Book Review

Tell Me Lies by Jennifer Crusie


Title: Tell Me Lies
Author: Jennifer Crusie
Publication Info: St. Martin's Paperbacks 1998
ISBN: 0-312-96680-6
Genre: Contemporary Romance

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:

Dear Heroine:

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.

Comments are Closed

  1. Beth says:

    C.L. = Coochie Licker?

  2. Sarah says:

    Good guess. I can’t even tell you, as it’s supposed to be this big moment of personal revelation, but the author doesn’t do anything with it worth remarking on. But it’s completely bizarre what “C.L.” stands for.

  3. KarenS says:

    ROFLMAO!!!!!  *Tears streaming down my face* OMG that was just hilarious (sorry Julie)I’m still perturbed by authors who, in spite of the fact that many readers are vocal about hating heroines that are truly too stupid to live, persist in creating such stupid knitwits.  I’ve decided that I’m a borderline feminist and as such get quite violent when the heroine I’m reading about does things that defy reason and common sense.  It makes me crazy enough to throw my hands up in the air and mutter “Aaaargh, Women!!” in the way that the males of our species are often found to be doing, especially when they’ve just been cut up by a lipstick applying woman driver.

  4. Candy says:



    This was the first Crusie I read, and I liked it so much I hunted down her entire backlist. Just in time, too, because right around that time her old Temptations started to skyrocket in price. Yeah, the heroine is kind of frustrating at times, but I was so caught up in the story and what was going on that I didn’t care, and I found her more sympathetic than not.

  5. Sarah says:

    Glad you liked the review Karen. Gosh she ticked me off, that Maddie.

    And you know, Candy, I have been asking myself over and over if maybe *I* was in a foul mood that somehow spilled over to this book, but really, I don’t think it was any negativity on my part. I don’t think I would have liked this book if I had been bathed in cleansing oil, massaged by four soft-handed beefcake masseurs, and fed all my favorite foods before being handed this book to read. Much like you can’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining (ew), you can’t say repeatedly you’re going to Do Something, then lie down and stick your head up your ass. That is, if “you” are a heroine in a romance novel and you want me to like you.

    Not YOU, Candy. I like you just fine. You kick ass and take names.

  6. Shannon says:

    Scrubbing the macaroni & cheese pan with the offending undies is one of my all-time favorite scenes (though it’s not my all-time favorite Crusie), so I this is the part where, like Candy, I have to say:

    U R like so stOOpid she is the best and U R dum


  7. AngieW says:

    I know I read this book but it’s been long enough that I have only vague memories of it. I don’t remember ever passionately hating any of Crusie’s books with the intensity that you give to this one, but I do seem to remember being frustrated by some of the same actions you pointed out. It’s quite likely I shouted at the book when she didn’t empty the safety deposit box.

    There was another book that was popular in the last year, I wish I could remember the name of it. People loved, loved, loved this book and I read the first four chapters in the bookstore and wanted to take it home just so I could throw it against the wall. It had some of the same feelings of stupidity on the part of the heroine. Basically, her husband left her and flew to Tahiti with his mistress and all of their savings and the company earnings. She decided to hide his theft from everyone. She didn’t get out of bed for at least a week. I wanted to beat the crap out of her for not telling at least ONE person what was going on. I hated her. I think that’s probably how you felt about Maddie and so, I feel your pain 😉

  8. emdee says:

    Although I adore Crusie, this one did make me want to throw the book across the room.  From the moment she threw out the undies I was like, “WTF?”  And Mr Chopped Liver was just that…

  9. Sarah says:

    It is so cathartic to have people agree with me.

    And those who think I am dum? UR 2! Ha ha LOL!

  10. Candy says:

    “And those who think I am dum? UR 2! Ha ha LOL!”


    LOL on AOL!!!!1

    GOD I’m having way too much fun replying to comments with pictures.

  11. Sarah says:

    You need to step back from the img src!

    But a tabby flipping me the bird (huh)? That’s awesome.

  12. Maili says:

    I agree with some comments you made about Crusie’s TELL ME LIES, which I consider one of her weakest books.

    Some of her heroines are passive, reacting only to situations, provoking comments and people. And, sometimes, to the point of being passive aggressive. Maddie is one of them. This sort drives me crazy.

    I enjoyed almost all her books, but some of her heroines had me wanting to yank my teeth out, just to get rid of the itch. I’d say that in this case I prefer Crusie’s heroes [even moronic ones] to her heroines, which is a Very Big Deal for me to say.

  13. carrotbat says:

    I didn’t like “Tell Me Lies” one bit, either.  In fact, it was the first Crusie I (tried) to read, and it went back to the library unread.  I didn’t try any more Crusie for quite a while and in fact only gave her another try this year.

  14. Jay says:

    Faking It was the first Crusie I read and I *heart* it yet have meh to hateful feelings on the rest. I had a theory that the first Crusie you read is the one you love the best and the others just wouldn’t compare. I thought it was a solid theory until I read Carrotbat’s comment. Now, I’m thinking I convinced myself of the theory just as a way to explain to myself how people could LURVE gems like Bet Me, Tell Me Lies and Crazy For You.

