Book Review

Be Mine: by Jennifer Crusie, Victoria Dahl, and Shannon Stacey:  A Guest Review by CarrieS

C+

Title: Be Mine
Author: Jennifer, Victoria, Shannon Crusie, Dahl, Stacey
Publication Info: Harlequin Books 2013
ISBN: 9781460303399
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Be Mine - Anthology with Jennifer Crusie, Shannon Stacey, Victoria Dahl Be Mine is a Harlequin anthology containing three novellas.  The one by Jennifer Crusie (Sizzle) is a re-release and Too Fast to Fall (by Victoria Dahl) and Alone With You (by Shannon Stacey), are new.

Since the plots are lighter than air, I shall sum them up in just one run-on sentence each, followed by a mini-review of each story:

Sizzle:  Marketing Executive falls for the new guy who oversees her budget.
Too Fast to Fall:  Chronic speeder falls for the cop who always pulls her over.
Alone With You:  One night of sex plus lost phone number plus meeting again and working together in an isolated location equals true love.

Sizzle:   Jennifer Crusie wrote Sizzle in 1994.  It was her first published work of fiction and she describes it thusly:  “It stinks on ice”.  According to her blog, she's not very pleased about it being republished. 
 
Well, Sizzle is not Crusie's finest work, but I wouldn't say “it stinks on ice” either.  It's rushed, like the other novellas in this collection.  Its sexual and workplace politics seem very strange to me, partly because we've come a long way in terms of how we think about gender and sex in the office since the mid 1990s, and partly because, frankly, I'm kind of a prude.  But the ingredients that make Crusie's later work great are here – we get the witty banter, the best friend, the Chinese food, the desire for equality in a relationship, the strong willed heroine, and the guy who comes through for the heroine when the chips are down.  I rather enjoyed it even though it was clearly an early, and flawed, effort.  I'm just a sucker for that Crusie dialogue, and it's in perfectly fine form here even if the story overall is lacking.

If you, like me, are a devoted Crusie fan in the “I read everything she writes and she totally changed my life but I swear I'm not a stalker” kind of way, then Sizzle is an interesting book to read because you can see how she has developed as an author.  If this would be your first, or even your second or third or fourth Crusie experience, then please read her other stuff first.  But I liked Sizzle as long as I took it at face value – a short novella by a fledging, but promising, author.

Too Fast to Fall:  Oh, man, this book is worth reading if only for the hilarious comeuppance of the Ex.  It packs a surprising amount of depth into a short space but it desperately needs to be full-length.  That's my literary assessment, not a dirty joke.  I loved how exasperated poor Deputy Nate is when he pulls Jenny over for the sixth time.  I liked Jenny, even though she's a little flaky, and I appreciated how much more sense Jenny makes as a character once her back-story kicks in.  The description of Jenny's mother was very painful for me to read – Dahl does a very good job of describing what it is like to lose a loved one to addiction.  I also laughed out loud at this line:

“You did something”, Grace insisted.  “You look like a girl caught with her fingers in the pot.  Or the cookie jar.  Or whatever kind of container you'd find penises in”.

This novella is way too rushed (you may be sensing a critical theme here) but it's enjoyable while it lasts and it makes me want to read more by Victoria Dahl, which presumably makes her, and Harlequin, very happy.  This story ties into her Jackson series.

Alone With You:  This one was my favorite even though the plot was full of holes.  It was very funny. 

The pacing was less frenetic than the other two novellas although the HEA was a little extreme for the short amount of time that the two protagonists are together (it's quality time, but still).  There are problems with the Big Misunderstanding – it happens, and then it seems to be resolved, and I was so pleased that it was resolved because I hate Big Misunderstandings, but then I realized that it could have been resolved way back in Chapter Two.  So that was awkward. 

But, much is forgiven because the two main characters, Darcy and Jake, are adorable whether alone or together.  Their trivia skills are both dazzling and hilarious.  They had me at the first line  (“Ashgabat”).  And I loved the creative method by which Jake writes a phone number down late in the story and how he keeps condoms strategically placed all over his house. 

Even though I thoroughly enjoyed it, I don't have much to say about it.  It was flawed (mostly because of pacing and the annoyance of the Big Mis) but fun.  I have some Shannon Stacey stuff in my TBR pile, and it has moved to the top, as I'm eager to see what this author can do with a full-length book.

I'm giving this collection as a whole a C+, because each novella had problems, mostly with pacing.  However, although none of these was a massive literary triumph, I enjoyed the collection.  I don't read much contemporary romance, but I enjoyed these.  This is perfect Valentine's fluff for when you have a short attention span and only the fluffiest fluff will content you.


This anthology is available from Goodreads | Amazon | BN | Sony | Kobo | iBooks | All Romance eBooks.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    JW Ashley says:

    Developing a new thing for Victoria Dahl… ever since a couple of her books went on a nice sale for Kindle, but I really don’t enjoy novellas. I prefer more developed stories. Love the line “fluffiest fluff.” I’ve had a pretty rough day. It might be time for that kind of thing.

  2. 2
    Elizabeth says:

    For $9.99 kindle edition, I think I will source my “fluffiest fluff” elsewhere. ( That is the Australian price, so not sure what US price is.)

