Fast Women

Jennifer Crusie
2004 reissue of 2001 release, Women's Fiction
St. Martin's Press, $3.99, 434 pages, Amazon ASIN 0312932790

Grade: B-
Sensuality: Hot

I was so excited when I received my copy of Fast Women. It literally made my day brighter to unwrap it and see its gleaming red and white cover. I'd been looking forward to reading this for months. Welcome to Temptation was one of my favorite reads for last year and I couldn't wait to see what Crusie would do next. Her latest offering didn't quite live up to my expectations.

Like Welcome To Temptation, Fast Women has a complex, interwoven plot: part mystery, part comedy, part romance. Nell Dysart has been divorced for over a year and clinically depressed for most of that time. After 22 years, her husband left her for a younger woman, and she is feeling old and unattractive. Tired of seeing her so sad, her friends push Nell to get a job, and so she does. She goes to work for Gabe and Riley McKenna who run a detective agency. The office there is very busy, very untidy, and very disorganized. And in fixing it up and interacting with her bosses, Nell slowly comes back to life.

Gabe McKenna begins noticing his new secretary about the same time evidence of a long-ago mysterious death begins to resurface. Soon he is uncovering a rather disturbing history of suicide, embezzlement, adultery, and murder, and his father, the agency's prior owner, seems to figure prominently in part of it. Along with trying to suppress his suspicions, Gabe has to fight with his new secretary Nell over every single detail. She's getting too involved in his life, infiltrating and rearranging his files and his emotions both. Why can't she just leave everything the way it is?

In some ways this book is very good. I really admire Crusie's writing ability. Her books are layered in such interesting ways. And all of the trademark Crusie is there: the humor, the snappy dialogue, the funky symbolism and the goofy dog. I laughed out loud several times, and the love scenes were pretty hot. There were also a number of a thought-provoking moments in betwixt all of the action and laughter. Crusie is obviously familiar with all of the problems of divorce, and she makes some interesting points about the nature and process of marital love.

But despite all of the humor and the many fun moments, Fast Women left me rather depressed. Because, essentially, this is a story about adultery and abandonment. Many instances of adultery and abandonment. And there's really no way you can set that to music and dance to it. It's painful and humiliating and embittering. Both the main story and the secondary romance, which involves Nell's sister-in-law and Riley McKenna, explore the consequences of the death of love and passion in marriage. And since Crusie chooses not to demonize her characters - making it clear that both partners are responsible for a divorce - it left me with little hope for the romances that bloomed during the course of the story. Despite the upbeat ending, I finished the book feeling very heavy. My final thoughts were: life is too hard, marriage is really impossible, what is the point of it all?

Additionally, I just couldn't agree with some of the decisions Nell makes during the period of her recovery. Some of them seemed, at best, rather unethical. And Riley, in many ways the most likable, charming person in the book, was very promiscuous. His sexual behavior made his overall character less appealing to me.

I know I'm not the right audience for this book. I'm younger than any of the characters, I'm happily married, and I'm sexually conservative (which, oddly enough, didn't limit my enjoyment to Welcome to Temptation, even though it was rather a guilty pleasure for me as opposed to a pure one). I had a similar qualified reaction to Fast Women as I had to Tell Me Lies; if you liked that one, this one should work for you as well. While I liked many of the components in this book, it didn't leave me with a good feeling - it left me kind of sad.

LLB: AAR Reviewer Jennifer Schendel also read Fast Women. We don't present her review as a second review because her grade for the book was not much different than Rachel's. Still, we thought it would be interesting to share a brief view of Jennfier's take on the book - her grade is a B.
"In Fast Women, Jennifer Crusie's comic talents are in fine form. Once again she makes me able to enjoy plot points that normally would have me flinging a book against the wall (e.g. the heroine having relations with someone besides the hero). Unfortunately, towards the end of the book the story started to drag; it seemed as though author Crusie piled on comic details to cover plot weaknesses. And while I think Nell and Gabe will have their HEA, the cynical and sarcastic tone of the story just didn't leave me feeling excited for them. If you're reading the book for the humor and character study alone, you'll enjoy it far more than if you are reading it with the romance firmly in your mind because the romance is disappointing."

-- Rachel Potter

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