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Faking It (Dempsey Book 2)

2/5. Contemporary romance. She's a gallery-owner and former forger. He's a conman. They meet in a closet while burgling the same house.

I so wanted to like this. And I did like it. Bad sex that gets better with work! People pretending to be law-abiding until they realize that they are both crooked and that makes them super hot for each other! Close communities of women! A cute dog!

But it was all so rape culturey, I just can't. JFC, he has sex with her while knowing she's not enjoying it, then gives her endless shit for faking an orgasm. Crusie has a really bad track record on exactly this issue, and I just. Yick. Clever banter does not make up for rape culture.
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Welcome to Temptation (Dempsey Book 1)

3/5. A rather slapdash romance about two women coming to a small town to film what turns out to be porn (sort of) and the straight-laced mayor who may not want to win his next election and etc. Giving it good....ish marks only because it got me through the second major dog surgery/hospitalization in under eight weeks, so okay.

Not her best by far, but I don't really want to talk about that. I want to talk about sex.

This book is . . . confused about sex, let us say. Nonconsensually bringing a third party in to watch a couple having sex in order to fulfill a discovery fantasy that the dude never even stopped to ascertain whether his partner even has? That's apparently fine. Filming two consenting adults having sex? Disgusting and reprehensible, apparently.

This book is so confused, I can't even put my finger on what issues Crusie is putting out on the laundry line here. But boy, they sure are out there. This is one of those books that is sex positive right up until the point when it snaps back to incredibly shaming and sex negative, and I just have no.freakin'.clue.why.

Well, I know why. We all know why. Just, y'know. Confused.
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Dogs and GoddessesDogs and Goddesses by Jennifer Crusie

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Picked entirely at random out of the selection of available Crusie audio because I needed some soothing book white noise. I was like, "I bet this is a nice modern romance," innocently oblivious of the jacket summary. And it turns out? Actually this is three modern romances, punctuated with a cheerfully batshit plot featuring talking dogs and a lot of unintentionally hilarious sex in which, e.g., a woman yells "I am a goddess!" while coming. To be fair, she was an actual goddess. Didn't make it less funny.

Got the job done though.




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Getting Rid of BradleyGetting Rid of Bradley by Jennifer Crusie

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


School teacher divorces her husband, and promptly gets shot at and dragged into his embezzlement case, except she also lands herself a cop for protection.

Not feeling it. The whole thing felt rushed and phoned in, but more to the point, this is one of those romances where all two people have to do is meet. Everything else just happens. I realize this is, like 80% of the romance genre, but I was just not in the mood for a story about how all you need to do to achieve lifelong romantic happiness is show up. As opposed to, I dunno, work hard at it and compromise and be thoughtful and your best self. Everyone who knows the story of how my girlfriend and I got together is now pointing and laughing, and okay, fair. But I still have a point!




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Agnes and the HitmanAgnes and the Hitman by Jennifer Crusie

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Cranky food columnist collides with hitman while trying to plan a wedding; sparks and flamingos fly.

Fun, zaney. There's no serious internal relationship conflict here, just a shrieking heap of mob enforcers and difficult relatives and frying pans to the head. And flamingos. This book is one half domestic hilarity and one half cartoonishly violent splatterfest, which was a bit odd, I will admit. But having read only two Crusie books, I already know that she is a no-brakes funny lady who has the skill and restraint to spin a ridiculous, so far over the top it's in orbit story like this, and then bring it when it comes to personal insight so subtly that I almost miss it. This time it was Agnes with her anger management and her court-appointed psychiatrist to prove it. And Agnes and her best friend talking to each other like only best friends can, in the middle of all this nonsense and splatterfest, and calmly saying to each other that it's not that they need to kill a man. They just need to know that if they had to, they could. Because they both know that this is the sort of world where it can absolutely happen that they'd have to.

The Bob Mayer sections are not nearly so good, but whatever. Flamingos, cupcakes, making room for angry women, cool.




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Bet MeBet Me by Jennifer Crusie

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


So. As some have noticed, I have ventured with uncertain heart and girded loin into the realm of the romance novel over the past few years. Mostly historical by virtue of the fact I started with Heyer and she wrote, like, seven hundred books. And with the historicals, it’s like reading about the customs of an alien culture, and thinking about it that way is good. The creepy virginity fetishizing, all the arranged marriages, how a girl can be “ruined” by talking to the wrong person – it’s all . . . anthropological to me, and in that detached way, sometimes quite enjoyable.



And then I get to this, a contemporary romance, and . . . oops. Still aliens. It wasn’t just that the characters were in historical romances; apparently just being in a romance novel is enough. I read this book (which was quite funny, as advertised, with a lot of great banter and secondary character color) and I basically think isn’t that a charming custom. Okay, that one’s a bit odd, but I’m trying not to judge . . . Cultural relativism! Cultural relativism!



Because women who don’t just talk about men but who talk only about men, women who try fad diets requiring impossible lengths of self-denial and then don’t understand what’s happening when they inevitably fail and get trapped in a cycle of guilt and self-loathing, people who assume that serial monogamy is the only acceptable way to live, women who say things like, “I’m not going home with you, I bought my own drink,” to their boyfriend . . . I don’t know these people. I am occasionally reminded they exist, but I find them confusing and sometimes quite distressing.



But then I’m reading, and I get to certain scenes. Like where the heroine breaks down in tears because she’s in love, sure, but that’s not a good thing because she’s going to get hurt. And she puts her finger so keenly, so precisely on that -- if you leave me, it will wreck me. The big risk. Or another scene where one woman browbeats another into actually saying what she wants and not not not apologizing for wanting things, to own what she wants and not dismiss it as a fairy tale or stupid or silly. And how hard that is for some women who have been taught for so long not to want, to always be second, to please someone else first.



And in those flashes I would think oh. Maybe we aren’t aliens to each other. Because I understand that completely.



Anyway. It’s a completely absurd, over-the-top bit of silliness that is quite funny in places. And it’s mostly full of aliens. But once in a while it’s really not. And in those times it is keen and true and really very good.



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