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REVIEW: Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie

bet me jennifer crusie

Know When To Hold ’Em – Bet Me, Jennifer Crusie

[Apologies in advance – my ebook for some reason came devoid of even pretend page numbers so I can’t reference in my usual half-arsed way]

Bet Me represents my first foray into the world of contemporary romance. And I’m afraid you’ll have to forgive me (well, you don’t have to forgive me, but it would be nice) because I went slightly off-list in order to read it. I was still feeling pathetically fragile after To Have & To Hold and I’d formed the impression that Bet Me would be low on controversy and high on entertainment.

And, oh thank God, it was. And, oh thank God, I really needed it.

NB: This review from AJH is the fifth in his series of “I’m getting to know the romance genre.” His introduction is here and you can generally find his past reviews under the “Guest Review” tag.  You can buy the book with these links. ( A | BN | K | S )

Bet Me kicks off at the loltastically named theme bar, The Long Shot, where the heroine Minerva ‘Min’ Dobbs is getting dumped by her absolute, grade A pillock of a boyfriend. Although under no illusions about David’s pillockhood, Min was hoping to keep him around long enough to be her date for her sister’s wedding, because apparently not having a date to your sister’s wedding is a major serious deal in the US. Anyway, while Min reacts to the break-up with righteous anger, David throws a dude-tizzy and ends up betting the hottest guy in the bar – a love ’em and leave ’em type called Cal Morrissey – ten grand he won’t be able to get Min into bed. Min, of course, overhears the bet, though unfortunately not Cal turning it down. Misunderstandings, mayhem and chicken masalas ensue.

A couple of reviews back I kind of laid into Dragon Actually for not taking its fun seriously enough. I know this was probably a bit wanky of me but frothy is not the same as superficial and frivolous is not the same as silly. A soufflé takes just as much effort and artistry as a swan-stuffed-peacock. Probably more, to be honest, because anybody can stick their hand up a bird’s arse. Bet Me struck me as an archetypally seriously funny book. Its surface charm is underpinned by real depth and the characters are depicted with a light touch that does not detract from their complexity. Also I was averaging about a chuckle per page, which officially puts Crusie up there with Wodehouse for making my day better.

Take this from the very first page:

I could shove this swizzle stick through his heart, Min thought. She wouldn’t do it, of course. The stick was plastic and not nearly pointed enough on the end. Also, people didn’t do things like that in southern Ohio. A sawed-off shotgun, that was the ticket.

That’s not just a joke. That’s the joke equivalent of a motorway pileup. Just when you think it’s all over, it hits you again. Bet Me is absolutely bursting with this kind of acerbic, merciless wit, to say nothing of the steady stream of one-liners that fly past you like bullets from a LOL gun. I am not forgetting “tall, dark and self-righteous” any time soon. In case it isn’t obvious: I totally loved the book. When you’re reading it, you get the feeling you’re in really safe hands, Ms Crusie knows exactly what she’s doing, and you can just sit back and enjoy the ride without worrying if the hero is going to arbitrarily starting being an arse or the heroine is suddenly going to get a spinedectomy. Bet Me fits together really well. It’s funny but not shallow, romantic but not sentimental, sharp but not cruel. It’s themes of fairytales and reality, chance and fate, freedom and restriction, unfurl beautifully, as the plot twists and turns, mirrors itself and doubles back. Frankly, it’s just a really damn good book by any standards you care to name.

Also, I don’t know if it’s just a different set of expectations between contemporaries and historicals but I felt like I could genuinely relate to the characters in Bet Me. I hesitate to use the word ‘plausible’ in this context because fiction is fiction and its role is not necessarily solely to represent reality as it applies to us. But I think there’s extent to which ‘history’ is as much an imagined place as any fantasy kingdom, so it gives the author liberty to create bold, larger-than-life characters, who can shoot each other, kidnap each other, and generally behave in a manner that would have you running away screaming if it actually took place in your vicinity. Whereas the characters in Bet Me felt as though they could be people I’ve actually met. They acted in sympathetically recognisable ways. Even the villains aren’t really villains. They’re just selfish, annoying and a little bit pathetic. It’s all quite personal, small-scale and human, even though events tend to play out exaggeratedly for comic effect.

For me, this ended up being both a strength and weakness: a strength because I really liked the experience of feeling part of a familiar world and a weakness because I discovered that my Genre Habituation is still somewhat weak. I kept bogging down in what felt like pointless minutiae, while recognising rationally it was textually important stuff. I think I’m slightly better at reading historicals, paranormals and steampunk romantic adventures than I am at reading contemporaries because, although they contain kissing and characterisation and girly stuff like that (I jest), there also tend to be fight scenes, explosions, zombies and people going to boxing matches. There were none of these things in Bet Me. Please understand, I’m not remotely suggesting that’s a flaw in the text, so much as flaw in me and my reading. And I’m working on it.

There were shoes. And talking, there’s a lot of talking, usually about dating. And haircuts. And nights in with the girls. And it all left me a bit: okay, you just carry on, I’ll be over here now. There’s also this bloody wedding that lurks about like Captain Hook’s crocodile during the first half of the book and then bursts out of the water during the second, devouring everything in its path. I’m sorry to be a curmudgeon but I just don’t like weddings, okay? The family wedding thing? It’s hell. Been there, done that (thankfully not mine, I hasten to add). It’s bad enough in real life. And here I was gritting my teeth through the endless travails and organisational crises of a fictional one. Although I will admit to a deeply pleasurable schadenfreude when it all exploded horribly. Okay, I lied about the lack of explosions in Bet Me. It does have explosions. It’s just that they’re social.

The other thing that struck me as interesting about Bet Me, and I’d be intrigued to know if applies to contemporaries generally, was the degree to which the relationship between Min and Cal, although important, remained quite secondary. Most of the other books I’ve read have either focused exclusively on the romance (occasionally to the detriment of everything else) or have embedded the love story so deeply in the world that the two are inseperable. Min’s developing feelings for Cal are part of a much broader arc and, essentially, he only really becomes narratively important when he becomes important to Min. It’s Min’s book, through and through, and it’s just as much about her journey towards self-acceptance and personal happiness, as it is about the importance of getting it on with a hot guy. I really liked this, actually. I understand the appeal of the Wuthering Heights “it is about us, only us, forever” thing, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it, but I found it refreshing to be reading something more balanced. Love is, after all, only a part of living a full and meaningful life.

Min, it should go without saying, I adored. So much so, I felt weirdly like I was cheating on Jessica. Her near constant supply of snarky insights and devastating putdowns really made this book for me. That and the unerring accuracy of her bullshit detector. I couldn’t help wince for Cal sometimes but it was also sort of delightful to watch her tear right through him when he tries to put the charm moves on her:

“Yes.” He bent still closer. “Somewhere quiet where we can talk. You look like someone with interesting things to say. And I’m somebody who’d like to hear them.”

Min smiled at him. “That’s a terrible line. Does it usually work for you?”

She is not, however, without her flaws and her vulnerabilities and, for the most part, I thought they came across well, humanising her without compromising her strength. Again, I’m not really in a strong position to be reading for subversion but Min seemed to be taking absolutely no nonsense from her genre. At one point, despite having been repeatedly told that Min’s no longer interested in him, David turns up at house and tries to kiss her. This is neither deeply traumatic nor secretly romantic. She’s not really threatened by his behaviour, just annoyed that he believes he has the right to barge into her home and manhandle her. And when he tries to tell her it’s because “I just want you so much”, she threatens to mace him, completely puncturing the notion that ignoring a woman’s wishes are a way to demonstrate the intensity of your desire. Similarly, I really liked the fact she doesn’t want children. Although certain characters (knobby ones like David) don’t take this seriously, it’s very clear that the book itself does. Nearly every other romance I’ve read has taken it pretty much for granted that heroines naturally want babies, naturally love children and are naturally nurturing women-type people. Of course there’s nothing wrong with wanting these things (and lots of people-type people do) but when it’s unquestioned or presented as an inherent part of being, y’know, a woman, it strikes me that it could be pretty depressing, to say nothing of problematic.

Also I don’t like children either, so it’s yet another reason Min and I are soulmates. Sorry Jessica. It’s not you, it’s Min.

Cal, despite the lack of soft, strong wings to wrap me around me, is probably my favourite of the heroes I’ve encountered so far. He doesn’t do anything too muppetish, nor does he rape the heroine. Okay, those are pretty low standards for human decency but I’m still counting it a win. To me, he came across as an ordinary kind of guy and I found it weirdly comforting that he basically spends the book behaving like a human being, albeit one with faults and insecurities that sometimes spill into his actions. For example, near the end, his ex-girlfriend (who is a deranged psychologist, more on Cynthie later) sends forth David the Grade A Pillock to mercilessly hammer all of Cal’s trigger buttons until he Hulks Out. Hulking Out seems to be pretty standard hero behaviour but usually I’ve found it a bit spurious, like Dain arbitrarily deciding Jessica is a whore trying to entrap him into matrimony based on no evidence whatsoever, but I totally understood where Cal was coming from here. It was nice to see Hulking Out rooted in what felt like authentic human behaviour, rather than hysterical over-spilling manliness.

For the most part, Cal seems to navigate the romance hero minefield with grace and charm. He’s self-aware and self-ironic, which are traits I personally find rather attractive and seem to be pretty underrated in Romancelandia. Like when David is trying to force him to take the bet, he responds:

“Look, David, sex is not in the cards. I’m cheap, but I’m not slimy. You want to bet ten bucks on a pickup, fine, but that’s it. Nothing with a future.”

I was basically on Cal’s side from that moment forward. But perhaps I’m just over-invested in ‘cheap but not slimy’ as an important and valuable distinction. My favourite scene, in the entire book, by the way, is when Cal takes Min home to meet his family and she leaps on her metaphorical white charger to defend him, and the choices he’s made, in front of his parents, totally ruining dinner in the process. Y’know, I think this might be the most breaktakingly romantic scene I’ve ever read. Min is awesome in it, of course, but I like the way they role switch continually throughout the book, taking turns to play the rescued and the rescuer, and fighting off life’s dragons together. As they leave, Min is resigned to having completely lost Cal on account of blowing up his family, and – truthfully – I could completely see a different hero getting his macho freak on about it – but Cal responds absolutely correctly by jumping on her and kissing her senseless.

Since I mentioned Cynthie in passing, I’d just like to return to her briefly in order to say: oh my God, is she deranged? I genuinely had no idea how I was supposed to be interpreting her. She and Grade A Pillock David are sort of the antagonists of the story. He’s just a wanker and she’s some sort of psychologist who has formulated a theory of attraction, which is mostly proven to be absolute bollocks over the course of the book as Min and Cal weave their own crazy, unpredictable way to love. I was glad about this because the theories made NO SENSE and filled me with a vague sense of instinctive dread every time Cynthie opened her mouth:

“He’s been trained to please people to get approval, and the people he likes to please most are women, who are more than willing to be pleased by him because he looks the way he does. So his looks guarantee assumption and his charm guarantees attraction. He’s one of the most elegant adaptive solutions I’ve ever observed.”

I presumed she was supposed to be a send up of that kind of pseudo-analytical dating theory that appears to be moderately popular in magazines and self-help books. But I found her place on the batshit/insightful spectrum somewhat difficult to understand – the book seems to take a certain delight in the wrongness of everything she believes, but she’s also reasonably acute. For example, although the basis of her analysis of Cal is wrong (he’s not trying to compensate for his mother’s conditional love), she’s actually in the right ball park and similarly she sees through David in about 5 seconds flat:

“David,” Cynthie said, “if you wanted sex in the first five minutes, you should have dated a stripper. If [Min’s] an actuary, she’s a cautious person, her career is figuring out how to minimize risk, and in your case, she was right.”

I know she’s nutbags but you kind of have to respect her for calling David out on this, when she could have won him more easily to her cause by criticising Min. So, basically, I felt ambivalent about Cynthie throughout. It also didn’t help that she’s the most conventionally attractive woman in the book and the one who seems most comfortable in herself and her sexuality. Given that Min is NOT comfortable in herself, I suppose it was important to demonstrate that people who seem to tick all the boxes aren’t necessarily any happier (or saner) than the rest of us. But, equally, I’m not sure if it wasn’t a little vindictive. Some people are just pretty; it’s not their fault.

Since we’re on the subject of conventional attractiveness, I don’t really think we can really discuss Bet Me without touching on the weight thing, because it’s kind of a major theme in the book. One might say a weighty theme. Do you see what I did there? The heroine, you see, is apparently chubby. I know it’s dangerous to be over-literal about this kind of thing but, given what a big deal it all was, I did research. At the beginning of the book, Min’s mother is trying to get her to fit into a size 8 bridesmaid dress so it seems logical to assume that Min is not a size 8 but could realistically be perceived as being close to it. So, I guess that means our Min is a size 10? I had no idea what that meant so I asked the Internet and the Internet told me that US sizes are about 2 lower than UK sizes. So Min, the chubby, initially undesirable heroine of this novel, is a size 14. Umm? That’s … that’s … Kate Winslet.

