Anyone But You

Jennifer Crusie
August 1996, Series Romance
Harl Love and Laughter #4, $3.50, Amazon ASIN 0373440049

Grade: B+
Sensuality: Hot

There are really three lead characters in Jennifer Crusie's Anyone But You - Alex, the 30-year-old doctor with a penchant for Daffy Duck shorts, Nina, the 40-year-old divorcee who left her first husband because she no longer wanted to be a "Country Club Wife," and Fred, the sad-eyed, bad-breathed, Oreo-chomping dog who brings them together. With this trio, author Crusie created such an hilarious and sexy romance that it won Favorite Funny in my 1996 Reader Awards, and honorable mention for Favorite Romance, Favorite Heroine and Favorite Couple. I've read and enjoyed a couple of other series romances by Crusie, but, until this weekend, never found the right time to take this one off my TBR shelves. Well, the time was finally right, and Anyone But You lived up to my expectations.

When Nina Askew rescued Fred from the animal shelter, he wasn't exactly the perky pup she was looking for. But since they were getting ready to serve him his last meal, what choice did she have? Yes, he smelled bad, yes, he sagged in all the wrong places, and yes, he didn't look as grateful as he should have, but Fred gave Nina what she was looking for - unconditional love.

When Nina meets Alex Moore, he's returning Fred to her apartment from his own the floor below. See, Nina's taught Fred to take the fire escape down to the back yard to do his business, and he got confused on how many flights to climb in order to return to her apartment. Naturally Alex finds this interesting, as he does the adorable-looking Nina. In return, Nina sees a gorgeous young hunk, and wrongly assumes there aren't brains behind his brawn.

While each feels drawn to the other, neither is able to act on their feelings, even when Nina realizes Alex is no himbo. She's convinced she's too old for him and he's sure she thinks he's not responsible enough. Even with advice from his brother Max, her friend Charity, and a nosey neighbor who's 75, but doesn't look a day over 60, and has her own younger man, these two can't seem to get together until, one day, they finally do. The love scene that results is a combination of great sensuality and wonderful wit. Wouldn't you love a man who, after you've explained you want to keep your bra on because "everything's lower than it used to be," simply responds, "I don't care if it's on the floor."?

The secondary characters are well-drawn; Max, in particular, is a strong foil for Alex both in comedy and pathos. I wish Max could get his own romance, but now that Crusie has moved onto hardbacks, it seems unlikely. Charity rounds out the book as well, particularly when she goads Nina - even though her own love life has been such a disaster she's writing a book about it.

There are some small things that bothered me somewhat. As someone with pets, I found it somewhat disconcerting that Fred was allowed in the room while Nina and Alex were making love. Yes, the author turned it into a joke, but I always make sure my husband and I are alone when things turn amorous in our house - I just don't want my cats watching us. Too, it seemed a bit silly that Alex would assume Nina wanted a return to her old life as a trophy wife. It seemed fairly obvious that Nina did everything she could to get as far away from that life as possible, including turning her husband down in Alex's presence when he asked her to come back to him.

On the other hand, reading about characters who truly liked one another was such a treat, especially in that the author was able to maintain such a high level of sexual tension. Less talented authors often sacrifice sexual tension for friendship; Crusie never does. And, Nina's insecurities about her body and her age were handled with a deft touch. The older-woman/younger-man scenario was never an issue for this reader and the theme of unconditional love and how Nina and Alex worked it out was rendered so well that I wish Crusie were still writing these shorter books so I could read them more often.

Her books are very difficult to come by, but if you ever come across this one or have it in your tbr pile, snatch it up and give it a try! And if you haven't re-read it since its release, you may want to give it a second go-round; it's one of those books that can be read more than once.

-- Laurie Likes Books

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