015



Synopsis from Goodreads: When his wife, Jo, is offered her dream job, Lincoln Menner leaves his thriving landscape business in Los Angeles and moves to Rochester, New York. This will be his chance to start over, spend a little time with their three-year-old daughter, and finally do things right at home. 

But Linc had no idea what it really meant to be a househusband: to stay home every day, folding laundry, cleaning soap scum, and teaching his little girl to use the potty. To be ignored at parties by his wife’s colleagues who see him as just a homemaker. Though he soon has the house humming, Linc misses the outside world. Most of all he misses Jo, who works too late and barely notices the fabulous dinners he slaves over. Drastic action must be taken to make his efficiently run house truly a home, sweet home. And Linc knows he is just the man for the job!

First line: This is a good day. 

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, Ballantine Books, 2004. 

How acquired: Bought. 

My thoughts: I went into this book thinking it was going to be light, amusing chick lit (for lack of a better word) style, even though it’s written by a man. I mean, look at that cartoon cover. But it was actually a deeper, almost depressing look at what it means to be a stay at home parent, losing your own identity in the shadow of your working spouse. 

Staying home starts out as a temporary situation. Jo has gotten a really good executive level job and the family have moved across the country. While Jo settles into her new job, Linc takes care of three year old Violet, and gets the new household up and running. But when he begins looking for a nanny, he can’t find anyone he likes as much as the one they had to leave behind, and staying home with Violet rather than looking for work stretches out longer and longer. 

I didn’t relate to either Linc or Jo, having been a working parent for my daughters’ entire lives, but still being the primary care giver as well since my husband also worked. My older daughter started day care at nine months, and my younger at two weeks, which would have horrified Linc, a controlling snob. Spotless house. Healthy gourmet meals. Violet is not allowed to eat junk food, and when she starts refusing to eat carrots, he cuts them up small, makes a little incision into pieces of tortellini and sticks a piece of carrot inside so she’ll eat them without realizing it. She can watch Pocahontas, a strong female role model with “…knowledge of plant life, awareness of the biosphere and where she fits into it. Respect for her father. Curiosity of things unknown” etc., but she isn’t allowed to watch Rugrats, “one big lesson in how to mock and sneak around authority figures” or The Little Mermaid, “no redeeming traits. Zero. She continually defies her father and wants nothing more than to be some rich hunk’s bride.” I got exhausted just reading about everything Linc does. 

I loved this line:
I tried to tell my clients that flowers were intended to be random, dropped into place by birds and the wind. Flowers should be occasional, visual surprises, like a found conch shell on the beach.
An enjoyable, quick, but unremarkable story. 

03 April 2015

Take a Chance on Me

Synopsis from Goodreads: When the breakdown of her marriage leaves Sadie Turner a single mum, she vows that she will make it on her own. After all, why would a smart businesswoman with a PhD and the prospect of a life-changing deal on the horizon need a man?

But Sadie’s man-ban is tested to the limit when she travels to Monaco to meet her potential investor. There she encounters Mac, a rough and ready playboy billionaire who lives life in the fast lane – and that’s when the real adventure starts!

But Sadie’s heart isn’t the only thing on the line. There’s also the business she’s worked so hard to make a success; the business that could so easily slip out of her grasp if she doesn’t seal the deal within thirty days …

Published under Hot Choc Lit - slightly raised heat level but not erotica!
Previously self-published as Hawaiian Affair. Revised and edited by Choc Lit March 2015

Stats for my copy: Kindle edition, published by Choc Lit, 2015.

How acquired: NetGalley.

My thoughts: This story started out very strong. We meet Sadie, on a business trip to meet with a prospective investor. With some free time on her hands and a borrowed “Open House” invitation, she's at the docks, nervously boarding a yacht under the pretense of being someone posh who might actually want to buy a yacht. After getting thrown off said yacht, she meets Mac, a deckhand on another yacht.

I connected with and loved Sadie right from the beginning. She's a little awkward and self-conscious, she's smart and witty, she's mum to two adolescent daughters, she totters about on her sky high heels, she's got curves, she's a realistic woman. She has a self-imposed rule about no men in her life until her girls are grown. A one night stand with Mac is the perfect way to end a stressful day. Not that she rushes into it. Oh no, she vacillates, and actually walks away, but her libido drags her back. On an impulse she's given him her middle name, and they agree that there will be no talk about their personal or business lives. Just each other's company for one evening.

So naturally the next morning when she walks into the meeting with the investor, who is she shocked to come face to face with but a shocked Mac. And Mac has a very firm rule – he does not mix business with pleasure.

This line is from much farther into the book, but it's a good description of Sadie and Mac at this point:
How could a playboy billionaire ever want to be with a small-town single mother of two feisty teenage girls, with a hippy grandma in tow, and a barely-solvent health food store to run.

The banter between Sadie and Mac was just delightful, and I loved watching them get to know each other.
Thanks so much for rescuing my bag for me. Are you always such a hero?”
Of course! Drowning handbags, run of the mil. Damsels in distress, a specialty!”
Well, if I'm ever in distress, I'll give you a call!”
Dis-dress, dat-dress, you look good whatever,” he said, then cringed.

Mac gets angry that Sadie didn't tell him who she really was, suspicious that she was playing him because he's rich, but at the same time he kept reminding himself that he was also less than honest, pretending to be a deckhand rather than the billionaire owner of the yacht he was on. He has a lot of trust issues when it comes to women, as billionaire playboys do. But his issues never seem melodramatic and we get into his head enough to have some insight and understanding of his reasoning.

At this point in the story, there is a lot of business talk. Sadie has presented Mac's people with a proposed marketing plan for a hydrating water, Frish, in hopes that he will be willing to invest, and join her in vying for distribution rights. If all goes well, and the company that produces the water goes for her plan, she's looking at finally having some financial security, paying off debt, and being able to provide more for her daughters without having to rely on her scummy ex-husband's help.

And frankly, all the business talk bored me. The plot got a little convoluted and very busy. Now that they're contemplating going into business together, Mac is determined to not have any kind of personal relationship with Sadie, and he often disappeared and avoided her and told her he would talk to her later and then didn't. I definitely enjoyed the story much more when they were interacting together, rather than going off in separate directions.

There are several secondary characters, and they mostly remain secondary. Which was fine, since I wanted the focus to be on Sadie and Mac. Eventually there was a revelation about Simon, Mac's business adviser and CFO, which I thought was unnecessary and a little disappointing. But in the end everything wrapped up quite satisfyingly, and I enjoyed more of the book than what I unenjoyed.