Kate

Now I know Kate is shown here wearing an Oscar dress and has therefore probably been lowered into it by a team of 20 stylists working round the clock but can we have a sanity check here? Since when did Kate Winslet become our standard for unattractively podgy? And, even taking into account that my deductions are incorrect and Min is so lost to human decency as to be a US 12 (UK 16), I guess that would make her … Nigella Lawson?

Nigella

Right. Because there’s absolutely nothing desirable about Nigella Lawson. Okay, look, I know it’s about self-perception not actual body size. The whole point is for Min to come to terms with her body and how to live in it and feel attractive in it. I get that. And I recognise that it’s meant to feed into wider criticisms of the unrealistic beauty standards to which women are held but, given the fact that Min is completely average, arguably somewhat smaller than average, it all seems a bit absurd, bordering on offensive, to me. I mean surely the point, here, is that a human body is not public property. It’s nobody’s bloody business what size you are. But it seems to me that Bet Me’s take home message is more concerned with the problems arising when non-fat people are incorrectly assigned to the fat team. To me, and again this is just my take on it, it’s not about whether being a size x, y or z makes you a fattie, or that conventional beauty standards denote x and y as ideal but not z, it’s a much deeper, wider issue about the way people’s bodies are considered acceptable subject matter for open scrutiny.

Also there’s a moment halfway through the book where Cal attempts to convince Min she’s sexy by telling her that men prefer women who aren’t built like coat-hangers. And this annoyed me too. I know plenty of smaller-than-average people who worry about their bodies just as much as anyone else. For God’s sake, can we not acknowledge and celebrate the diversity of humanity without dissing each other along the way? Some people are built like coat hangers: that’s FINE. Some people aren’t: that’s FINE too. It is okay to be fat, thin, large breasted, small breasted, all or none of the above. Somebody will find you beautiful and want to bang you. And as they’re banging you, they’ll not be thinking very much beyond “yay!”

The other thing that was connected to this and slightly troubled me was the attitude to Min’s diet. Min appears to be doing a particularly misery-inducing version of a low carb diet, forced on her by her mother as part of the quest for the mythical size 8. As part of Min’s journey towards self-acceptance and cooking with butter, she allows Cal to tempt her away from the diet and feed her donuts and other sexy things. Now, I get this is nice, as it proves that Cal finds her desirable as she is, not if she was thinner/taller/better, unlike Wanker David, who wouldn’t let her eat desert. But I feel this treads very close to undermining Min’s agency. I know she’s hasn’t precisely chosen the diet for herself, but equally you can’t know what’s going inside someone’s head, you can only respect their decisions as they present them to you. So if someone tells you they’re on a diet, and you respond like Mrs Doyle (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Whbc5YJz7OU), trying to get them to eat a piece of cake, or a bread roll, or whatever, then, frankly, you’re being a knob.

This is the worst analogy/comparison ever but it weirdly reminds me of the rape/non-con scene in To Have & To Hold except with food. According to the text, Rachel feels sufficiently ambivalent about what is being done to her body, and takes just enough secret pleasure in it, for it not to “count” as rape. Similarly, as Min isn’t on her diet because she wants to be and secretly wants to enjoy food, Bet Me seems to be suggesting it’s fine – and even morally right – for Cal to completely ignore her stated wishes and preferences. There’s also a lot of attention paid to how hot Min looks when she’s eating, which I think is meant to underscore how naturally sensual and passionate she is. And I get that too: women enjoying themselves look very very attractive. But it seems a little bit off, to me, to tempt someone who is worried about their weight with donuts just so you can get your rocks off.

But, y’know, better Cal than David. I do get that Cal is trying to show her that she shouldn’t be worrying about her weight. But I just think there’s a middle ground somewhere between establishing that you can admire, respect and desire someone as they are without also riding roughshod over their decisions.

But, let’s face it, this is mere quibbling. There was a lot I really liked about Bet Me, and I especially loved the way it juxtaposed reality and romance, damaging neither. When they finally get round to the sexing, Cal cheerfully ties Min to her sofa with his belt, uttering the line: “I like being in control.” Given how many hoops I’ve seen heroes jumping through in order to get a little fully consensual mild bondage happening, I feel this deserves a big thumbs up. Oh, and afterwards, he says “I normally last longer than seven minutes” which struck me as a nice change from the Wang of Infinite Stamina that seems to come as standard issue here in Romancelandia. It didn’t counteract the eroticism of the scene and I thought it was a neat little acknowledgement of the way sex is basically at its most awesome when you’re with someone you love, and is still satisfying and meaningful, even if it’s not textbook perfect.

Everything I learned about life and love from reading Bet Me: chicken masala is an Italian dish as well as an Indian one, Kate Winslet is an ugly fatty, even fictional weddings are awful, my penis is less inadequate than I previously believed.

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Guest Reviewer

95 Comments

  1. Ros
    May 10, 2013 @ 12:16:07

    Italian: chicken marsala, made from Marsala wine.
    Indian (or, you know, not really): chicken (tikka) masala.

    If the Italian dish is called ‘chicken masala’, that’s a spelling error.

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  2. may
    May 10, 2013 @ 12:28:52

    Another GREAT installment, and another good look at one of my old favorites.

    This book for me straddled the (then popular) ‘chick lit’ with romance. It was a bridge book for m at the time, encouraging me to leave behind the ‘it’s all about her journey, and she has weight issues because she’s not THIN, but really she’s ok, but she doesn’t know it’ chick lit books, and venture more into the full on romance genre.

    The weight/hero who encourages bad food choices/mom who calls her fat heroine was a popular trope at that time, and I’m really glad most authors seem to have left that behind. In most cases it was not in fact a truly chubby or ugly heroine, just someone with self esteem issues. Which was incredibly irritating.

    Anyhow! Keep the reviews coming – I love them!

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  3. Jen
    May 10, 2013 @ 12:30:40

    Delightful review, as usual! :)

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  4. Kari Young
    May 10, 2013 @ 12:44:54

    I love Bet Me. I’ve read it over and over. You touched on a great point, Jennifer Crusie’s worlds are just as important as the love story. She always includes close friends, interesting towns and families you don’t want to be in. I think that’s one of the reasons she stands out in this genre. Also, a chuckle a page is a good ROI.

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  5. Estara Swanberg
    May 10, 2013 @ 13:07:56

    ” Sorry Jessica. It’s not you, it’s Min.”

    This was my bark-out-loud moment this time. Thank you, as always ^^.

    I know I’ve read this and I think it’s still on my shelves so I must have liked it, but it didn’t make such an impression on me that I looked for more books by the author… Probably because of the chick lit/weight factor. Being chubby myself the weight double-standard is not something I enjoy reading about in my light entertainment.

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  6. Liz H.
    May 10, 2013 @ 13:35:19

    “The other thing that struck me as interesting about Bet Me, and I’d be intrigued to know if applies to contemporaries generally, was the degree to which the relationship between Min and Cal, although important, remained quite secondary.”

    This is one of the things I appreciate most about Crusie’s books (in addition to the characters, the humor, the plot… really everything, but we’re not being picky, lol). And that balance is not something I’ve found in many contemporaries. I don’t think it’s all that common in romances of any genre, but it’s more important in contemporaries because it plays such a vital role in making the book realistic, just as the relatability of the characters and the lack of “explosions” in the plot do.

    If you get to a point in your reading when you can read additional books by authors, I’d recommend Welcome to Temptation, and Faking It by Crusie. Both share the same qualities that you enjoyed in Bet Me.

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  7. Isobel Carr
    May 10, 2013 @ 13:49:15

    Welcome to Temptation is my fav Crusie book by far. Best bad sex scene ever!

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  8. Meri
    May 10, 2013 @ 13:53:15

    @Liz H.:

    If you get to a point in your reading when you can read additional books by authors, I’d recommend Welcome to Temptation, and Faking It by Crusie. Both share the same qualities that you enjoyed in Bet Me.

    I just wanted to throw in a word of caution about that: Crusie has a very distinctive voice and it can be too much of a good thing if you glom her. I think this is part of the reason why I didn’t like Bet Me as much as some readers, and why I had issues with Faking It as well; it felt like more of the same after reading Welcome To Temptation (which I loved). She’s an author whose books work better when spaced out a bit. Or, it might be a good idea to try Fast Women, which reads a bit different than most of her contemps.

    Re Min’s weight/shape, I read that as 1. her mother is awful and 2. IIRC, Min isn’t very tall, so her being a size 10/12 (US) looks different than if she were taller. I thought of her as a curvy character who feels that she’s bigger than she truly is. I don’t remember Bet Me all that well, though, so I could be wrong.

    I agree that the feeling of the h/h being part of a group and community rather than the main focus is relatively unique to Crusie – with many authors, if there’s a larger cast, it’s often populated with sequel bait characters or the return of couples from previous books (e.g. SEP with the Stars and other books).

    @Isobel Carr:
    Ha, the dolphin lamp. At least it served a worthy purpose ;)

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  9. AJH
    May 10, 2013 @ 13:56:06

    @Ros:

    Yes, I tweeted my general ignorance on this subject and was, err, swiftly illuminated :) I come from, well, to call it a one horse town would be to oversell the place, in the North East of England so I came late to the luxuries of the middle classes like, err, wine, Italy and food that wasn’t chips ;)

    @may:

    Thank you so much – it was a fun book to read and a fun review to write. I’m honestly not sure if I could sensibly draw the line between contemporary romance and chicklit – does it have something to do with the prominence of shoes in the cover art? I mean, I’ve read Sex and the City but that seemed more like some kind of cold, horrific annihilation of everything we thought valuable, kind of like American Psycho with girls. Is that chicklit? But, if the slightly wider focus is a chicklitty thing, I did really like that. Don’t get me wrong, I know I’m reading romances and, therefore, y’know romance is important, but I genuinely got the sense from Bet Me that if Min and Cal hadn’t got together, Min would have been absolutely fine i.e. that their relationship was an active choice for both them, rather than a … forgone conclusion.

    I was genuinely happy to encounter a heroine who wasn’t built like Jessica Rabbit – don’t get me wrong, I like that too, but every single heroine I’ve met so far has been actively and noticeably teeny tiny. I suppose it’s no different really to all the heroes having enormous wangs and rippling abs but, I don’t know, I personally think even in fantasy land, there’s scope for attractiveness to be a bit, well, broader than that. And I just found the self-esteem stuff intersected really awkwardly with the ‘reality’ of Min’s size and got myself in a muddle :)

    @Jen:

    Thank you – it’s a very delightful book so I’m glad to have done it justice.

    @Kari Young:

    May mentioned above that Crusie straddles chicklit and romance, but Bet Me was really the first book I’ve read that felt like it had a real, meaningful and coherent world aside from the romance. I don’t use that criticise other books at all (whinging about primacy of romance in the romance genre would be *stupid*) but I found it really refreshing. I confess to getting a bit lost in some of that stuff (weddings, shoes, argh!) but it really contributed to the depth of the characters and, actually, the romance I think.

    @Estara Swanberg:

    Oh my terrible puning – I couldn’t resist :P

    Since reading this I’ve encountered a couple of more supposedly fat, completely average heroines – so I’m guessing it’s A Thing *frown face*. But I could imagine it being quite irritating.

    I do, however, think Crusie is an exceptionally artful writer, in many ways – I probably admired Bet Me at least as much, if not more, than I loved it. And sometimes admiration can be quite cold – you see the skill in something and applaud politely from the sidelines – but, in this case, even though there are things in there that didn’t entirely appeal to me, it was a warm and glowy kind of admiration. We’re back to the Fibonacci sequence but I’d be really interested in reading some of her other books.

    @Liz H.:

    Thank you for your take on this – I felt a little wary writing that because it seems a bit a dickish to complain the romance genre has too much romance in it. But I think it’s all about context? I mean, romance (lurve) comes in many forms and I definitely think the all-consuming, we are the centre of each other’s universes thing has its place, and I would never want to diss that, but – for me personally, especially in a ‘realistic’ contemporary setting – I think romance might need that tinge of the everyday about it too? I think there’s something deeply deeply romantic about the idea that you’re basically fine, and your life is basically fine, but somebody else’s presence in it makes it *better*. And I very much got that sense about Min and Cal – it struck me as being kind of grown up, in many ways? The anti-Twilight. And I sort of thought they’d still be together, bickering and eating donuts, 40 years on.

    My Crusie shortlist was basically Bet Me, WTT and Faking It – I ended up going with Bet Me simply because it was available electronically. WTT is in the post though, bwhaha.

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  10. Melissa Blue
    May 10, 2013 @ 14:19:28

    Hmm. I guess the distinction for me about the force-feeding was exactly your depiction of what happened with David when he showed up unannounced. If Min was truly serious about her diet, she’d have shut Cal down. No wavering, no giving in and her deranged-alternating-blind-eyed cat would have ate his leg. Telling yourself self no because it’s what’s “expected” never ended in good results. Though I do believe when trying to say your size is fine, whatever that may be the message is STILL one of the other is bad. Beauty is loaded topic.