  15. celticlass116 says:

    that was my first and only Cruise and i couldn’t get into it at all….any other titles i should consider?

  16. Maili says:

    Try WELCOME TO TEMPTATION, GETTING RID OF BRADLEY [it’s my first JC book, which should be taken into account], and ANYONE BUT YOU.

  17. Sarah says:

    Celtic, I really REALLY enjoyed “Bet Me,” and would recommend it over “Tell Me Lies,” no question.

  18. Wendy says:

    I really enjoyed Bet Me and Welcome to Temptation is in the TBR pile—you know, buried under Emma Holly’s back list.

  19. Candy says:

    Celtic: I definitely recommend Bet Me. I also really enjoyed Fast Women, though it seemed pretty iffy with many other reviewers. Most other people seem to adore Welcome to Temptation and Faking It, which are related (tracks the stories of the three Dempsey siblings) but are stand-alone reads. Of her old Harlequin releases (most of which have been re-released), I really, really love Manhunting and Anyone But You.

    Damn, I need to do a Jennifer Crusie Lightning Review round-up like I did for Lisa Kleypas.

  20. Sarah says:

    I have to be honest, “Welcome to Temptation” and “Faking It” left me cold.

    But “Bet Me” was wonderful.

  21. Lynne says:

    Has anyone noticed how many mother issues Crusie’s heroes seem to have?  And how the heroine is often really nurturing, and uh, round and soft and . . . I don’t know, but sometimes I freak myself out imagining the hero wanting to nurse a little after sex. 

    But I did really like Welcome to Temptation, cold and overbearing mother included.

  22. beejay says:

    I’ve really enjoyed reading this review and comments.  It came as kind of an epiphany to me, a woman who considers herself a Crusie fan, that I almost universally dislike her heroines.  It’s the heroes I love.  Jenny can really write great men (mostly).

    I hated Fast Women, or hated the heroine.  Psychotic beatch that she was, and poor schlub of a guy who allows the most aggressive woman standing to pussy whip him, well, he should have pushed her in front of a bus.

    I loved Cal in Bet Me but thought Min was pretty much a dithering b.  Why didn’t she turn some of that anger on the real source of her issues, i.e., Mom???  Did like Tilda in Faking it and Sophie in Welcome to Temptation, with the caveat that they angsted around a bit more that I was happy with.  But Davy, I’d marry Davy and bear his children in a heartbeat.

  23. Jage says:

    I didn’t finish the book. I love Crusie but that book led to me wanting to set it fire and scream ‘BURN BABY BURN!!!!’

    Yes, there would be that many exclamation marks I hated it so much. I DESPISE her. I wasn’t expecting to see it on her, but I”m glad it got a D even though I would’ve given it a R.

    haha, nice review though.

  24. Mellissa says:

    Ah! I’m the only one of my friends (we’re all Crusie fanatics) that didn’t like this book. I didn’t really hate it but it’s the only one I’ve never picked up to read again and I have to tell you, I reread at least one Crusie book a month. I read it towards the beginning of my obsession and seriously, it just depresses me how much this one doesn’t measure up to all the rest.

  25. Rachel says:

    I have to agree, that while I am pretty much one of the Crusie Fanatics, this definitely wasn’t her best.  I wouldn’t have quite given it a D, but I have also been told that I’m way too forgiving when it comes to giving out “grades” for things like movies and books—ah well. 

    But…I sort of wanted to strangle the heroine when she scrubbed the pot with the errant undies—she should have definitely sent them to her lawyer, but I’m a law student so I might be biased.

  26. Athenazebra says:

    Thankgod I’m not the only one severely ticked off by this unholy waste of ink and paper. I loved Welcome to Temptation but I had a swearing fit over this publication – I can’t call it a book or a story. I hope someone shakes her until her teeth rattle if she ever offers up something like this again.

  27. Sussanah says:

    I’m so with you on this.
    I’m glad this wasn’t the first JC I read otherwise I would never have discovered the others. I just didn’t get it. I didn’t get her. She wasn’t a Crusie kind of woman. I kept reading thinking WTF?

  28. Lauren says:

    Thank you!! This is nice to read. I read most of Crusie’s books in one big rush last summer and came to this one after adoring several (Bet Me, Welcome…, Anyone But You, etc) and was really surprised at my active and heated dislike of this book. Not only did I not give a damn about Maggie, I hated the trope of loud, public sex as liberation. It felt really contrived to me (more contrived than similar public sex as liberation in Strange Bedfellows). Instead of finding it hot I found it awkward and kind of embarrassing. This book did not work for me.

  29. Allie says:

    I read Tell Me Lies and thought it was…okay.  I did not like the main character at all.  But I’m glad I liked it enough to pick up Fast Women, because I loved the hell out of that book and everything I read of hers afterward, except Sizzle.

Comments are closed.

↑ Back to Top