Book Review

Crazy for You by Jennifer Crusie

B+

Title: Crazy For You
Author: Jennifer Crusie
Publication Info: St. Martin 2000
ISBN: 0312971125
Genre: Contemporary Romance


I have been glomming the Crusie books on my Books(not)Free queue, as lately I have a hankering for contemporary romance like I often have a hankering for chocolate. Usually with chocolate it’s Watchamacallit candy bars, which I adore, especially since I can’t get Clark bars in New York. With contemporary romance, I want light, somewhat fluffy, funny, fresh, fun, all works beginning with F, and let’s be real, some hot f’in is ok, too!

While I was sitting down organizing my reactions to this book, it occurred to me that I ought to develop a rubric for discussing my grading levels. So here is a rough sketch of the Grading Scale of Sarah:

Why do I give a book an A? I read books on the train to and from work, and if the book is so good that I can’t let it sit in my bag overnight, and have to head upstairs to read it all evening long instead of watching tv with the Hubby, AND if the quality of the book does not falter and let me down at the end, then it is an A book. If I want to grab it out of my bag and end up wishing I hadn’t, or if I am content to read it on the train but still enjoy it while I am reading it and don’t catch myself staring at the other passengers’ books to see what they are enjoying, then it’s a B. If I read it and it’s not bad, but nothing that makes me almost miss my train stop because I am into it, it’s a C. If there are egregious errors, the plot line leaves me cold, and I find myself forcing my fingers to turn pages so I can finish it already, then it’s a D. F books are books that were so torrentially bad, I couldn’t bear to finish them, or only did so because I wanted to watch the train wreck (no pun intended, and God forbid) until its end.

So on to my review. Crazy for You was delicious, and it had some elements that I adored and couldn’t wait to reread before I put it back in the bag for a Books(not)Free return shipment. But there were some major flaws that, though they didn’t get in the way of the romance (which was quite hot, thank you Ms. Crusie!), they got in My way as the reader, especially when the flaws were errors that slapped me back into reality.

The challenge, I think, with a contemporary is that the author has to write a book set in a time that is close to, or related to, the reader’s reality. I’m supposed to believe, as the reader, that all this mess is happening right now. I’m not expecting the greatest history lesson ever told, and I’m not expecting to learn the inner workings of x-ray machines if the heroine is a medical technician, or the finer points of pool if the hero is a shark, but I do expect a reality I can believe in, even if the story takes place in a state or country I’ve never visited.

Crazy for You is the story of Quinn and Nick, residents of the small town of Tibbett, and long-time best friends. Right away, I’ll just tell you, I am a sucker for best-friends-who-fall-in-love books. Quinn is dating Bill, a tall blonde man who pretty much steers Quinn’s life for her, until Quinn adopts a little dog named Katie who inspires Quinn to stop letting life happen to her, and to start living her life deliberately and with a good deal of daring.

The idea of switching from the role of passive passenger to active driver in one’s life applies to just about every character in the novel, as Quinn’s decision to break up with her “beige boyfriend†and move out of their “beige apartment†first horrifies, then inspires everyone in her life, from her parents to her friends. Quinn lived a good portion of her life as “the good one,†“the fixer,†“the peacemaker,†“the quiet one,†“the dependable one,†existing in the shadow of her sister Zoe, a wild-at-heart adventuresome woman who has settled into wedded bliss after a short and disastrous marriage to Nick twenty years prior.

Nick harbors a secret, ardent desire for Quinn, but being her friend and her ex-brother-in-law is enough to cause him to keep his hands to himself, not to mention her relationships with good, stable Bill, the high school championship-winning coach.

Quinn’s breakup with Bill and decision to live boldly on her own cause shock waves of reaction in all directions, most notably that she becomes aware of Nick’s feelings for her, and watching her wear him down is the most electrically charged reading I’ve enjoyed in awhile.

Let me address the negative points of this book first, because the positives tip the scale towards a much more favorable rating, though the negatives do have to be addressed. First, and how to say this without giving away too much? The nature of Bill’s continued involvement was obvious to me from the very start, and perhaps that was intentional. Perhaps I was supposed to observe his behavior and treatment of Quinn and root for her to get away from him as soon as possible. But Crusie’s efforts in the vilification of Bill seemed to turn rapidly from the subtle to the glaringly, horribly obvious. I won’t give away too much, as I said, but I’ve complained about this before as a technique for evilization, and I will tell you, he ain’t gay.