    Now I would say I’m surprised the discussion didn’t the role fairy tales played in this story. It plays a huge part, much more than food. It’s the framework that everything is built on. But, community is Cruisie’s stock and trade. Also, Bet Me is my favorite book by hers. Tell Me Lies is the book that stuck with me and made me a fan. I prefer Faking It to Welcome to Temptation, because Dempsey is just dreamy. Fast Women is different, but it never resonated with me like a lot of folks. Not sure why though. Agnes and the Hitman is just divine, but stay away from the audiobook.

    Done rambling for now.

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  11. Gwen Hayes
    May 10, 2013 @ 14:34:56

    Some people are built like coat hangers: that’s FINE. Some people aren’t: that’s FINE too. It is okay to be fat, thin, large breasted, small breasted, all or none of the above. Somebody will find you beautiful and want to bang you. And as they’re banging you, they’ll not be thinking very much beyond “yay!”

    I suppose this quote is too long for a t-shirt but I would wear it.

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  12. cleo
    May 10, 2013 @ 15:18:21

    What a fun take on one of my favorite books – so much to comment on.

    The dinner with Cal’s family – yes! That and the dinner with Min’s family are probably my two favorite scenes, in a book filled with favorite scenes.

    I like the way they role switch continually throughout the book, taking turns to play the rescued and the rescuer, and fighting off life’s dragons together

    Double yes – that’s one of my favorite things about Bet Me, and one of the things I look for in a good romance. I think A Summer to Remember by Mary Balough is on your list and it also has this dynamic (but in a completely different way).

    I had a feeling that you would like Cal. Not to keep pushing more books your way, but Sarah Mayberry (she’s on your list – I checked) also writes contemporaries with normal, good guy heroes.

    I think preferring some zombies or explosions in your romance is more of a preference than a flaw (it’s a feature, not a bug). I think that’s both the strength and weakness of contemporary romance – there are fewer distractions and more focus on the relationship developing between the h/h.

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  13. Patsy
    May 10, 2013 @ 15:23:07

    I had just re-read Bet Me earlier this week and was disappointed not to find a review here! I’m so glad this came! And, I know that many LOVE Bet Me unreservedly, so I’m thrilled this review dealt with the reasons why it’s my least favorite Crusie.

    I am surprised though, that no one mentioned the one thing that gets under my skin everytime I read Bet Me, and that’s Min’s friend Liza. I CANNOT STAND Liza, and the way she takes away Min’s agency every time Min and Cal are kissing. I know it’s supposed to be a kind-of slapstick joke, but it’s not funny to me at all to have a friend be so overbearing under the guise of “feisty” and “protective.” She’s not listening to Min, she’s underestimating Min’s judgment, and undermining and disrespecting Min’s decisions. I think I would actually be less annoyed by all of that if she were actually called out for acting like a whack-job, but all the characters seemed to think “that’s just feisty Liza” which just seemed cartoonish to me.

    Anyway, add me to the list of Welcome to Temptation lovers. Read it with a box of ice-cream bars ready in the freezer. Also it fullfills your action desires with fisticuffs, gunshots, and a murder.

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  14. Ridley
    May 10, 2013 @ 15:23:22

    Also there’s a moment halfway through the book where Cal attempts to convince Min she’s sexy by telling her that men prefer women who aren’t built like coat-hangers.

    While I don’t dislike your answer to this, I see a different problem here. I’ve never liked how romances equate being the target of male desire with acceptance and happiness. “This man wants to sleep with you. You’re now a woman worthy of happiness. Grats!” It’s not confined to BBW heroines. I see it with physically disabled heroines as well. It’s problematic.

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  15. Melanie
    May 10, 2013 @ 15:47:04

    Bet Me is one of my favorites and I’m so glad you enjoyed it.

    Wang of Infinite Stamina! *snort*

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  16. AJH
    May 10, 2013 @ 16:25:55

    @Isobel Carr:

    Intriguing… what the heck is this about a dolphin lamp?!

    @Meri:

    I’m trying to get at least some way into my life before I start re-indulging myself in authors I’ve really enjoyed – but, yes, there’s something a bit relentless about Crusie’s voice (in a good way) that I could see getting wearing if you tried to … err … is the technical term glom?
    I think the weight thing is definitely interpretable – and I was probably quite uncharitable in my reading, to be honest. It was fairly clear that it’s mostly a self-esteem / self-perception issue, but since it seemed to me that the book was reinforcing the idea that the world is inclined to see Min as a fat person, I thought the two things got quite muddled in an unhelpful way. But that was very much my take on it. I mean, feeling you’re bigger than you actually are isn’t the same as being fat – and presenting Min as a fat person just felt a bit off to me. But, like I say, mileage may vary :)

    And I did like the sense of community a lot – I think the secondary characters had a reality to them which is often lacking is sequel bait types, as they just glide on, looking hot and mysterious, and glide off again :)

    @Melissa Blue:

    Yes, that’s a good point – and I am once again failing to give proper credit to heroines for knowing what they want and getting it. And, you’re right, it’s a very loaded topic, difficult to write about and discuss. I guess I was coming at it very much from the outside – you know, how it’s appropriate to treat people when they tell you they’re on a diet.

    I just remember this time when I was out to dinner with a few friends and one our friends struggles with her weight a fair bit (she’s beautiful, but she’s happier when she’s the size she wants to be) and one of our other friends was trying to get her to eat a cake or something. And she was saying no, very firmly and he was pressing her, and being all ‘you know you look sexy right, you should eat this cake’ (not TRYING to be a dick, but being one anyway) and she was ‘Yes, I do want the cake but it’s my choice not to eat the cake’ and he pushed her again and she snapped back: ‘Would you give an alcoholic a drink?’
    So, in short, people have really complicated relationships with food – and I think it’s hard to chart the boundary between what you actually want, and what it’s reasonable to want, and what you want even though, and perhaps because, it’s bad for you. So I think I kind of feel that although you can always shut people down when they’re pressuring you, you shouldn’t HAVE to in the first place.

    But, yeah, messy.

    I really did love the fairy tale themes – the snow globe thing, in particular, was lovely. I had a paragraph about it but I was trying to control my word count, and in the end I just tried to work references to it into the body of the article. I agree fairy tales are more thematically important than weight but weight is more controversial than fairy tales, which is why I ended up talking about it.
    And thank you for the rambling – as rambler myself, I love it :)

    @Gwen Hayes:

    Ironically it would have to be a really large T-shirt ;)

    @cleo:

    I absolutely adored that scene – if I hadn’t already been completely in love with Min, I would have been from that moment on. Reciprocal rescuing is so very romantic to me (and, for the record, I have a reputation for being deeply unromantic so – hah)

    Cal was a breath of fresh air after all the alpha-ing. I genuinely don’t mind heroes stomping around in their big boots, rippling their abs and behaving like 14 year olds, but it was nice to just meet somebody kind of … normal, and attractive at the same time. And I really liked his Hulking Out moment because I’ve done that before, and I was watching and cringing and sympathising at the same time. So I’m definitely looking forward to Mayberry now.

    I’m not sure it’s a question of preferring zombies and explosions, so much as knowing how to read them better and knowing what they mean. I found it slightly difficult to invest in Min’s community, even though it was really well depicted, simply because I’m not used to books that expect / invite me to do that.

    @Patsy:

    Okay … confession time. This is me being the worst reader in the world but I genuinely kept getting Min’s friends muddled up. I could vaguely remember one of them had red hair and dressed like a dragqueen (purple leather with zippers?) and one of them was tiny and looked, and acted, like a Disney princess, but I never got my head around which was which. But, now you mention it, you’re right, one of them (I think it’s dragqueen!friend – is that Liza?) is very very push, more so than the hero with his ‘hey have a donut’ thing. I think, ignoring my hopelessness for now, both of them clearly had quite distinct personalities and individualised relationships with both each other and with Min, which is a big ask from any book really – and probably why Liza comes across as a bit cartoonish sometimes.

    On the other hand, I kind of felt that the love and friendship between the three of them was so well established early on, and their dynamic seemed so comfortable, that I didn’t notice Liza’s behaviour as being quite that awful. But now you’ve mentioned it, I can totally see it.

    As soon as I loop back on myself, WTT is right near the top of the list :)

    @Ridley:

    Yes, you’re absolutely right, I can see how that’s problematic.

    It’s difficult because, for some people, that kind of validation is a fantasy but, at the same time, I can see that, for other people, the idea that it’s the only thing that matters can probably be quite harmful. I think it’s comforting to be told that people will find you attractive no matter what but, equally, being told that your worth is totally dependent on other people wanting to sleep with you is kind of not okay, and I can see how the one can easily lead to the other.

    For what it’s worth, I felt that in BET ME, Cal was a part of Min’s happiness, not the sole source of it, and it’s the only romance I’ve read so far that’s struck that balance, or at least been aware of it.

    @Melanie:

    I did :) Though I think my nerdboy roots are showing…
    Wang of Infinite Stamina + 5…

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  17. Anne Tierney
    May 10, 2013 @ 16:50:34

    @AJH, I wished you lived nearby [Tennessee] so we could be friends. I adore you.
    I want to invite you over for dinner, or coffee, or wine, just so I could talk to you for hours. I enjoy both your reviews and your blog so much, just makes me wish I knew you in real life.
    That is all.

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  18. Cervenka
    May 10, 2013 @ 17:31:04

    I just have to say that as a woman, I find the comment about women not going to weddings alone, coming from a man, was a bit obnoxious, and a clear indication that the reviewer fundamentally doesn’t get at least part of the experience that is being portrayed in the book. How about acknowledging that the issue here is with you the reviewer rather than trying to say the character is somehow being ridiculous? Yes, it’s a minor part of the review, but it’s an important one because it seems to introduce the primary conflict in the book.

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  19. AJH
    May 10, 2013 @ 17:43:19

    @Anne Tierney:

    Awwww, that’s so incredibly nice. Though, you should know, I’m much much more annoying in real life :)

    @Cervenka:

    I am so sorry. It was a throwaway line but I can see it comes across as dismissive, which was not my intention. I’m just so used to weddings being a slightly tedious social occasion that, as far as I’m aware, nobody of my acquaintance, male or female, has ever worried about who they took to one. I certainly didn’t mean to suggest the character was being ridiculous for being worried about it, I just genuinely thought it was a cultural difference – and I meant that to reflect on me as a confused Brit, not stand as a criticism of the character or the book.

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  20. Michelle
    May 10, 2013 @ 17:56:15

    Just as an aside, Faking It is my favorite Crusie. I think it is superior to WTT. The audioversion is well done also.

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  21. cleo
    May 10, 2013 @ 17:57:17

    @AJH: Re romance vs chick lit – chick lit usually has a romance in it, but the love story isn’t as central to the story as the heroine’s personal growth / realization about SOMETHING IMPORTANT about herself / her life, etc. Kind of like a coming of age story with (mostly) grown ups. Chick lit also often is/was written in the first person, completely from the heroine’s pov.

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  22. cleo
    May 10, 2013 @ 17:58:56

    @Michelle: I agree. Faking It and Bet Me are my two faves, and I don’t care much for WTT (or really any of the Crusie’s with one or more dead bodies in them).

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  23. Lori
    May 10, 2013 @ 18:13:13

    I adore Crusie and I think one of the reasons is that her heroines are the kind of women who don’t need the man, they want the man. And if they didn’t get the man, they’d get back on track and still be happy.

    Welcome to Temptation was my first Crusie and I thought it was the best book ever. It’s since been replaced by Crazy For You but still… omg. The best worst sex scene that ever happened…. so agree.

    And regarding Min’s weight: I read books with chubby heroines with an internal caveat that the author doesn’t dare write a size 22 heroine because everyone would be up in arms and screaming about health issues and obesity. But the chubby heroines, I always imagine as closer to a size 20.

    @Ridley: don’t you think that’s a problem in almost all romance? No matter who the heroine is, her worth doesn’t rise until a man wants her. (Again, another reason I love Crusie, her heroines generally don’t need the man to believe in themselves. The man is extra.)

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  24. CD
    May 10, 2013 @ 18:22:25

    Oh, you’re a NORTHERN country lad. OK, everything makes sense now…

    I loved BET ME as well – it was probably one of the only American contemporaries where I really related to Min and her group of mates. It also opened my eyes to the 3 second rule to pulling guys in bars which I was amazed actually worked ;-). Guys are so easy.

    In terms of genre, I think it’s a bit of a strange mix between *good* chicklit and romance. I was never that into chicklit – it’s never a good sign when you want to slap the narrator two paragraphs after having been introduced to her – but the good stuff is like women’s fiction but with laughs and comic set pieces. But yes, the inevitable romance is always more like icing on a cake than the, y’know, chocolate filling.

