I read Getting Rid of Bradley upon the recommendation of the Bitchery, who said I should dive in immediately after reading Who’s the Daddy. Indeed, like a fine sorbet, it did cleanse the palette.
The early works of Crusie are fun to read because you see her starting out with some sizeable writing muscles, and you know already that she eventually turns into something of a powerhouse. Not that I’m sucking up or anything. Really. Swear.
Getting Rid of Bradley details the creation of a love story out of the unravelling of a marriage, along with some embezzlement, larceny, and attempted murder, and some crazy-ass and adorable animals.
Lucy Savage Porter has just been stood up by her ex-husband, Bradley, who asked her to meet him at the courthouse so he could explain everything. Lucy’s well-meaning but overbearing sister is in her usual position of taking care of Lucy, who is beginning to realize she’d prefer not to be so taken-care-of all the freaking time. Perhaps it would be good for her to fall down and bruise her ass every once in awhile instead of having her sister tell her what she needs to do.
Seeing a heroine decide to break out of her routine because she’s tired of it is one of my favorite methods of character development, because it means she has to evaluate where she is presently and why it sucks booty, make changes, and charm the reader into accepting her as she is, and as she will be by the end of the story. In the hands of a skilled writer, this method works brilliantly on me. I’m a sucker for a heroine’s self-reinvention.
After being stood up in divorce court, the newly-divorced Lucy persuades her sister to take her to lunch in a dingy restaurant, again because Bradley said he’d speak to her there.
Coincidentally, due to being tipped off by anonymous caller, Detective Zach Warren and his partner Julian are also in the restaurant, waiting for Bradley. Is it the same Bradley, or a “more different” Bradley?
Zach operates mainly on instincts, and he’s sure that something is up with Lucy, and that she has information he needs. So he follows her out of the restaurant, only to end up saving her when someone takes a shot at them. But she doesn’t take kindly to being tackled, and assaults him with a mammoth physics textbook to free herself, and runs home.
He is convinced that she’s key to his investigation of the embezzling Bradley, despite her assurances that there is no way her ex-husband Bradley is the droid they are looking for. Zach decides she needs round-the-clock protection, an idea she mocks until her car blows up right in front of her.
Here’s where I began to quirk a brow: in order to keep an eye on Lucy, and wait for Bradley to show up, he decides to move in, thus forcing them into close and constant contact. I’ve seen worse methods of shoving the hero and heroine into close quarters, but it was a bit contrived.
But once Zach and Lucy are in her house, and once he persuades her that (a) her life is in danger, and (b) she should use her mammoth amount of sick days to take time off of work and hide out in the house with him, the attraction builds, forcing Lucy to consider who she wants to be and whether she wants that version of herself to be with Zach, and forcing Zach to consider that perhaps his days of ardent bachelorhood are over – just as soon as they figure out which Bradley is the one they want, and why Lucy’s Bradly and Zach’s Bradley seem to be the same dude.
As with most of Crusie’s stories, the book is charming because of the characters, both human and canine. Lucy, seeking to reinvent herself, starts with superficial goofy changes, and ends up with hair dyed a dead, depthless black. But as she learns to stand up for herself, she stops bending at the direction of other people’s preferences for her, and learns to choose her own mistakes, even if they mean that she ends up with green hair. And once she understands that the changes she’s hoping for are internal, she’s able to pick a hair color that matches the person she thinks she can be.
Lucy is a great heroine: she’s not thin or physically perfect, and is prone to doing dumb things to her appearance when what she really wants is to change her life – I’ve done that. Watching her change and watching the hero fall for all sides of her – where she starts and where she ends up – quite delicious.
Zach is nicely yummy as well, though not as attractive a character as Lucy. He’s definitely worthy of her, given that he’s gone to great lengths to protect her, even as he becomes aware of some rather large and scary feelings for her. Instead of running away and distancing himself from those big scary emotions, as some romance heroes might do, Zach moves in and sits on the sofa owned by the subject of those big scary emotions, and faces his fears while protecting her from a Bradley or two.
But Zach also illustrates what aspects of this book didn’t work for me. After only a few days of being locked in together, Zach is done – that’s it, he’s getting married. Literally, days after he’s met Lucy. I know some dudes prefer not to dwell on decisions, but that was a little quick on the surrender of his bachelorhood. Even Lucy, who has decided to be more spontaneous and to go after what she wants, is taken aback, considering she just got divorced a few days prior.
Without giving away too much, the mystery of which Bradley is which, and who is after whom, came together slowly, but was prolonged by Lucy and Zach ignoring details and clues that two detail-attentive people should have caught. It’s like watching someone do something really doltish in a movie – I wanted to scream at the book, “No, NO Don’t IGNORE THAT it’s IMPORTANT.” And I couldn’t believe that Zach would breeze by two very large clues that indicated the safety of Lucy’s house had been compromised. The inattention didn’t seem in-character and made the mystery less sold, more flimsy.
But the aspects of what didn’t work were far outweighed by what did, particularly how Crusie handled the bad guy. Bradley is a clever creation in that he is not an all-out villain, just a bit creepy. He’s like a watered down version of that uber-creep Bill in Crazy for You. By the end of the story, you understand his motivations, though you might question as I did why Lucy put up with some of his behaviors. But he is certainly not evil personified, and even Zach realized that he and bad-guy Bradley have things in common. Much like we discussed on SBTB earlier, understanding the motivations and humanity of the villain, particularly when they are written as a person who has made some evil decisions rather than just being evil through and through, makes for a scary and effective antagonist.
Reading early Crusie so soon after reading the babydaddy book did indeed restore my happy quest for good romance, but it also shuffled my To-be-read pile, as I now want to read Don’t Look Down sooner rather than later to see how current Crusie compares to the early publications. But as usual, if one is looking for quality, particularly after deliberately delving into some sticky romance territory, Crusie is as dependable as ever.