Further, this is a thin book for a Crusie novel, and what’s missing is the development of the secondary characters to the point where you care about them. In Crazy for You, there was so little backstory and introduction of the secondary set of characters, particularly the women, that I had a really hard time keeping them all straight. I thought for half the book that one of them was the heroine’s second sister, and couldn’t figure out why Quinn never mentioned her when she spoke on the phone to Zoe. One of the valuable and enjoyable aspects of a good Crusie story is that the secondary characters, and the parallel love story that compliments that of the hero and heroine, are clever, interesting people that you care about. You like the hero and heroine better because you like their friends. In this novel, the interaction between Quinn and her friends seemed to assume that I knew them already, when really, I didn’t.

For example, the secondary romance between Nick’s brother Max and his wife was fraught with big misunderstandings and a lot of drastic hair cuts and slammed bedroom doors. It was meant to compliment Quinn’s transformation from passive to active participant in her life, and in some respects watching an existing marriage re-energize itself, though sometimes through some hurtful and passive-aggressive measures, applied the idea of taking charge of one’s life to more than just the young, single heroine types. But after awhile, the slamming of doors and the “you’re not getting any and I’m not telling you why,†got real old.

The final element that really pissed my switch off is a spoiler so you know what to do.

 

I’ll come right out and say it here, Bill turns into a stalker. First he refuses to accept that Quinn has moved out, and continues to try to bulldoze her back into his life and into “their apartment.†Then his behavior grows rapidly bizarre. He breaks shutters on her new house so he can watch her, he abuses her dog because she growls at him when he breaks into her home, he copies a spare key he finds in the house and lets himself in to lie in her bed and steal her clothes, he sabotages her house to the point of causing serious and potentially lethal damage, and in the climax of his bizarreness, he breaks into her house again to move in with her uninvited.

As his behavior progresses from the creepy to the insane, he gets these headaches because life isn’t how it’s supposed to be and Quinn isn’t listening to him. One thinks he has some identifiable mental problem, or maybe a brain tumor that manifests itself with creepy possessive habits. But by the culmination of his weirdness, the headaches aren’t even addressed.

By far my biggest problem: a shady reference to Bill going to jail for “years and years.†Horse. Fucking. Pucky. Stalkers to not go to jail for years and years. Celebrities with documented cases of weird people trying to break in to marry them in the middle of the night can’t prosecute their stalkers successfully, so why would a small town coach be convicted and sent to jail for years and years? Stalking is not punished to nearly the degree that it should be, and to make an exception for a happily ever after yanked me right out of the fantasy and pissed me off.

 

But now, the good parts, and oh, were there good parts. Candy challenged me to explain why I love a hero that resists, a big lug of a man who tries desperately to fight how he feels for the heroine, trying to convince himself that he’s happier without her, that getting involved will just break his little world in to messy, hard-to-clean pieces. The reason I love this particular type of romance is simple: I met my husband in high school, and for over two years we were great friends while he fought how he felt for me, until he gave up and we became a couple.

He told me later that he knew when we met senior year of high school that I’d “make a lousy girlfriend†but I’d “be a great wife.†This is from a 17-year-old – but you understand that it pissed me off until he explained: if he got involved with me, it would be permanent, and serious, and at 17 he didn’t want that. He wasn’t sure he ever wanted that serious a relationship. But after years of being friends and years of fighting how he felt, he gave in and now he enjoys our romance as hard as he fought it originally. We’ll be married five years in May.

Reading about heroes that are friends with the heroine, while trying desperately to avoid and deny their growing feelings for her, is the best kind of romance for me. Crusie’s development of Nick and Quinn’s romance, well, to quote Candy, when Crusie does it well, I feel it all the way to my tippy toes, and gosh I was blushing on the train I was so happy to watch these two come together. He fought and rationalized and tried to talk himself away from her, and then he made a move on her, she realized how he felt, noticed him in a whole new light, and slowly wore him down until he…well, I can’t spoil that part for you, now can I?

The villain might have been clumsily done at times, but the pure passion and tingly wonderfulness that was Nick and Quinn’s romance made this book a serious treat for me, and I had to stop myself from finishing the book too fast.