    The thing I really like about Cruisie’s heroes and heroines is that they generally have FUN sex – not dramatic, intense, painful, angsty, manipulative, guilty or borderline rapey – just fun and maybe slightly dirty. Don’t get me wrong – I read romances party for dramatic and over-the-top antics in the bedroom (and the library, kitchen, garden and the odd carriage), but it is good once in a while to have something a bit more down to earth. As others have mentioned, Crusie’s also not afraid to have bad or even just mediocre sex between the hero and heroine: basically the normal type of sex you have when you’re essentially strangers or when you’re just not really in the mood or when you’re more preoccupied with what wall and floor tiles go together in your new bathroom than sexy times. After a while, you start to get a bit dazed at the standard issue Wang of Infinite Stamina and multiple screaming orgasms. [OK, so would the Wang of Infinite Stamina be a +5 to charisma or to endurance? Or a cocktail?]

    I also love the fact that her heroines don’t always want children. But they always want dogs which I really don’t understand. Come on – cats are so much cuter and much less pathetic and needy. Plus, they don’t eat their own shit.

    If you feel like adding to your sequence, then definitely WELCOME TO TEMPTATION and FAKING IT. I actually really like her older categories though: I bought a cheap bundle which includes “Getting Rid of Bradley, Strange Bedpersons, What the Lady Wants” and “Charlie All Night,” – all of which are FANTASTIC reads. STRANGE BEDPERSONS was one of those books that infuriated me when I finished it but made me think a bit more about the nature of compromise, especially regarding way of life and political beliefs.
    Finally, shoes are pretty. They murder you – both financially and physically – but they are soooooooooooo pretty… I know I can’t be the only one who falls in love with a gorgeous pair of shoes, buys the dress and the accessories to go with it, and then throws the party especially to show them off. Ahem. Other women (or men) do this?

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  25. Raven Ames
    May 10, 2013 @ 18:26:42

    Similarly, I really liked the fact she doesn’t want children. Although certain characters (knobby ones like David) don’t take this seriously, it’s very clear that the book itself does. Nearly every other romance I’ve read has taken it pretty much for granted that heroines naturally want babies, naturally love children and are naturally nurturing women-type people. Of course there’s nothing wrong with wanting these things (and lots of people-type people do) but when it’s unquestioned or presented as an inherent part of being, y’know, a woman, it strikes me that it could be pretty depressing, to say nothing of problematic.

    This is exactly why I stay away from most romance-only contemporaries – hea does not equal pregnancy and babies for me. Ever. I would also like to see more hea that end in partnership, not traditional marriage, but the kiddy-because-I’m-a-woman-in-lurv thing is the part of the book that irritates the hell out of me every time.
    This is also the part of your review where I stopped reading because I’m totally sold on reading my first Jennifer Crusie.
    Thanks for all your entertaining and awesome reviews!

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  26. CD
    May 10, 2013 @ 18:31:31

    Just addressing the more serious point about weight – it’s been years since I read BET ME but my opinion is that weight issues are not primarily about attracting men: they’re about trying to live up to some impossible standard of what a “woman” be, which in our culture revolves mostly around what she should look like. There is a certain element of what others (mostly other women to be honest) think about you, but it’s mostly about what you think about yourself – that’s why is completely bound up with your own confidence and self-esteem.

    Most women, of whatever shape and size, have body image issues to some degree or other: even if it’s waking up on a random miserable day and feeling depressed and fat as a result. It doesn’t matter if we’re already in a stable loving relationship or we have guys coming out of the woodwork ready to kneel at our feet at a snap of the fingertips. Generally, once we reach a certain age, we’re aware that the guys worth having really don’t care that much about body shape – if a guy likes you, all you need to do is show a bit of boob and/or thigh, and you’re sorted. And good sex anyway doesn’t depend at all on body shape.

    But confidence in yourself as a woman? That’s difficult.

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  27. Anne Tierney
    May 10, 2013 @ 18:34:23

    @AJH:
    @AJH, you should totally NOT have to apologize for your point of view on this since you CLEARLY stated that maybe it was a culture thing, and that anyone reading this knows you are a man.

    Buried Comment (Reason: Ppl should feel free to take issue with the points of view expressed in the review)   Show

    I found it ridiculous that you were taken to task for such a non-issue.

    As a woman, I think it is ridiculous and irritating that any woman feels she HAS to have a date at a wedding, be it that of a family or friend [this doesn't mean that I don't realize most women feel this way, I simply hate/resent that it's true]. But taking offense to a man not understanding why women make such a big deal out of the issue and rebuking him for it is silliness.

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  28. leslie
    May 10, 2013 @ 18:42:58

    @Anne Tierney: Can I come too? I’ll bring lots of wine.

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  29. Ros
    May 10, 2013 @ 18:49:52

    @Lori: I’m not Ridley, but I’ll answer anyway. I definitely don’t think that’s a problem inherent in the genre. Not every heroine has issues with self-worth or self-esteem, and even those that do can find their worth in something other than the hero’s appreciation of them. Personally, I like the books where she knows her worth from the start and won’t settle for anything less than she deserves.

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  30. Anne Tierney
    May 10, 2013 @ 18:59:51

    @leslie: Yes! Yes! Leslie, please come! I’ll have to start a fund to pay for AJH’s plane fare and sleeping bag for his sleeping arrangements on my livingroom floor. But once I have that all set up, You too are invited to join our dinner +wine+coffee chat-a-thon!!!
    Wouldn’t it be awesome!?

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  31. Amy Andrews
    May 10, 2013 @ 19:02:55

    AJH welcome to the crack that is Crusie.

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  32. Mary
    May 10, 2013 @ 19:06:45

    I love this book. Also, I’m a size twelve and although I know that’s not fat, I have had insecurities about my weight before…especially if I’m trying to wear something designed for a skinny girl. I thought that parts of Min’s problem was that she was wearing things not designed for a curvy woman.

    My favorite part of this book is actually the epilogue. I don’t want to spoil it so ill just say…best romance novel epilogue ever!

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  33. Jennifer W.
    May 10, 2013 @ 19:50:44

    Dear AJH
    I just wanted to say that I really enjoy your reviews and look forward to them each week. I agree with your reactions most of the time. It is nice that you have finally found a romance hero that you like. I think one of the most interesting differences between men reading romance and women reading romance is how they identify with and enjoy the characters. One of the reasons I read romances is so I can vicariously feel the emotions of the heroine as some wildly attractive guy pushes her up against a door and ravishes her. I get all the thrill without dealing with the reality of living with that kind of extreme alphaness all the time. (Like I doubt any of them would do their own dishes.) I have never tried to identify with a hero as it seems you are trying to do. It makes me give a second thought to how attractive these hero’s really are, and how much of my acceptance of them is based on the tropes of the genre and relying on the certainty of the HEA.
    I look forward to seeing how more books work out for you.
    Good Luck :)

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  34. Kaetrin
    May 10, 2013 @ 20:10:27

    I love Bet Me. It is my favourite Crusie, so you know, disclaimer. I thought that Min had been beaten down by her mother all her life. Her mother just used weight to do it. I think Min saw herself through her mother’s lens and then Cal came along and she saw herself through his lens. And I thought this helped her with self-acceptance. I didn’t see that Min was only okay once Cal came along. He was a catalyst IMO. But, if she was okay when he came along, the same thing could be said for Cal too I think. I thought the juxtaposition with Cal’s own self esteem issues made things pretty equal between them that way.

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  35. Jo
    May 10, 2013 @ 23:48:22

    @ Gwen Hayes. I’d be happy with t-shirt that said “Somebody will find you beautiful and want to bang you. And as they’re banging you, they’ll not be thinking very much beyond “yay!”” Best Line Evah, I snort-laughed at that one :)
    Thank you AJH for yet another entertaining review!

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  36. Melissa Blue
    May 11, 2013 @ 01:07:21

    Back for another ramble…

    Now, I don’t entirely disagree with you. I’ve witnessed something similar to what you described. It’s uncomfortable to watch in real life. You want to say, “Hey, mofo, didn’t you just hear them say NO?” You shouldn’t decide someone’s course of their life. But, at the same time I’d be remiss in being a good friend if my friend’s goal was simply to be skinny. Not healthy, which I think is a huge distinction. Now, I’m watching my friend suffer and be miserable to reach some unattainable goal to feel beautiful about herself…I think that’s the stinking point for me.

    I am not beautiful, loveable unless I am X. I won’t be a beautiful bridesmaid unless I’m in a size 8. Men like David won’t find me desirable unless I’m size X. (Even though men like David make my skin crawl anyway.) So, I must go without food until I reach that goal.

    While reading the book I didn’t want Min’s goal for her. I found her lovable. Even without the added POV of Cal seeing her, I could understand why men would find her desirable, despite her prickliness. And scene after scene she so wanted to be everything she wasn’t because that’s why she wasn’t lovable. (The whole thing with her hair is an example.) Feed her a damn Krispy Kreme, which is in fact sugary crack, is pretty much how I felt. I wanted Min to love Min. I wanted her to stop saying no to risks and just go for it. If that meant eating chicken marsala, or a hot dog or ice cream…She denied herself all “good” things because she didn’t meet X expectation of beauty.

    Related to that, the whole perception of Disney heroines and fairy tales is that the heroine deserves love because she’s beautiful and kind…Yeah, Min needed to not be X for this story to work. And because this book is a romance, Cal had to be the Prince who gave her food, and a weird cat and the snow globe she lost. This book is nothing short of brilliant, but I can totally understand how it could make someone uncomfortable to take out the themes and look at them. I do. Really.

    But (you had to see that coming), I’m bringing my own baggage to this story. I have seen friends in complete misery over their weight, dieting and such. I’ve been that friend. Every now and again someone needs to say have a goddamn bread roll. Not the whole basket, mind you. And Cal was that friend. Food is not love. It’s nourishment, but to leech out any enjoyment out of it to meet an expectation of beauty you really don’t want??? The only person who really wants it is your mother??? That’s just insane. Bring on the bread rolls if that’s the case.

    In short, I get why it would be a sticking point. For me, the context excuses any prickery on Cal’s part.

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  37. Meri
    May 11, 2013 @ 01:25:56

    @Gwen Hayes:
    You’d just need to get the font and spacing right and it would totally work. Somebody needs to make this happen :)

    @Cervenka:

    I just have to say that as a woman, I find the comment about women not going to weddings alone, coming from a man, was a bit obnoxious, and a clear indication that the reviewer fundamentally doesn’t get at least part of the experience that is being portrayed in the book.

    I’m a woman and I agree with AJH that this is likely a cultural rather than a gender difference. There is no expectation that one bring a date to a wedding where I live, and some people who are in relationships prefer to go on their own (it’s less expensive that way). Whenever I come across a book or a movie in which the lack of a wedding date is a major issue, I don’t get it either, but I figure some readers will. I can’t relate to every experience every character I read about does, and AJH can’t either – and there’s nothing wrong with pointing that out or noting that cultural differences (or other reasons ) may be the reason.

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  38. mari
    May 11, 2013 @ 06:39:53

    Ok, I wasn’t going to say anything, but something has been sticking in my craw all night, so I figure I need to get it out or my craw will become too distressed…
    Why is it socially acceptable to say “I don’t like children”, either for AJH, or for Min in this book? If AJH had substituted. Blacks, Jews, women or homosexuals,for “children,” I doubt it would have passed muster (and rightly so) here.

    Look, if a character doesn’t want to have kids, fine. If one doesn’t particularly want to be around kids, or doesn’t want any of their own, fine. But to dismiss a whole class of human beings with a shrug as “dislikable?” Not fine. And then to have absolutly no comments whatsoever about it from the same bloggers and commentators that have endless discussions about white privlege, fetishizaton, homophobia, et all….but this particular bit of prejudice, is ok? And even liberating?!
    I have nothing against people or characters who don’t want kids, whatever the reason. But lumping a whole group of people together as
    “dislikable,” is disturbing and makes me very uncomfortable.

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  39. AJH
    May 11, 2013 @ 07:14:35

    @Michelle:

    Bet Me, Faking It and Welcome to Temptation were the 3 books on my list – in keeping with the theme of Bet Me, it basically came down to random chance which one I picked, and Bet Me was the only one available electronically in this part of the world. But I’m definitely going to loop back to Faking it and WTT.

    @cleo:

    Ah hah! Thank you. Now I see why Bet Me straddles the romance / chicklit border. There are some scenes from Cal’s perspective, but – even though it’s third person – it’s heavily Min-focused, and there’s plenty going on in her life besides the possibility of a bonking a hot dude.

    @Lori:

    Yes, exactly – I found that really striking when I was reading. It’s in no way a generalised complaint about the genre as a whole, since y’know, romance is kind of the point of, well, romance but I didn’t feel the focus on Min, and her life, and her personal journey detracted from the romantic-ness of the romance at all. On the contrary, it was kind of nice to see people together from two – basically – sorted places, and being the stronger for it. I think the more all-consuming type of romance as its place as well, don’t get me wrong, but because both Min and Cal were balanced, adult sort of characters (in spite of their moments of silliness and insecurity) I genuinely believed in their, err, HEA (omg, look I used a term), since it seemed to be coming from a place of maturity and self-acceptance as well as passion and obsession and all those Wuthering Heighty things.