  3. 3
    Tina says:

    I agree that Sizzle was okay.  While I didn’t know it was her first published story, I could certainly tell it was an early one.  I loved Dahl’s Too Fast To Fall because of the characters and the dialogue.  However, I pretty much always love Dahl because of the characters and the dialogue (and the woman can write a sex scene!)  I agree that it was rushed but not nearly as much as some novellas that I’ve read.  Unfortunately, with Alone With You, as soon as I realized that it was going to be a Big Misunderstanding, I said, “Nope.” and gave the book back to the library.  If I’d read this review first, I might have not been so quick to pass on that story.

  4. 4
    Sarah W says:

    I seriously want someone to write a Christina Perri parody called “Jar of Penises.”

    And now I think there should be a caffeine monitor hooked up to my computer like a car breathalyzer.

  5. 5
    Liz H says:

    From a “I read everything she writes and she totally changed my life but I swear I’m not a stalker” kind of Crusie fan, that review is exactly what I would have written about Sizzle. For a different author it would be ok, from Crusie it’s a bit of a disapointment. I’ve had a similar reaction to several of her other early shorter works; her evolution is definitely evident across the books. Here’s to hoping there will be more amazingness from her in the future!

  6. 6
    MoWeezy says:

    Are jars not the best place to keep penises?

    Darn.

  7. 7
    cleo says:

    OMG, that reminds me of this crazy Helena Bonham Carter movie I rented that had a pickled penis in it – it was set in some mining town in the early 20th Century.  She ended up losing her husband, father and brother in a mining accident (iirc).  She went a little nuts with grief and put some of their body parts in jars on display in a little home museum.  /end of random rant

  8. 8
    cleo says:

    Thanks for reviewing this – I’ve been curious.  I love novellas and I think that both Victoria Dahl and Shannon Stacey write good novellas – I actually prefer Stacey’s novellas to her longer books, but that may just be me.  And I am a fanatical (but not in a stalkery way) Crusie fan.

  9. 9
    Betty Fokker says:

    ALERT: Jenny Crusie isn’t happy that *Sizzle* got republished either. She gets no royalties, since she signed away her rights to Harlequin (back when she didn’t know any better) for a measly $1500. http://www.arghink.com/2013/01… Moreover, she really dislikes it because it isn’t as well written as it could be. As for myself, I have pity on Sizzle, because it was one of the VERY early Crusie’s and very few authors are at the peak of their game straight out of the gate.

  10. 10
    rudi_bee says:

    I don’t know if anyone else was ever a Cherry (Jenny Crusie’s fanbase) but if you’d read everything she ever published you were Crusiefied and if that included Sizzle you’d been Burned.

  11. 11
    Julie says:

    I waited to read your review until after I finished these three stories. Shannon Stacey’s was the only one worth the read, and it was too short and missing something I can’t quite put my finger on. The other two were DNF-worthy.

  12. 12
    CarrieS says:

    @Julie – I felt like there was something missing in the Stacey story between “yay we are in love” and “let’s get married”.  They spent a lot of time together, but not much time at all as an established, but not married, romantic couple.  I wanted to see some post Big Mis exclusive dating happening before suddenly they are getting hitched.

  13. 13
    Julie says:

    That’s the problem with the novella format, methinks. Not enough time to truly flesh out the characters and plot.

  14. 14
    Amy says:

    I have to say that I am overjoyed that the Divine Ms Crusie agrees with me that her novella sucks… Sizzle was so bad that I just stopped reading and started to doubt my judgement about her writing. Of course, if I had read anything about the book before buying, I would have figured out that it was a re-published work by her with new add-ons to sucker people like me into buying it. My recommendation, save the $$—novellas are tough to begin with and this collection was unsatisfactory at pretty much every level.

  15. 15
    kkw says:

    I had this on hold from the library and it took forever to get it, and I waited to read the reviews till after I’d read it. What a relief to learn that Crusie is not suddenly phoning it in – Sizzle was pretty lame, although if I’d read it in 1994 I’d have been a lot happier about it, undoubtedly.  I love all these writers, but dislike novellas as a rule, and generally think that the problems with these stories can be chocked up to the inherent flaws of the format.  I have a high tolerance for stupid misunderstanding plots, though.  I’d give it a B- because even a total failure for any of these authors is going to be better than your average book.

  16. 16
    LauraN says:

    I put a hold on this book as soon as I read this review, and after lo these many days I finally have it!  I’m not far through Crusie’s contribution, but I have to share my favorite quote so far because it shows why I love Crusie’s work, even when it’s from early in her career and it shows.  And yeah, I’m one of those “I read everything she writes and worship the computer she writes with, but I swear I’m not a stalker” readers.  Anyway, here’s the quote.  In this scene, our heroine is shopping with her best pal/secretary for lingerie.  The secretary is married, and has just picked out a hot little number to surprise her husband with. 

    “Ben is going to love this,” Jane said.  “Why don’t you get some and try it on Richard?”
    “Richard who?”
    “Parker,” Jane said patiently.
    “He’d never go for it.”  Emily looked at the price tag.  “It’s not cost-effective.  There are small countries that don’t spend this much for defense.”
    “Defense is not what I have in mind.”  Jane looked at herself in the mirror.  “I’m planning on surrendering almost immediately and being invaded shortly thereafter.”

    I just love Crusie’s sense of humor.

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