As I mentioned when I started, my expectations of a contemporary, particularly a Crusie, are pretty high, and I tolerate a lot less mishigas with the plot and the characters when the novel takes place close to the present time. While the antagonist and the resolution of the elements working against the couple weren’t ideal, the romance more than made up for it.

I just read back over this review and realize I spent more time writing about what the problems were than about what Crusie does right. “The romance is great, trust me†doesn’t seem like enough of a recommendation, but please, do trust me. The emotional depths and internal wrangling from the hero, the heroine’s slow realization that her friend is more to her than she thought – oh, it is just breathtaking, and there’s no one quote that can illustrate it. Small moments and passing thoughts on both sides add up to a marvelous emotional climax as well as a sexual one.

I’ve had to change my rubric: If I’m sorry that I have to send it back because I won’t be able to reread and visit with the characters again, it’s damn good.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Candy says:

    Awwww. The story about you and your Hubby was was so cute! Here, have a picture of a baby owl.

  2. 2
    Sarah says:

    Awwwww. SQUEEEEEEE!

    Thank you!

  3. 3
    Jorie says:

    Yeah, I loved the romance in Crazy for You.  Nick and Quinn shone.  The rest of the book was not as strong but fortunately didn’t harm the romance.

  4. 4
    sarah says:

    It kind of reminded me of television shows that I love, sheerly on the basis of loving one or two of the whole ensemble. I tune in and watch just to see those characters, and the rest is just filler that helps bring them together every now and again. I’ll keep tuning in, but I never care as much about the others as I do about my favorites. If Quinn and Nick’s romance was a tv show, I’d TiVo that bad boy every week.

  5. 5
    CindyS says:

    I have this one on the TBR pile and I’m not sure why.  I loved her category romances and was happy to see her move to single title.  I’ve never made it past the first chapter of Welcome to Temptation and the book is still in the TBR pile.  This is the one where the heroine discovers her husband is cheating and then her old high school boyfriend showed up on her doorstep and there is a teenager – all in chapter one.  I couldn’t see how reading about the end of a marriage was going to be happy.  Then there was that teenager…  Anyways, I have been picking up her titles on and off – fell madly in love with Bet Me but I wanted more heat.  So maybe Crazy For You is just what I am looking for.

    CindyS

  6. 6
    Jennifer says:

    Er….that’s Tell Me Lies, Cindy. Welcome to Temptation starts with the heroine and her sister getting in a fender-bender.

    Back to the review, I do agree on the spoiler bit- that annoyed me as well. But otherwise, I pretty much enjoyed this one. Nice to see some Crusie reviewing going on!

  7. 7
    Sarah says:

    Jennifer, Candy & I are big fans of Crusie, which is odd considering just about every author that makes one of us go, “Squeeee!” the other goes, “Meh.” For us to agree is a rare thing. So expect more Crusie, especially since a couple of her books left us cold.

  8. 8
    L.N. Hammer says:

    I more or less agree with all your comments, but disagree on the balance—which is to say, I found the negatives did get in the way of the romance.  I’d rate it more a weak B- at best.  I haven’t reread it, and have no impetus to, the way I did with Temptation, Faking, Fast, and Bet.

    —-L.

  9. 9
    Jennifer says:

    Which ones left you cold?

    I’ve got Strange Bedpersons and Charlie All Night in my TBR pile, but somehow I can’t motivate myself to actually read them. I just have a feeling they won’t be as good, somehow. And I don’t remember being all that impressed with the Bradley book or What The Lady Wants.

    Welcome to Temptation is what sold me, though. Phin + pool + nookie = whee!

  10. 10
    Sarah says:

    Funny enough Welcome to Temptation was “meh” for me, but I just finished “Faking It” and I literally had to force myself to keep reading it. It was like chewing cardboard. Only the fact that I was on a plane made me continue to read it.

  11. 11
    Jay says:

    aww Welcome to Temptation and Faking It were my favorite Crusie’s. The spoilered part made me hate Crazy For You. I tell everyone that asks about it that Bill was just a little too crazy for me.

  12. 12
    Sarah says:

    There was definitely an over-amplified crazy applied to Bill, especially because you never understood the root cause – was he a looney or did he have an obsessive tumor?

    But Faking It – I just never got into either the hero or the heroine, and everyone felt two steps away from me, as opposed to Quinn and Nick, whom I was totally into.

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