    I absolutely have to read the best worst sex scene ever. Again, one of the things I really liked about Be Me was the reality of the sexing – again, there’s nothing wrong with wild fantasies, but I enjoyed reading a depiction of an encounter two people might actually have. And, again, I didn’t find it damaged the eroticism in the slightest. On the contrary. Ahem.

    Re the weight thing, that’s a good point, I hadn’t thought of that. Although it does also strike me as somewhat problematic, because it seems to reinforce the very ideas it’s meant to challenge. It’s kind of like back when you could only put gay people in things as long as you didn’t admit they were actually having sex.

    @CD:

    Ahaha, yes, my secret’s out, northern boy makes good etc. etc. There’s still a part of me that believes the Wall’s Viennetta is the height of culinary sophistication.

    I keep trying to remember if I’ve read any chicklit – though if I suspect, if I have, it’s genre breakout stuff that gets “this is now a movie” type attention. I know I’ve read Sex and the City but I can’t believe that’s chicklit – isn’t it, I don’t know, more rightly horror or something? Honestly, it’s one of the bleakest, most depressing, most meaningless books I think I’ve ever read (I assumed, at the time, this was deliberate). And I have a feeling I attempted to read The Devil Wears Prada on account of the movie – which was completely terrible but I actually own it on DVD because Meryl Streep is so unspeakably radiant in it. And, yes, I am that shallow. And I made a half-hearted attempt to read Bridget Jones, disliked her intensely and gave up. So my entirely prejudiced, slightly offensive and probably just plain wrong understanding of chicklit is that it’s books about people I can neither identify with or want to bonk – so, bit of a bust, frankly.

    Min, by contrast, was wonderful, and not remotely self-obsessed or obnoxious. But, then, I also got the sense (based on nothing) she was a bit older than your Bridget Jones or your Anne Hathaway (sorry, I have no idea what her character was called, I only remember Meryl Streep).

    And, yes, I definitely found the sex scenes an interesting, ah, change of pace. I think there’s a certain extravagant charm to the whole immediate ‘omg awesome orgasms for everybody all the time’ type encounters but I enjoyed the intersection of eroticism and realism. I agree that realism intersects, occasionally non-consensually, with eroticism all the time in everyday life so it’s sometimes nice to escape that, but I thought Cal and Min together were genuinely sexy.

    (though I’m seriously getting sick of Wrath’s erection in Dark Lover – it’s like Marvin K Mooney, it just won’t go the fuck away)

    I suspect the Wang of Infinite Stamina is an endurance only buff. I don’t necessarily think it helps you get people into bed, it just helps you, err, keep them there. The Smoulder of Implied Sexpertise might boost your charisma though…
    I was warned off STRANGE BEDPERSONS. Read anything but that, everybody said. And now I’m just intrigued … dammit.

    Sorry, this comment is taking forever, and I am cementing my reputation as someone who can’t STFU.

    Re the weight thing: I totally get what you’re saying here. Just to be overly categorical about it (sorry) I guess there are 3 possible, equally valid interpretations of what’s going on here:

    1. Min has body image issues because everybody do
    2. Min has body image issues because she’s ‘objectively’ fat (Lori above suggest that size 14 can actually be read as romance code for size 20)
    3. Min has body image issues because her crazy mother believes she is ‘objectively fat’ when actually other people are objectively fat

    I think 1 and 2 are both okay, but I think, when I was reading, I thought it was 3 (I could be wrong on this) and all 3 does is shift the unrealistic beauty norms two dresses sizes to the right. I think it sort of provokes a Goldilocks and the 3 bears approach to body shape: Min is hot because she’s not a coat-hanger and not fat, whereas basically dress size should be about what size you dress, not about how attractive you look.

    But, as I say, this is all interpretative and I think both 1 and 2 are also valid readings.

    @Raven Ames:

    Oh, my pleasure – I just hope you enjoy the book. Actually, I’m sure you will, it’s awesome, and you’ll be glad to know there’s not insta!marriage either, just two people getting together :) (though, there is an epilogue which sorta…Err, I hope that’s not a spoiler…)

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  40. AJH
    May 11, 2013 @ 08:43:51

    @Anne Tierney:

    I really appreciate that, but I’m not upset in the slightest and I genuinely don’t believe it was a silly comment. I can totally see why someone might be annoyed by me trying to get a cheap laugh out of a social pressure which is probably real to them. I was just genuinely confused because I go to a very different sort of wedding – ‘date to a wedding’ is simply not a thing in the circles in which I move. If you’re married or in a long term relationship you bring your partner, but otherwise you just rock up and don’t worry about it – in fact, there’s a sort a cultural stereotype over here that a wedding is a good place to meet people. Four Weddings and a Funeral being the obvious example.

    And I absolutely don’t mind it when people criticise the things I say – I’m happy to be held accountable, and I really don’t want to write things that upset people. And when I’m insensitive or obtuse I want to know, so I can try not to do it again.

    Also you’d better have a sofa I can drape myself on – I’m damned if I’m sleeping on the living room floor ;)

    @Amy Andrews:

    Oh, she is the highest quality crack :)

    @Mary:

    Frankly, I think everyone – regardless of size of gender – has days of feeling grossly unattractive.

    And weight is a complicated issue, in life as well as in fiction. I think there are lots of ways to interpret the way it’s depicted in Bet Me, and I suspect I was somewhat uncharitable.

    And, yes, yes, the epilogue is lovely, that whimsical touch of fairy tale to round everything off.

    @Jennifer W.:

    Thank you – I’m so glad you’re enjoying the reviews, I enjoy writing them a lot, and I love the discussions. I think identification is quite a complex issue – though I think its reading habits, more than anything else, that play into it. Not to over-generalise massively (though, of course, I am), in the majority of books that aren’t romances, you’re expected to identify with male characters and want to bonk the women. And I think – as Laura Kinsale suggested in her comments two articles back – it can potentially be much more fluid than that.

    I’m certainly not complaining about the portrayal of dudes in the genre as a whole (that would be grossly hypocritical, considering the way women are often portrayed elsewhere) but because they’re often solely presented as objects of desire, their behaviours are so very consumed by the heroine, and wanting to shag the heroine, that there’s not really much else going on in the brain department. I think, ideally, identification is non-gendered – and I certainly have no issues in identifying with female characters (though I do occasionally get sidetracked by wanting, to, err, bonk them instead…) but, again, the way they are often treated by heroes is less a fantasy for me than a disconcerting enactment of everything I was taught not to do in the vicinity of a woman ever.

    That said, I can completely see how it could be, as you say, a very real thrill to enjoy that sort of behaviour in a safe space. And have it re-interpreted into something satisfying and validating. And, honestly, I think that’s totally cool.

    PS – if I could draw I would love to do a series of alphas, looking angry and brooding with their shirts off, forcefully performing basic household tasks.

    Lord Hawkswang thrust Jemina against the wall and pressed his hard body against her. “If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times, the cutlery drawer goes knives, then forks, then spoons.”

    @Kaetrin:

    I definitely agree that Cal was the catalyst for change, not the source of the change, and I think that distinction is important. And I genuinely thought that there was a good balance between them – mutual saving and seeing the best in each other, and all that lovely stuff :)

    I think the weight thing is really complicated, and I think there are a bunch of ways to interpret it, all of which are supportable and valid, and come with a different set of problems.

    @Melissa Blue:

    I completely see where you’re coming from – we’re sort of debating hypotheticals here, so I think there’s a limit to how far you can take it. I absolutely agree that watching someone making themself miserable is bloody awful – but I would like to hope that there was somewhat of challenging harmful expectations and undermining their agency. It’s kind of like when somebody you care about is dating someone you think is a dick – you can’t TELL them, because that makes you a terrible friend and always end up badly anyway, you can only sort of support them and hope you’ve got it wrong.

    And I agree with you about Min – I adored the woman to pieces and, of course, I wanted her to know she was beautiful and eat donuts and be happy. But, given my general concerns about agency, and respecting people’s decisions (even if you personally feel they’re bad decisions) made me a slightly apprehensive of Cal’s behaviour as a donut-enabler. But that’s just me. And I think, like anything else, it comes down to interpretation (and we all bring our own baggage to texts –I bought mine, too) and I can totally see your reading too.

    Also I should emphasise my discomfort was mild – I completely loved the book.

    @mari:

    I’m so sorry to have upset you but I don’t think your analogy really works. Childhood is a stage of development that all human beings go through, and people in that stage of development are – quite rightly – treated differently to adults. It isn’t socially acceptable to say that Jews, black people or homosexuals shouldn’t be allowed to vote or drive cars, but we have laws restricting the age at which you can do these things. If you freaked out because your best friend told you they were having sex with a Jew, that would you make raging bigot, whereas the same very much would not apply in the case of a child.

    Having said that, you’re right that I did actually use ‘don’t like children’ as a shorthand for ‘do not want my own children’ and, I agree, that there’s an extent to which it’s problematic. I think, even as a man, I find it very hard to get people to accept that I genuinely don’t want to have kids (and I imagine this must be even more difficult for women) so I tend to adopt a more extreme position than I actually occupy. I once went on a school trip to Spain and one of my friends had to tell people they were allergic to meat because, at the time, there wasn’t any sort of vegetarian culture in Spain and the idea choosing not to eat meat was completely alien to people. I think I feel sort of like that.

    But, on reflection, it occurs to me that hostility towards children overlaps uncomfortably with hostility towards women, because it’s still women who do the overwhelming majority of child rearing. And, actually, being hipster-dismissive of children is being hipster-dismissive of other people’s perfectly valid choices.

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  41. MD
    May 11, 2013 @ 08:58:27

    Great review! And it’s good of you to take on the body image stuff. Some time ago I was re-reading a book in my favorite series, JD Robb “Immortal in Death” and did a double-take. Eve is being measured for her wedding dress, in the first chapter: “height, 5 feet 9 inches; weight, one hundred and twenty”. Hmm… I am 5’10, and I looked really thin when I was around 140 lbs, never mind 120. Eve is a tough cop who routinely takes on bad guys in hand-to-hand combat, somehow. Even if she weren’t, a quick trip to a BMI calculator will tell you that she is underweight. It’s scary to have this kind of body image crap sneak into romance.

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  42. Janine
    May 11, 2013 @ 09:03:04

    This book was okay, but not as romantic or as funny as Welcome to Temptation, which is the only Crusie book I’ve loved. Bet Me had snappy dialogue and I liked the epilogue, but I’m a bit mystified by its popularity.

    I thought the treatment of the issues Min faced was superficial. The confusion over the different ways the book could be read, which you point out in comment #39, didn’t help.

    I also got tired of reading about the same foods over and over again. I don’t like to eat the same thing for more than two meals in a row, and it got to the point where I was saying “Not chicken marsala and Krispy Kreme donuts again!”

    I did love that they remained happily childless. That was great. This book was a good way to pass the time but all in all, not a huge favorite of mine.

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  43. Aisha
    May 11, 2013 @ 10:11:18

    I also didn’t love this book, and my enjoyment of it was, if I remember correctly, tempered by a few things. One was the way that food was almost fetishized here – I get that Min’s relationship with food was a metaphor for her path to self-actualisation or something like that, but it was just a bit too much for me. The other related thing was that Cal was reminiscent (to me) of those malignant feeder types (sorry, too lazy to look up the technical term) – but maybe I had been watching too many documentaries about that at the time. The main problem though was that I felt so terribly sorry for the villainess of the piece.

    And my two cents on a few other things – the apparently overwhelming importance of having a date for a wedding is not something I can relate to either, and, in any case, I personally cannot stand the obsession with weddings and the attendant pressures to get ‘the big day’ perfect or as close to it as possible – to me it is generally a waste of time, energy and money (I am not being dismissive of marriage here, only weddings that go far beyond the understandable social, cultural and/or religious need to solemnify and celebrate a marriage). With children, I am not in a place in my life where I want any, now or in the foreseeable future, and I do appreciate fiction that validates that choice (even if I do not need it).

    Thanks for the review :).

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  44. Jody
    May 11, 2013 @ 10:19:10

    YA’LL!!!!
    I made the trip over to AJH’s blog and you know what? He’s made a RPG out of These Old Shades!

    As if that’s not enough of the awesome, he’s invented a parlor game based on E. F. Benson’s Mapp and Lucia.

    I need a moment.

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  45. Anne Tierney
    May 11, 2013 @ 10:24:41

    @AJH:
    *Four Weddings and a Funeral being the obvious example*.– that was the example that came to my mind as well when you were making your point. I didn’t mean to say that someone voicing their opinion is silliness, I simply get frustrated by how quick society as a whole is to take offense at every teeny tiny thing. There simply is no way to ever voice any sort of opinion , no matter how delicately, that someone won’t find some reason to be offended. It’s that whole deal that I get frustrated by. That and I tend to be protective of people I like and don’t want you to be chased off from doing these awesome reviews, due to the fact that no matter what you say, you are put in the position to apologize to someone for your opinion. This bothers me.
    And yes, I do have a leather sofa you can sleep on, but it’s most comfortable if you aren’t over 5’10″ or 5’11″.

