Everyone I encounter online, or at least, everyone who left their comments and reviews online for me to find, LOVED this book. I mean, love love loved it, to the point where they put it in the time capsule and let future generations find it so that they, too, can love it. Maybe my future children will love this book. But I sure didn’t.
Seriously. I know. I’m insane. I’m defective in some way. But holy hell if Crusie didn’t write the first contemporary heroine that was actually Too Stupid To Live (TSTL). Not that she put herself in mortal danger at every turn but woo damn. By page six I wanted to reach into the book and smack her silly.
Instead, I wrote her a letter:
Here are some things you should not do if you wish me to continue rooting for you:
1. Do not do something so unbearably stupid I grit my teeth, and moreover, don’t do it solely for the sake of pushing the story forward. Don’t find thousands of dollars in your safety deposit box, along with two passports for your husband and daughter, and then put it BACK. Take it OUT. Take it WITH YOU. Don’t find panties under your husband’s car seat and then THROW THEM AWAY. Put them in a bag and send them to your LAWYER.
2. Stop allowing life to happen to you and then complain when it does. If you want to take charge of your life, I understand. It’s a big step. But get off your ass and DO it already. The more you let larger and larger things happen to you, all the while complaining about them, without doing something for yourself in return, the more I want to stop rooting for you, and settle your problems by smacking you over the head repeatedly.
3. Stop making decisions that make no sense. Actually, for this one I blame the author. I don’t always get the authors who talk about their characters telling them what to do, but I do think that there comes a point in a written character’s story where you have to ask yourself, “What would this person do?” The more consistently you choose to have the character do something that makes no sense in light of the character herself, the more I get annoyed.
4. Do not repeatedly shove your head up your ass and then complain about the view and the smell.
Seriously, y’all, I know I’m going to get a bundle of “Oh my GOSH I LOVED this book how could you be so HARSH” comments, but I did not like this book.
In fact, it rapidly reached the “flip through just to find out who did it and move on with your life” stage, which is about the next-to-worst stage you can get with me. The very worst is “toss the book across the room unfinished and forget about it as soon as possible.” That’s a rare stage with me.
Oddly enough, when I picked it back up to finish on the train on Monday, I did read through the ending without flipping through – only to find myself chastised by Crusie as every single one of the momentously stupid things the heroine did were rewarded by the bad guys getting caught, the mean people shutting up, and all because she was a Good and Honest Person.
The Good and Honest Person in question is Maggie Faraday, who just discovered her husband cheated on her, and then, one after another, has unbelievably weird things happen to her, like giant, rubber dominos falling in succession on her head to the point where you just want her to move out of the way. Her very best friend is surly and secretive (but of course she can’t call said best friend on her shit and say, ‘What is major malfunction?’) and her mother is gathering gossip about everyone else, while telling her to keep her own nose clean, and her entire life in the small town she lives in is based on her being a perfect angel person who never does anything wrong.
She was in turns boring and taunting me to hop into the story so I could beat her.
Her one-night-stand secret-hot-sex-fantasy man has come back to town, coincidentally (not) investigating her husband, who is indeed a philandering bastard buttsquatch. From the moment he shows up on her porch looking for Hubster, hilarity ensues.
Only, unlike many a Crusie I enjoyed thoroughly wherein hilarity ensued, I didn’t enjoy this one. It wasn’t just that the heroine did stupid things and made dumb decisions that left her vulnerable over and over, even as she told herself (and therefore the reader) that she was going to be strong and fight against the rumor-mongering fools in her town and do what she wanted from now on. It was the feeling that no one but NO ONE could truly and really be this so almighty clueless. I can’t even get into the specifics without spoiling the entire plot, as it is a convoluted thing I didn’t entirely capture. But damn. I didn’t cheer for her. I didn’t want her to win. I wanted her to get her poop in a group so I could read about a grown up instead of a plasticine doll in a romance novel.
The hero was even more of a vanilla character, if that’s possible. Aside from a device for sexual gratification, C.L. (and I am not even going to tell you what that stands for) is some kind of vigilante crossed with an accountant – he’s trying to figure out if Maddie’s husband was a shady businessman – which aside from making him a homosexual puppy beater, having him cheat little old ladies out of their money is a quick path to bastard status. C.L. was a nice enough guy, and I loved reading about his family, but did I get the sense that, were I Maddie, I’d swoon over him? Not at all.
The best friend was such a shitful friend, aside from instant babysitting and pushy attitude when needed, that I didn’t like her in the slightest, and kept wondering if her nasty secretiveness was a way for Crusie to point me in the direction of suspecting her of villainy. Then best friendy witch would do something honorable, like make sure Maddie and C.L. had time alone together, and I figured she couldn’t be all bad. But I still didn’t like her, and I didn’t root for her happily ever after, either. I wanted to smack her around for being such a grumpy witch.
This is probably one of the first times I’ve ever read a book where the heroine annoyed me so much I couldn’t bring myself to give a shit about her. I just didn’t. “I have to protect my daughter!” So you remove any evidence of your husband’s philandering that you might use to divorce his ass and acquire a settlement that would allow you to protect her. “I am not sure what is going on but something bad is happening and someone is after me!” So you hide a gun in the freezer after wiping it for prints, and then hide evidence from various people who might help you.
Shit on a shingle, Maddie, you stunk up the joint. I think part of the problem is that I’m married to and friends with many attorneys, so to watch you do stupid things and leave yourself wide open – even though I know it’s going to work out in the end – was excruciating.
The only thing I couldn’t decide was whether this was my new all-time low book, or whether the crowne of crappe was still held by Honey Moon, by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, which holds the distinction of being the first romance novel to ever make me nauseated. I think SEP still holds the Crappe Crowne, but this book was way down there, too, which makes it doubly disappointing. I hate it when authors I love write something I just can’t stand.