Category Archives: Romance

Goodbye, Guiding Light

Soap operas are literature, too, right?

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Bet Me, by Jennifer Crusie

This is one of my favourite romance novels of all time. Actually, no, scratch that. This is one of my favourite novels of all time.  I have other favourites, as well: A Room with a View, by E.M. Forster; Tam Lin, by Pamela Dean; Tess of the D’Urbervilles, by Thomas Hardy; whatever other ones I have listed on my facebook page. But Bet Me is definitely on the list of ‘comfort books’, books that stay with me.  It’s not just that the story stays with me. Every so often, specific scenes and specific passages pop into my head, and then I want to (have to) reread the book.  It’s kind of like when you get a song stuck in your head, and then you listen to the song in the hope that it will get the song out of your head. That never works for me with songs, but I consistently try it anyway.

 (Note: One definition of insanity is ‘doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.’ God, I need therapy.)

Anyway. Bet Me. It’s one of those dangerous books for me to read, because it gives me hope that one day I will find an all-consuming, intense love like Min and Cal’s. 99% of the time I’m cynical about love but there’s that 1% of hope, that longing for someone to break through my cynicism, and books like Bet Me (and movies like When Harry Met Sally) feed that 1%. I would be so much calmer if I could get rid of that 1%.It is an incredible book, though. I love Jennifer Crusie’s writing (I read her blog, too, although I don’t comment there – I don’t comment on most of the blogs that I read because I am afraid of coming across as a crazy stalker) but some of her books are breathless and intense because of frustrating situations. This one is breathless and intense because of the relationship and the way that people are dealing with it. Which, for me, is better.

Some of the scenes that stick with me are kind of pivotal scenes. Hopefully without spoiling anything too much, they include the scene in the movie theatre (especially the silent walk home) and the scenes where the universe is hurting them, especially Cal’s. The fight after he sings might end up in my head next time, too.

Other things I love about Bet Me: the strong female friendships (I miss my sister and my best friends – I hope the Three-Year Plan works out), Cal’s support for Min’s body type even in the face of her mother’s insistence that skinny = keeping a man, the variety of romantic relationships (Bonnie and her fairy tale, Min and Cal and fighting it, Liza and her casualness, Diana and her search), and most of all I love that sex does not automatically equal pregnancy. I love that having kids isn’t even a part of Min’s fairy tale. In so many romance novels, the heroine gets pregnant either the first time that she has sex or the first time she has unprotected sex, and at the very least the book ends with a pregnancy announcement. As someone who doesn’t necessarily see kids (or even marriage) in her future, it’s so nice to have a heroine who also doesn’t rely on the ‘typical’ family for her dream of happiness.

There are so many good things about Bet Me that it’s impossible to list them all here. It’s one of the books that I turn to when I’m having a bad anything: day, week, month, love life, etc. It’s a book where I want to take the main character as my role model in so many things.  It’s a book that reassures me even as it gives me (false) hope. It’s a book that everyone who likes ‘chick-lit’ should definitely read, and it’s possibly a book that will change the minds of people who look  down on ‘chick-lit’.  It’s that good.

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Ain’t She Sweet, by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

This is a re-read for me. I was scanning through my e-reader looking for Anna Karenina and saw this title and couldn’t remember which one it was. I knew I’d read it before, because I’ve read all the SEP books that I have, but I couldn’t remember which one it was.

 Once I started reading it, I remembered it but by that point I was back into the book and had to finish it.  It’s a book I enjoy, with good messages about not judging people by who they used to be, forgiveness, and the importance of family. And, of course, a fast-moving romance.

 The one thing that bothered me this time, more than I remember being bothered by it before, was the way the main couple got together. Obviously there was an attraction there, even though both of them were denying that there was one and that there had been one in their history, but the first time they kiss is while they’re fighting. Now I understand that fighting is foreplay for many people, but this particular incident sort of comes out of nowhere, and is quite aggressive on the guy’s side. It’s not rape, but he also doesn’t really give her a chance to say no, and this time through it made me quite uncomfortable.  Not uncomfortable enough to stop reading, of course, and the way that the relationship progressed was fine, but uncomfortable nonetheless.

 I do really enjoy the relationships in this book, though – Colin and Sugar Beth are the main one, but I also really enjoy Gigi and Winnie and Sugar Beth and the family triangle that they form as well. It’s fast, because it has to be contained within the length of the novel, but the transition from ‘I hate you’ to ‘We’re family’ is effective and organic.

 And the other thing that this book does for me is re-inspire me to write myself – to lock myself away for a week or so and just force myself through the mental pain until I get stuff done. Of course, I have learned through long experience that that technique doesn’t really work so well for me (at least, not when I am also going through romantic troubles of my own) but I still keep wanting to try it, hoping that this time, this idea, will be the one that fully feeds the obsession.  I’ll get there someday.

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