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  46. Anne Tierney
    May 11, 2013 @ 10:32:32

    @MD: No kidding! I had that same reaction when I read Eve’s description in that scene as well. Being 5’9″, I personally would look a lot like a Concentration Camp victim at 120 lbs. Even at 140 my hip bones stuck out painfully. So, yeah, I would really prefer authors simply avoid giving their characters a specific weight or dress size and simply say they are healthy, or in this case, wish they weighed 10 pounds less, and leave the actual numbers up to our own imaginations.

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  47. Jane Lovering
    May 11, 2013 @ 11:07:19

    @AJH

    Any chance you could do a post about the differences between US Romantic fiction and UK Romantic fiction? In some areas there seem to be massive narrative variances between our two nations – I’m still aiming to do my PhD in the contrasts between the two (not that I’m asking for you to do the work for me, but I think it might be interesting). Quite a few of the things that are complained about, not just by you but by other reviewers, in the Romance sphere of the US are not so ‘trope-y’ in the UK, and vice-versa. Here I’m thinking particularly of ‘starting with action’, which is far more of a US-based convention, and something that some people love and others hate – and I’m a boggled by seeing how many US readers bemoan the fact that ‘all romances start with action and the couple on the first page’. I want to shout ‘well, read some British romances, then!’ But I don’t, because people already think I’m mad, without yelling at random web-pages.
    What I’m basically saying, I think, is – any chance of a ‘compare and contrast’ with some home-grown Romances?
    Jane – another occupant of North East Britain

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  48. CD
    May 11, 2013 @ 13:28:57

    @AJH:

    “Ahaha, yes, my secret’s out, northern boy makes good etc. etc.”

    You mean by becoming a poncy southerner ;-)? I mean, you drape yourself on sofas…

    On chicklit – the genre by definition is about girls in their early/mid-twenties “finding themselves” so it’s up to you whether you’re up for that. Most of it seems to be pretty pants to be perfectly honest. I couldn’t finish BRIDGET JONES’ DIARY – even in my early twenties, I felt she was immature and just bloody annoying in her self-obsession and lack of any type of direction. I know it was (probably) meant as a satire but there’s only so much of that I can take. SEX AND THE CITY (the book) is definitely not chicklit – at least not as I would classify it. If you want to give it a try, I would track down Marian Keynes – she writes chicklit with rather more depth (I remember liking RACHEL’S HOLIDAY or LUCY SULLIVAN GOT MARRIED). Or Katie Fforde writes slightly older chicklit.

    And yes, Meryl Streep – oh yes… Although I have to warn you that your grandmother obsession is coming through again.

    “(though I’m seriously getting sick of Wrath’s erection in Dark Lover – it’s like Marvin K Mooney, it just won’t go the fuck away)”

    You’ve been reading that book for almost 3 years now – what happened to your vaunted rapid reading superpower? It’s like you’ve been misrepresenting yourself on the internet – how dare you do such a thing!! Do what I did – make it into a drinking game: every time Wrath’s Wang of Infinite Stamina makes an appearance, down a shot. Down two when you come across faux/overproduced “gansta-rap” speak. Down three (and switch to dirty tequila) when they say “my brother”. I guarantee, the book will then start to make sense.

    And this little gadget might help – I don’t know what your real name is but type it in here and henceforth be rechristened on these boards. As mentioned over at Smart Bitches – OMMFG This is Soh Mhuhch Fhuhn…
    http://facstaff.unca.edu/pbahls/BDBNameGenerator.html

    “I suspect the Wang of Infinite Stamina is an endurance only buff. I don’t necessarily think it helps you get people into bed, it just helps you, err, keep them there. The Smoulder of Implied Sexpertise might boost your charisma though…”

    What magical implement [ahem] is David Bowie’s Area? I guarantee you at least a +10 million to charisma… And would the Wang of Infinite Stamina give you endurance against a horde of Goblin Kings?

    On the weight issue, I don’t remember BET ME well enough to comment on how Min’s weight issues are handled. But to me, weight issues with women are do intrinsically bound up with self esteem issues that they’re self reinforcing and difficult to separate. To me, it doesn’t really matter if she really is a size 20 or not, it’s about her own confidence.

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  49. CD
    May 11, 2013 @ 13:55:58

    @Janine:

    I know where you’re coming from – although I really loved BET ME, it’s fairly frothy and the type of book I enjoyed but probably wouldn’t pick up again. WELCOME TO TEMPTATION is probably my favourite Crusie but I really really like FAKING IT as well.

    @Aisha:

    I think it must be an American cultural thing. Even when I have boyfriends, unless we have friends in common or I’m afraid of knowing no one there, I generally go to weddings alone anyway and that’s totally normal. It’s cheaper and easier to organise (especially with overseas weddings) and gives you a chance to hang out with your mates which can be a bit awkward when you drag along an unknown significant other.

    @Jane Lovering:

    I’m not AJH but aside from Mills and Boon/Barbara Cartland, I don’t think we have American style “romances” in the UK. The closest is probably chicklit but there, the romance is not really front and centre the way it is in US romances – so you can have false romantic leads at the beginning or the focus on family issues/personal development etc. And the way sex is portrayed in popular media is so different: in the UK, sex tends to be behind closed doors or else terrible and/or comedic. That’s probably a reflection on the attitude towards sex generally in the UK – no Wangs of Infinite Stamina or Multiple Crest Orgasms allowed here [sigh]…

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  50. Ridley
    May 11, 2013 @ 14:12:09

    @Anne Tierney:

    That and I tend to be protective of people I like and don’t want you to be chased off from doing these awesome reviews

    If he were the sort who could be chased off by someone pointing out his potential gender bias,

    Buried Comment (Reason: personal attack)   Show

    it’d be good riddance.

    I wish you’d let the guy speak for himself and stop trying to shut down dissenting commenters.

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  51. M-Moo
    May 11, 2013 @ 15:03:51

    @CD:

    That drinking game sounds immense! It would certainly have made Dark Lover a much more enjoyable read for me! Oh the faux gangsta speak – it was so painful to read! *Cringe*

    Re chick-lit and Marian Keyes – I totally agree! I loved the Bridget Jones movie, but the book, not so much. I had a reverse experience with Book 2 however – Edge of Reason the film was horrible but the Colin Firth interview Bridget does in Book 2 is one of the funniest scenes I have ever read – its worth reading that on its own – I was crying with laughter!

    As far as Marian Keyes goes, RACHEL’S HOLIDAY is my absolute favourite, closely followed by LAST CHANCE SALOON and ANYBODY OUT THERE?.

    Back in my chick-lit binge reading phase I also enjoyed Lisa Jewell’s RALPH’S PARTY and VINCE & JOY, Sophie Kinsella’s non-SHOPAHOLIC titles and Anna Maxted.

    @AJH:

    Loving the reviews. It’s hilarious seeing romance from a male perspective and you have a great turn of phrase! :-)

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  52. Anne Tierney
    May 11, 2013 @ 15:13:12

    @Ridley: much the way you are trying to shut me down?
    Interesting…

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  53. Anne Tierney
    May 11, 2013 @ 15:15:12

    @Anne Tierney: of course, it doesn’t escape my notice that in saying this bothers me, I too have been easily offended. So I guess I rest my case.

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  54. CD
    May 11, 2013 @ 15:19:14

    @M-Moo:

    OMG – there’s a Colin Firth interview?!! Did that make it into the film – I might have to watch/read it for that scene alone…

    “Oh the faux gangsta speak – it was so painful to read! *Cringe*”

    LOL! It’s about as “street” as a bunch of Old Etonians at a college bop dancing [I use the word loosely] and singing aloud to Pulp’s COMMON PEOPLE. In full sub fusc (ie university gowns). Very VERY painful.

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  55. JessP
    May 11, 2013 @ 15:32:42

    My apologies – I would love to read AJH’s blog, but I have no idea where to find it. I probably missed a reference to it along the way. Thanks for any directions on how to get there. @AJH, thank you very much for your reviews. I very much enjoy reading them.

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  56. Anne Tierney
    May 11, 2013 @ 15:38:59

    @JessP: click on his highlighted initials on any of his posts on this page and it will take you right to his blog.

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  57. AJH
    May 11, 2013 @ 16:03:27

    @MD:

    Really glad you liked the review :)

    Y’know, I would never have noticed that. I mean, first of all we work in stones over here, not pounds, but I have literally no idea what’s presumed a reasonable weight for a particular height. I’d just have assumed 120 lbs was heroine size.

    The only reason I dug into it for Bet Me was because it was a big deal, and since we’re constantly being told about Min’s mission to get into a size 8 dress, I thought I probably ought to know what a size 8 dress actually meant.

    @Janine:

    I didn’t have much to compare it against, just the other books I’ve read, none of which were contemporaries so my reaction was likely some distorted. However, I’d just finished THATH and this book was light and funny and clever, so I sort of fell needily into its arms, looking for laughs and cuddles.

    I think whether or not the treatment of Min’s weight was superficial largely comes down to which interpretation you personally subscribe. I don’t think it’s necessarily confusing for a book to sustain multiple perspectives, I think it’s just the nature of fiction. I think I interpreted the portrayal of Min’s weight quite uncharitably but quite a few commenters have plausibly argued for an alternative perspective.

    But, yes, there was A LOT of chicken marsala in this book. I feel I should probably learn to make it or something …

    @Aisha:

    I can see where you’re coming from. I did see Cal’s enabling as slightly dubious (since it trampled on Min’s agency) but I read it as slightly comical/annoying “go on go on go” Mrs Doyle style, rather than malignant feeding. I guess it just depends on what you think about diets in general – because I think lots of people feel dieting is knee-jerk bad, and therefore it’s okay to pressure people into eating, but … yeah … I kind of think you have respect people’s decisions.

    There was a lot of food stuff, yes, but I honestly found it sexy rather than fetishistic – though, again, I can see you got that from because Cal is ALWAYS stuffing Min with donuts. I just saw it as a reflection of their sensuality and it’s nice to see food being a source of pleasure, in fiction as well as life.

    I’m totally with you on weddings though – hate the things. And I know this makes me a soulless curmudgeon but there we go. Of course I respect that people might want to get married – and I recognise it’s something they might to celebrate with friends and loved ones and that’s, uh, nice. But, it’s not very much not for me.

    @Anne Tierney

    I probably shouldn’t invest quite so much in Hugh Grant films as the source of all knowledge – it’s clearly given me something of a warped perspective on life and weddings ;)
    I promise I’m not going to stop writing reviews because people occasionally challenge me – that’s their right, and I’m cool with it :)

    Hmmm… it sounds like your sofa and I aren’t going to be friends…

    @Jane Lovering:

    Gosh, I have to tell you, this really isn’t my forte. You’d be much better off addressing that question to, well, basically anyone else on this site.

    I’m still very much a newbie romance reader so I can barely tell my romance arse from my romance elbow, let alone draw meaningful distinctions between US and UK romances. For that matter, I’m not sure I’ve read any romances written by UK authors (my god, I’m prejudiced against my own nation).

    I mean obviously the incomparable Ms Heyer is English but … uh … other than that I’m coming up completely blank. I had no idea there was such variation though.

    Who are the big English romance writers?

    @CD:

    Oh, yes, I ponce with the best of them.

    I’m not sure I’m quite ready to take on chicklit yet – maybe when I’m dead.

    Also I’ve now cast Meryl Streep as Genevieve Trent in my perfect Lord of Scoundrels movie…

    And, yes, I admit it, I’ve been Dark Lover for bloody ever. The truth is, I read about a chapter and then I have to go and read something else before my brain explodes. I think my Darkthingy name is: Rheallyquiteupsetaboutthis (Since I don’t really do anger, rage or fury).

    On the weight thing, of course you’re right and I didn’t think it was psychologically implausible or unrealistic; I just had slight concerns about what it was saying on a more general level.

    @M-Moo:

    Thank you – so glad you’re enjoying the reviews, though, of course, I’m just one dude :)

    @JessP:

    I, err, apologise in advance for my blog – I’m afraid it’s very rambly and irrelevant, and I go through long stretches of forgetting its existence.

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  58. M-Moo
    May 11, 2013 @ 16:16:44

    @CD:

    There is indeed a Colin Firth interview! The premise is that Bridget gets freelance work as a journalist for a national newspaper and is invited to interview him about his new film Fever Pitch and she records the interview but doesn’t get a chance to edit it before the deadline (because she’s Bridget) so they just print a straight transcription and it is hilarious.

    I Googled it and found a link to the interview here:
    http://www.colinfirth24-7.com/bjd1/bridget_jones_diary_2001.html

    The interview didn’t make it into the film though – because Colin Firth was already playing Mark Darcy that would have been a bit too meta I think! But there is a YouTube clip here of the interview from the deleted scenes. I still think its best when read though. Its the transcriber’s asides such as (PAUSE. SHUFFLING PAPER.) which really make it for me.

