2000 reissue of 1999 release, Contemporary Romance
St. Martin's Press, $7.50, 323 pages, Amazon ASIN 0312971125
There are two reviews of this book.
I'm hard to please. There I've said it, and there you have it. Reviewers are occasionally taken to task for not "giving out" A-ratings more often, and it's true, grading is as subjective as anything else; personal opinion is all it boils down to. But, as far as I'm concerned, to earn a Keeper rating, a book must be a complete and total winner on every level - writing, plot, characterization, dialogue, emotion, romance, my reaction to the characters and the story, and the feeling the book leaves me with when I've finished reading it. No loose ends, no contrivances, wholly realized. Crazy For You hits every mark, and then some.
Quinn McKenzie, a thirty-five year-old high school art teacher is completely satisfied with her life. Well, almost completely. For the last two years, she has been living with Bill Hilliard, the high school's winningest coach ever, and all-around perfect guy. Well, almost perfect. He's a little controlling, never seems to take Quinn's needs into account, is a tad boring, ignores her wishes, and won't let her have a dog. Not that Quinn ever really wanted a dog. At least, not until a "rat on stilts" mongrel named Katie comes into her life. Not only does Quinn realize she wants a dog, she wants that particular dog, and when Bill disregards her feelings and takes Katie to the pound, Quinn decides it's time for a change.
Thirty-eight year-old, tall, dark, and hot Nick Ziegler (oh, God, let me at him), divorced twenty years ago from Quinn's older sister, ZoŽ, owns and operates an auto repair shop along with his equally hunky (married) younger brother, Max. Since his divorce, Nick has eluded commitment with any woman to the point he never even stays the night after mutually-satisfying sex. Footloose and fancy free, Nick's love-em-and-leave-em attitude is well acknowledged in town and women long ago stopped trying to trap Nick into anything more permanent. The only long-term relationship Nick has allowed with a woman is his friendship with his former sister-in-law, Quinn. Nick loves Quinn like a sister. Really, he does. So why has he been fighting off these images of stripping her naked and throwing her down on the bed and, and, and (oh, God, let me at him).
To tell you more of the story itself would be to intrude on a constantly moving, ever absorbing, quirky tale of how two people who were always meant for each other, finally realize that fact and find their happily-ever-after together. Suffice it to say, Jennifer Crusie has invented the perfect foil for all the characters in Crazy For You in Katie the dog. Luminous-eyed, nervous, quivering, ugly, with a bladder-control problem, Katie has no point-of-view, yet is viewed by each character in turn as their own perceptions and motivations dictate - and is absolutely hilarious. Katie's presence in Quinn's life starts a domino-effect, not only for Quinn, but for virtually everyone Quinn knows. Crusie has thrown a pebble in the pond, and the ripple effect throughout the town and the population is delightful to watch.
Peopled by a cast of thousands (so to speak), the author has been able to give each and every character a life. These are people we know, can relate to, have had conversations with, understand and enjoy (even the "villains"). Several notable secondary romances (Max and Darla; Jason and Thea; ZoŽ and Ben; Joe and Meggy and Edie (don't ask) ) mirror and compliment the challenges Nick and Quinn face. How each of these romances are resolved is sweet, sexy, and immensely entertaining. Insights into the battle-of-the-sexes, how men are different from women in their thought processes and perceptions, how communication between the two is often off-by-miles, and how love can close those gaps, is funny and charming and tender. I've never asked my husband to read a romance novel before, but I asked him to read this one. Crazy For You is a book that transcends a predominantly female readership and can be equally enjoyed by men.
The language here is candid. The self-talk is frank. The sex is h-h-hot. I found all this to be genuine and refreshing and realistic and true to the nature of each character. While you may not sprinkle your casual conversations with profanity, how brothers really talk to each other, how sisters relate when there's no one around, how best friends get down to business and tell it like it is, is honestly drawn, and to have done less would have seemed contrived. The story would have suffered for it. I know for a fact that, when a man such as Nick hones in on a sexy woman like Quinn, he does not think: My, isn't she lovely. I'd like to date her. Right. What Nick thinks when he runs his eyes up and down Quinn is, by itself, worth the price of admission.
Which brings me to the love scenes. When Quinn and Nick (oh, God, let me at him), finally succumb to their desires, it was like being there. I swear. This book almost got a Burning rating. That's all I can tell you, my fingers are still trembling, and it's really hard to type when my figners are termbling. See?
Yah, I know, it's $25 (I thought I was the crazy one for paying so much out-of-pocket for a book!). Borrow it from a friend or check out the library, but do get your hands on Crazy For You. This is a Crusie for you!
LLB: The review staff of AAR is quite irrepressible. Within several days of this book's release, I had received four reviews of it - only one reviewer had actually been assigned to review it! While we post two reviews of many books, four seemed like over-kill, and yet, the comments of the two reviewers not represented on this page should not be overlooked. In a nutshell, here's what Andrea, who also gave this book Desert Isle Keeper Status had to say about it:
The things I like about this book remind me of things in my own life. Maybe that's part of Crusie's appeal - she writes about characters that could be people you know and puts them into situations you can't help but laugh at or sympathize with. Quinn is most often described as a girl next door type, not someone impossibly beautiful. And while she may seem like a pushover at first, once she makes changes in her life, she sticks to them. She also sets off ripples of change in other people's lives. I know I've got a keeper on my hands when a book keeps me so absorbed I walk around the house reading it rather than putting it down and finish it with a smile on my face and a sigh because it was so good. Crazy For You is definitely a keeper.
And Liz, who graded this book a solid B, sums it up here:
Quinn's quest to change her life and follow her heart ensnares everyone around her, for better or worse. The humor resulting from the characters' attempts to deal with these changes was excellent. Inevitably, the dog is blamed by everyone except Quinn. The secondary characters are well rounded, likable and integral to the story. This was the first Jennifer Cruise that I've read. She has proved to me that she can combine humor, substance and suspense into a story that kept this reviewer mesmerized until the end. If you like humor with a twist, this might be a good read for you. I know I'll be perusing this author's back list!
For the flip side, see Ellen's C review.
-- Marianne Stillings
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