My next review for “The Book Review Club” is Bet Me by Jennifer Cruse. For book reviews by other club members, see Barrie Summy‘s blog.

Where have I been? I must be the last person on the planet to discover how brilliant Jennifer Crusie is. And Bet Me is an example of a practically-perfectly written book. Not only did I love her writing style, but it passed every example of good writing in Margie Lawson’s “Deep Editing” class.

Min Dobbs knows that happily-ever-after is a fairy tale, especially with a man like Cal Morrisey, who asked her to dinner to win a bet. Cal Morrisey knows commitment is impossible, especially with a woman as cranky as Min Dobbs. When they say good-bye at the end of their evening, they cut their losses and agree never to see each other again.

But Fate has other plans, and it’s not long before Min and Cal are dealing with meddling friends, wedding cake, a jealous ex-boyfriend, Krispy Kremes, a determined psychologist, chaos theory, a frantic bride, Chicken Marsala, a mutant cat, snow globes, two Mothers-from-Hell, great shoes, and more risky propositions than either of them ever dreamed of including the biggest gamble of all–unconditional love.

The above blurb excerpt is from the web site of Jennifer Crusie followed by an interesting note about the 10-year history of this book before it made it to publication. Writers especially may want to check it out.

Speaking of which, I mostly read today from a writer’s point of view. And the story behind the story was fascinating to me. Jennifer Crusie is definitely one of those authors a writer can learn from. But it really helps when you love their work. Bet Me stands out because not only is it character-focused with snappy dialogue that is so Jennifer Crusie, but, to me, straddles chick lit and romance. Okay, if chick lit turns you off, let’s call it romantic comedy.

Some people call it romance because there is romantic conflict throughout, but I call it a romantic chick lit or romantic comedy because the characters are flawed, interesting, and self-depracating at times. They are real. Everything about this book is so real. And that’s what I loved about chick lit, but I am also a romantic so it serves up both to me.

You read it and you feel like you are Min, sitting comfortably in your apartment in your sweats with your cat, both licking your chops in anticipation of eating the Chicken Marsala delivered by a man so handsome and suave you call him “The Beast.” Only he doesn’t see your flaws, or if he does, instead of being turned off by them, he celebrates them. Min, always on a diet to please her skinny mother, is emphatic about turning down all carbs. Except that “The Beast” has a way of seducing her with fresly-baked Italian bread and pasta so delicious the look of extreme pleasure envelopes her face until Cal lives for the day he can put that look on her face. Is that hot or what? That’s my kinda guy.

The only drawback in the book may be for regular die-hard romance readers who are going to want more physical romantic payoff more often than what Bet Me delivers. But it tops my favorite books list and I’ll be looking for more Jennifer Crusie titles.

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@Barrie Summy

Disclaimer: I only review books I want to recommend and have purchased myself, although if I’m excited about a book, I’ll accept a complimentary copy when offered.