    Your picture of The Old Etonians is a perfect (and very witty) comparison! :-)

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  59. Jane
    May 11, 2013 @ 16:30:27

    @Anne Tierney – AJH isn’t going anywhere despite a few individuals who appear not to enjoy his discursive thoughts on books within the genre. He’s articulate, thoughtfully expressive (I have the same eating issues with Bet Me which actually ruins the book for me), and most of DA enjoys him immensely.

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  60. Anne Tierney
    May 11, 2013 @ 17:01:49

    @Jane: Thank you Jane! So good to know! Whew!

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  61. Anne Tierney
    May 11, 2013 @ 17:08:48

    @AJH: *it sounds like your sofa and I aren’t going to be friends…*
    –thus the original sleeping bag option, see? I can even throw in an air mattress, if it sweetens the pot???

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  62. Jane
    May 11, 2013 @ 17:12:05

    @Anne Tierney – We are, however, trying to keep our comments about the review and not the reviewer, etc. etc.

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  63. leslie
    May 11, 2013 @ 17:30:57

    I am not a Crusie fan and Bet Me was the worst of her books that I manage to finish. Yes there are some funny bits, but I found Min and her food/weight/wedding/mother issues stereotypical and too irritating to like.

    @AJH: I enjoyed reading the review of Bet Me and thanks for the pics of Nigella and Kate.

    @Jane: Good! I really like AJH’s discursive thoughts in his reviews……a breath of fresh air that I look forward to every Friday.

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  64. Sunita
    May 11, 2013 @ 17:33:57

    @AJH:

    I have literally no idea what’s presumed a reasonable weight for a particular height.

    That’s very sensible, to be honest, because there is no magic weight-height ratio. It depends on bone structure, age, fitness, and so on. Two people with the same numbers can look entirely different.

    I haven’t read this, in part because I knew the body-image and food stuff would send me around the bend. I read Strange Bedpersons and thought it was unsuccessful and quite ham-handed at representing what a relationship between people of opposing political preferences would be like (and if I remember it correctly, the ending is a copout).

    I find it strange that a book that pays so much attention to a woman’s body-image issues would fetishize food, and would appear to get the causal arrow so completely backward. Food issues are a consequence of body dysmorphia, which is itself a consequence of (sometimes only tangentially related) psychological issues. The solution generally isn’t to learn to love donuts, but to reduce the symbolic and practical importance of donuts, chicken marsala, etc. Maybe the author does an OK job on this, but the criticism I’ve seen suggests otherwise.

    One of my favorite books on the role of the female body in American culture is Susan Bordo’s Unbearable Weight. It’s been around a while, but it’s still a great read.

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  65. Ridley
    May 11, 2013 @ 17:58:40

    @Jane: Why did you shush that, Jane? I didn’t malign anyone. I was saying that if Alexis were intimidated by valid criticism, which he clearly isn’t, then it’d be addition by subtraction if he were scared away. The point being that a reviewer who can’t handle criticism is not someone you want to hang on to.

    No one worried that Jayne would get scared away when she was challenged on her reading of the Raybourn novel. I’m puzzled by the reflex to jump to AJH’s defense that so many posters have.

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  66. MD
    May 11, 2013 @ 18:25:50

    @AJH:

    That you wouldn’t have noticed in a way makes it scarier, because it creates a background of what may be presumed “normal” or “pretty”, when it isn’t normal at all. BTW, the healthy range for 5’9 is 135 to 169lbs. I am at the top end of this, and I am wishing I’d lose some pounds, despite knowing that I am fine (both in terms of what my BMI says, and in terms of general health, staying active, looking ok, etc.). At my weight/height combination, I am at UK size 16/US size 14, which would make me “fat” if I were to believe the numbers in the romances (which, if they are quoted, are indeed around US size 8). It takes some mental work to remind myself that I am fine, in presence of these kinds of background information and implicit definitions of what “normal” or “thin” or “attractive” is, so I really wish the romance authors wouldn’t do that.

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  67. Rachel
    May 11, 2013 @ 18:43:16

    I adore this book, but I’ve also always been very uncomfortable by the way Cal keeps pushing doughnuts on her. It reminded me of one of my first romances (a Devereaux, I think) where the heroine is vegetarian and the hero makes her eat a steak because he thinks she needs it. UGH.

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  68. Anne Tierney
    May 11, 2013 @ 19:31:39

    @Jane: Yes ma’am, I was trying.

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  69. Jane
    May 11, 2013 @ 19:32:53

    @Ridley – telling someone good riddance isn’t helpful or addressing the comment itself or the review.

    Additionally I moderated a previous comment other than yours. Hopefully we can all remember to kelp our comments, in praise or criticism about the review or comment and not about the person.

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  70. Ridley
    May 11, 2013 @ 19:47:06

    @Jane: I didn’t tell anyone good riddance, though! I enjoy these reviews.

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  71. Marilyn
    May 11, 2013 @ 20:13:21

    PS – if I could draw I would love to do a series of alphas, looking angry and brooding with their shirts off, forcefully performing basic household tasks.

    Lord Hawkswang thrust Jemina against the wall and pressed his hard body against her. “If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times, the cutlery drawer goes knives, then forks, then spoons.”

    I would buy that book in a heartbeat. Maybe you could find an illustrator . . .

    Your reviews are gems. I look forward to them every week. Thank you for taking the time and effort to get it right. So far I have agreed with you. I adore the Shelly Laurenston shifter books. They’re my comfort reads and they always make me laugh, but I cannot get into the dragon books. Go figure. “Bet Me” is one of my all time favorites, as is “Agnes and the Hitman”, which is so intricately plotted it wipes me out. Ms. Crusie does love food, and prefer that to reading about women agonizing about eating a lettuce leaf. Argh.

    Also, I love E.F. Benson–another comfort read–and will now dodge over to your website to see what you are up to.

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  72. M. Malone
    May 11, 2013 @ 20:17:30

    Bet Me is one of my all-time favorite books. I don’t have Min’s issues but I loved it anyway because we’ve all got something. Her emotional responses to everything around her are just so genuine.

    The wedding anxiety is definitely a regional/cultural thing. In the American South women get a lot of pressure from their female relatives to be married by a certain age. (I’m sure it’s not just here but I’ve never lived anywhere else so I can’t confirm.) The M.R.S. is still considered more important than an M.B.A. to a lot of people here which is pathetic and sad-making all at the same time. It would be great if women could just say F*ck it! and not care that her family looks at her with pity for being single after a certain age but I understand that’s easier in theory than in practice. It hurts. I get that even if I haven’t been on the receiving end of it personally.

    Some people are built like coat hangers: that’s FINE. Some people aren’t: that’s FINE too. It is okay to be fat, thin, large breasted, small breasted, all or none of the above. Somebody will find you beautiful and want to bang you. And as they’re banging you, they’ll not be thinking very much beyond “yay!”

    I also agree this needs to be on a shirt or a bumper sticker or something. Love shouldn’t be so complicated and maybe if we had this reminder handy, we’d all get out of our own way and just live.

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  73. JessP
    May 11, 2013 @ 23:09:34

    @Anne Tierney: Thank you very much, Anne. I appreciate it.

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  74. Maree Anderson
    May 12, 2013 @ 00:06:43

    Thank you yet again for entertaining me with such a great review — love reading them!

    You said: “I think I’m slightly better at reading historicals, paranormals and steampunk romantic adventures than I am at reading contemporaries because, although they contain kissing and characterisation and girly stuff like that (I jest), there also tend to be fight scenes, explosions, zombies and people going to boxing matches. There were none of these things in Bet Me.”

    So I’m gonna stick my neck out and recommend another Crusie book that may fulfill your desire for fight scenes and explosions. You might like to try “Agnes and the Hitman” by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer, featuring a cranky food critic and an exasperated hit man. Happy reading!

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  75. Meri
    May 12, 2013 @ 00:41:13

    @Ridley:
    Several posters (myself included) have noted that what has been referred to as gender bias appears to be more of a cultural difference. Weddings, and how people think of them, obviously differ greatly between different countries and cultures, and not everyone can really get Min’s feelings, regardless of gender. Saying this is not speaking for AJH, it’s bringing up another perspective.

    That said, I agree that anyone who reviews here should be prepared to deal with dissenting opinions.

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  76. Ridley
    May 12, 2013 @ 00:58:00

    @Meri: Yeah, I wasn’t weighing in on that point at all. He answered that pretty well himself.

    I was just sharing my bemusement at the rush to shield him from criticism. I find it peculiar.

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  77. Meri
    May 12, 2013 @ 01:38:26

    @Ridley:
    I can’t speak for others, but I responded to the original comment because it was framed as a gender issue, and I didn’t feel the poster really considered the possibility that women (and men) outside the US may have a different perspective.

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  78. Aisha
    May 12, 2013 @ 04:36:17

    @AJH: uhm, well, personally again, I don’t do diets – if I get told not to eat carbs I think I would immediately begin to crave them, even though I rarely would normally – but I respect the choice of those who do (relatively healthy ones anyway) and are able to stick to them.

    With food, I love food but my relationship with it is complicated. I grew up in an extended family where social gatherings centred around food to the point where the eating and the preparations for it almost seemed to trump the ‘social’ side. I think that food became a substitute means of expressing affection in otherwise emotionally restrained people, but by serving this purpose it subsumed other possible expressions or attempts at it (and I know the book doesn’t go to that extent, but still). I, unsurprisingly, absorbed some of that myself and derive pleasure from preparing and serving delicious food to family, friends and colleagues, but I am always a little embarrassed by this. So, I guess what I’m trying to say in a very roundabout way is that, yes, it is nice to read about people enjoying their food, but a little more balance would be good. (And a question of clarification please for the American posters: I don’t know if these ‘Krispy Kremes’ are different from the donuts here? I find donuts very greasy and can’t eat more than one or two – and sometimes even one on an empty stomach can make me feel sick [edited to make the question clearer]).

    Re well-known UK romance authors (currently writing) – Its actually surprisingly difficult to think of these and Jo Beverley is the only one that comes immediately to mind. LH Cosway is less well known but also British I think? There are also many Harlequin/M&B writers…. Of course if this gets extended to the Commonwealth, there are many more (incl. Ms Singh). And I hesitate to write this, but isn’t EL James British too?

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  79. Jane Lovering
    May 12, 2013 @ 05:18:04

    Britain is awash with Romance Writers! I just suspect that many are either not available in the US (although my publisher, Choc Lit, has a US division), or not as widely read. There’s Katie Fforde, Judy Astley, Rowan Coleman, errr…me… whole shelves full. But then, over here (in Britain), US Romance authors are less prominently shelved and available. Apart from the odd few, Nora Roberts, Jennifer Crusie, who have a few books interspersed with the Brits, I’d be hard pressed to name many US Romance authors. So British readers tend (not exclusively of course, but generally) to read Brit Romance, and the reverse seems true in the US. Then we all get entrenched in our position of believing that only our country writes ‘true romance’, we get used to reading the styles and formats available in our own countries, and so the prejudices continue. There are very definite stylistic and content differences – just ask anyone who writes and publishes in both countries!
    YMMV of course, and this is just the opinion of someone interested in these things. I suspect it applies right across the Commonwealth too.

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  80. Aisha
    May 12, 2013 @ 06:04:13

    @Ridley: “No one worried that Jayne would get scared away when she was challenged on her reading of the Raybourn novel”

    As the challenger, you’re right that I did not worry about that, but this comment makes me wonder if I should have. As I said to you there, I am wary of shutting down discussion and, furthermore, engaging it what may come across as troll-like behaviour (and I am not implying that this is what you are doing – I think I understand your point here, and I agree that AJH is more than capable of handling criticism himself). For the record, when I post comments at DA, its usually because I feel deeply about something and/or where I think that my somewhat differing standpoint (from the majority of DA commenters) may add a broader perspective (that sounds terribly arrogant doesn’t it? I am NOT speaking on behalf of, or putting myself forward as representative of any group; and I do NOT believe that the DA community would be irredeemably ignorant without my ‘valuable’ insights).

    The main exceptions to this are AJH’s reviews and Robin/Janet’s series of essays. The former because I feel a certain kinship with him (purely one-sided I’m sure :) since we started here at about the same time (and I have actually read many of the books he is reviewing), and the latter because I am reading her series, though I may be wrong, as an academic exercise and treating it the way I would a colleague’s work-in-progress presentation at a seminar. Which means offering up possible points of additional complexity and differing interpretations, even though a lot of that is, as AJH says, talking out of my arse.

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  81. AJH
    May 12, 2013 @ 06:33:01

    I’m sure to what extent it’s my place to weigh in on this but I just wanted say that I very much believe, as someone who writes things and puts them on the internet for public discussion, that I’m accountable for what I write, and that if people are upset or offended by what I say that they can, and should, feel free to tell me. If people are hostile or unfair or just plain wrong, I’ll respond accordingly but, honestly, so far I don’t feel anyone has been.

