It may seem odd that a Yorkie-eater like myself would have a favorite romance novel author. After all, I'm not really a member of the romance target audience, Gender Quiz results aside. Still, my girlfriend was really into romance novels, and, I figured I should give it a try. After all, that which would not kill me would only make me stronger, right? Or leave me mutilated. But still, she had me try out local author Jayne Anne Krentz, an author of contemporary romances who specialized in witty banter, Seattle-area settings, and characters with very odd names. I then signed up for a mailing list to find new authors, and was quickly recommended Jennifer Crusie, who wrote Harlequin Temptations with ferocious humor. Over time, Crusie's taken the leap from series romance to hardcover "mainstream" novels. The jump allowed her to build stronger secondary characters and relationships.
So her latest, Bet Me, goes pure romance. There's no murders or otherwise mysterious events. It's mostly just dialogue, food, animals, and more good dialogue. The nutshell: Minerva Dobbs, freshly dumped by her boyfriend, overhears the jerk making a bet with another jerk that Jerk B can't get her into bed in four weeks. Figuring that it would be good manufactured karma, Min decides to string Jerk B along so that she has a hottie as a date for her sister's wedding. Except that Jerk B, Calvin (Calvin and Dobbs!), is not so much of a jerk, and Min isn't so much of a wench. But we knew that, right? The requisite consumerist obsessions in the novel: good food (especially chicken marsala), Krispy Kremes (yes, there's a Krispy Kreme sex scene), funky shoes, and diets. I consider it a victory of personal will power that I manage to survive two days of post-Bet Me Krispy Kreme Kravings unscathed.
Also tried a Higgins Clark novel, a mother-daughter co-production. It may not be fair to judge these two on their collaboration, and on a Christmas novel, no less. On the other hand, they must also take the blame for engaging in such gimmickry: a 55,000 word novel for $18. In the end, Deck the Halls featured uninteresting characters (alarmingly enough, we're talking a protagonist from each author), disappointing plotting, unfunny dialogue, and no sense of suspense. I can't see myself trying out either of these authors in the future.