    To go right back to the original comment, I saw this is a legitimate criticism of the tone of the article as Cervenka read it. I didn’t see it as the commenter trying to shut me down or scare me off. Equally, it’s clear there’s an interesting discussion to be had here, and I’m glad it’s happening.

    On a lighter note, I’m now about to eat a Krispy Kreme for research purposes – wish me luck.

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  82. Ros
    May 12, 2013 @ 07:06:18

    @Jane Lovering: I’m not sure, but I’d classify most of those authors as women’s fiction or chick lit (in a good way!) rather than romance. Doesn’t the name ‘Choc Lit’ imply that it’s a publisher of ‘Chick Lit’? We have a lot of great writers of ‘books with strong romantic elements’ but I struggle to think of many British writers of straightforward romances, outside of M&B.

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  83. AJH
    May 12, 2013 @ 07:55:33

    @leslie:

    I found the weight stuff and the mother a bit tedious but I really liked Min – I loved her snarky voice. Weirdly, I thought her mother got a bit more bearable when we met Cal’s family. However wrong and destructive Min’s mother is, she’s clearly acting out of an oppressive kind of love (I’m not saying that makes it right) whereas Cal’s family are exactly the same but without any of the warmth or kindness at all. Poor guy.

    @Sunita:

    I was vigorously warned off STRANGE BEDPERSONS – so, err, I just haven’t even looked at it.

    I think food issues and body dysmorphia are very complicated, so, if you don’t mind, I’m not even going to try to go there.

    If I was being really generous – and I think this is a sustainable interpretation – I think what the food ‘fetishisation’ was trying to do, was move food from a place of exaggerated threat to a space where it could be a source of fun and pleasure. I think it wasn’t about it transforming the donut from a supervillain into as superhero, so much as transforming it from supervillain into, well, a foodstuff the heroine could eat if she chose to.
    Thanks for the book recommendation – because I don’t have enough of those ;) Seriously, though, since I know basically nothing about this issue, I should probably have a look at it.

    @MD:

    Sorry, I expressed that badly. I didn’t mean I would have accepted those numbers as “normal”, I just meant I have no way of translating weight into a physical description, particularly not in imperial units. I normally base my mental images on the adjectives used to describe a character, unless it’s something totally ludicrous like someone being 6ft 6 (hi Wrath, nice erection you’ve got there).

    I can totally see why you were disconcerted though. I mean, as Sunita points out above, there isn’t a magic formula of body shape rightness but having the lower quartile of the bell curve presented as average creates some very distorted ideas.

    @Rachel:

    Ye Gods, that sounds … so not okay. I know there’s kind of a general trend of heroes stomping over the heroines in a sexy way … but that’s Christian Grey levels of grim (now I think about, he’s obsessed with getting the heroine to eat as well).

    @Marilyn:
    Haha, I’ll see what I can do ;)

    I could definitely see Bet Me making perfect comfort reading. I think food is just one of those controversial issues – whatever stance you take, it seems to impinge on someone else’s choices. I mean, being incredibly is okay too, but there’s no moral superiority in lettuce leaves over donuts.

    EF Benson is one of my favourite cuddly authors – like Wodehouse, I read him when I’m feeling down. There’s an adorable, slightly creaky BBC series as well with Nigel Hawthorne as Georgie.

    @M. Malone:

    Yes, Min is a wonderful character – I loved her, especially her snarking.
    And, eeesh, that sounds grim. I think most people, of any gender, who aren’t the marrying kind (*cough*) experience a degree of familial pressure over that choice, but I suspect it’s significantly worse for women and I hadn’t considered that someone else’s wedding would be a particular vicious arena for this kind of thing.

    @Maree Anderson:

    Ohhhh, that sounds wonderful! I’ve heard a few good things about that one, actually, but people are also telling me to try Faking and Welcome to Temptation. Good grief, the misery of my life – too many books to choose from ;)

    @Aisha:

    I went to Tescos this morning and noticed for, like, the first time ever (I’m a deeply clueless shopper – the sort of person who gets completely lost if they change the aisle order) that they have a corner concession given over to Krispy Kreme donuts. So I bought one, and one for H, and we ate them for research after lunch.

    Um. Maybe it’s a question of what you’re used to and I’m not a huge sweets person anyone so perhaps I’m a bad ambassador – but, uh, it was kind of vile. Almost unbearably sweet and sticky. I think if I tried to kiss someone at the same time I’d be afraid of throwing up on them… but that’s probably just me.

    It seems like Krispy Kremes are uber-sweet luxury style donuts. As far as I’m concerned, donuts are a little puff of floury dough, covered in sugar and lightly filled with artificially fruitless jam, such as my Grandfather used to buy from Greggs for me as a treat on a Friday, after school.

    I definitely agree that it’s nice to see portrayed as a socially and romantically positive – but, yes, less donut forcing, and perhaps a greater variety of foodstuffs, would have been good :)

    (Also, for what it’s worth, I’ve never seen you talk out of your arse in any of your comments)

    @Jane Lovering:

    I didn’t mean to imply that there wasn’t an industry of British romance writers – just that I’m somewhat ignorant and haven’t encountered many in my adventures in the genre so far. I hadn’t really thought to make much distinction between British and American writers, except when I run across the odd cultural query – like donuts and weddings. I don’t think I’m in danger of too much entrenchment though – I’ve barely dug a furrow :)

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  84. Renda
    May 12, 2013 @ 10:43:22

    Having a deep and meaningful relationship with Krispy Kreme, I must step in here.
    The KKs in the box have nothing to do with fresh KKs from a KK store.

    In a number of KK stores, you can watch them being made. A red neon sign is turned on that says HOT DONUTS NOW. When that sign comes on then, and only then, you can pick up your holey piece of heaven.

    As I only allow myself to stop when the sign is on, I know of what I speak. Sometimes I have had to circle the block six or seven times (or, admittedly, go back later in the day), but I remain true to that one standard of Krispy Kreme consumption.

    The boxes in the store are old and icky and an abomination.

    As a side note, Bet Me is my number one book. I have read it in total no less than 15 times. I pick it up and read portions of it weekly. I have it in audio form and when I can’t sleep, I listen to it until I fall asleep, and if I don’t, I enjoy my wakefulness.

    And yes, the epilogue is one of the best endings I have ever read in any novel. The only reason it was knocked off the No. 1 spot was the ending of Attachments by Rainbow Rowell, the most romantic piece of writing I have ever been privileged to read.

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  85. cleo
    May 12, 2013 @ 12:44:27

    Hey Jane – I’ve tried to comment here a couple times and it’s not going through – I think I must be using a word that’s getting flagged, but I can’t figure it out.

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  86. Sunita
    May 12, 2013 @ 12:56:15

    @cleo: I pulled it out of spam, but it seems to be attached to a First Page post. Not sure why it went to spam or why it’s on that post!

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  87. cleo
    May 12, 2013 @ 13:04:17

    @Jane Lovering: I think that may be true – I’m American and I’m not familiar with any of the authors you mention (not that a sample size of 1 tells you much). The British authors that I see in book stores here and see promoted on BN / Amazon tend to write more chicklit / women’s fiction than pure romance – I’m thinking of Jill Mancell, Sophie Kinsella and Marian Keyes. I do read several British m/m authors, like Josephine Myles, JL Merrow, and Harper Fox.

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  88. cleo
    May 12, 2013 @ 13:07:43

    @Sunita: Thanks Sunita. I must have accidentally posted it to the wrong page – I tried several different versions of this comment (trying to alter the wording to get it out of mod) and I think one of them was on the wrong page (because I stopped paying close attention to what I was doing). Oh well – now I can stop obsessing about it and do something useful, like laundry.

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  89. Lola
    May 12, 2013 @ 13:37:42

    Back when I was a young teenager my mother did the same thing to me as Min’s mom did to her: she bought my clothes a size smaller than what I wore in a effort to ‘encourage’ me to lose weight. Now jump to forty years later with me married and with a family of my own and my weight is still a topic of conversation with my mother. Min’s mother loved her and like my mother wanted her daughter to be happy. But in their minds happiness is a size 8. So I can truly relate to Min and her relationship with her mother and her mother’s obsession with Min’s weight.

    “It’s nobody’s bloody business what size you are. ” Have you read what CEO of Albercrombie & Fitch said about not selling large size clothes? No matter where we turn, woman and now men are constantly evaluated on our looks and part of that is what dress size we wear. It’s part of the female culture.

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  90. Ridley
    May 12, 2013 @ 16:29:13

    @AJH:

    On a lighter note, I’m now about to eat a Krispy Kreme for research purposes – wish me luck.

    Those things are disgusting, even if you get them while they’re hot. They tried to move into the New England market, and we sent them right back home. Just, no.

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  91. Jane Lovering
    May 13, 2013 @ 08:09:22

    @Ros
    I guess the old ‘what is chick lit’ argument will run and run!

    @AJH

    Just keep doing what you’re doing, it’s all fine.

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  92. AJH
    May 13, 2013 @ 08:48:39

    @Renda:

    Well, I clearly did that completely wrong. No wonder the experience was lacking.
    Unfortunately, I fear my research ends here – I’m not sure I could get a grant to get to America and circle of a branch of Krispy Kremes waiting for the … ah … red light, like some confused Gatsby figure.

    Or, I guess, Roxanne.

    Also, if Georgette Heyer, EF Benson and PG Wodehouse were not already my top comfort reads, never to be challenged, I could completely see Bet Me being there. It’s a very cuddly book, and clever and witty and a little bit sharp at the same time. So, yes, a cuddle with a slice of lemon.

    Ohhh, Rainbow Rowell is on my list but not for ages I can’t remember what book though.
    @Lola:

    Gosh – it’s all so very difficult. Although it’s obviously not the same, and probably not comparable, I do have some experience of family members wanting you to change something that’s a fairly inextricable part of you. I think, as you articulate here, what Bet Me conveys very effectively is how complicated, and painful, it becomes when deeply harmful behaviour is embedded in … y’know … genuine love and care. I know there’s a fairytaleish vibe to Bet Me, so there’s an extent that Min’s mother is in the wicked queen role, but I found her understandable, if not sympathetic. I also thought the contrast and the similarities between Min’s family and Cal’s, helped makes Min’s mother a lot more bearable. Yes, she’s awful to Min, but the family is warm, caring and, basically, there for each other. Whereas Cal’s family are controlling, cold and carelessly cruel.

    I think what I was trying to say in the article was not so much that I found Min’s mother’s behaviour unconvincing or implausible. It was more a matter of interpretation – to me it seemed like the text was saying Min’s mother is wrong to make Min feel fat because Min isn’t fat, rather than Min’s mother is wrong to make Min feel fat because … yes … “it’s nobody’s bloody business what size you are.” I know that’s not the publicly held view (unfortunately).

    @Ridley:

    Yeah, it was not a happy experience… I shall stick our bog standard English donuts, I think.

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  93. Shelley
    May 14, 2013 @ 17:59:52

    @AJH: Totally awesome review of the very first Crusie book I read (and best IMO). Crusie books I wasn’t so crazy about? The books written with Bob Mayer. Don’t know why, really. Just felt like her voice was too overshadowed, maybe. Anybody else feel this way?

    @Renda: We are so on the same page about KK. I thank God everyday that our one and only store is on the other side of town from me. Do you have the smart phone app yet? Fan-freakin-tastic! ;O)

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  94. Wednesday
    May 15, 2013 @ 17:22:18

    This is one of my favorite Crusies so I’m totally biased. I’m so thrilled you liked it!

    Re Min’s weight: I seem to remember Jennifer Crusie writing somewhere (on her website, I think?) that she’d tried to avoid giving a specific dress size or weight for Min because she wanted to avoid people saying, “Oh, she’s not that fat” or similar things. She wanted readers to be able to sort of project their own weight issues onto Min’s and identify with her no matter what size the reader was.

    Blast, I can’t find it now.

    Anyway, I do think it’s interesting that one of the immediate questions brought up was, “Well, how much does she weigh?” when it was intentionally left as an open-ended question.

    Also, I could never learn to like Krispy Kreme donuts, even though this book always makes me crave them. Every time I eat one, I feel a little nauseated afterwards. They’re too heavy or something.

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  95. Lia
    May 22, 2013 @ 22:59:22

    So weird! I was about to write a blog about how Jen Crusie’s contemporary romance novels wooed me back into the fold after I became disenchanted with the genre. I Googled her name and the search engine spat out your review — which I totally loved, BTW. Crusie broke all of the rules in the genre when she created heroines like Min and Nina (in Anyone But You, my all-time favorite). They were older. Plus-sized. Divorced. Didn’t want kids. Self-sufficient and planning to stay that way. I was just exiting university at the time, and reading books like Bet Me made becoming more, um, “mature” sound exciting and fun. Thank you for your well-timed review. Ah, the memories! :)

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