Today’s guest post is by Ricki Wovsaniker, an aspiring romance author, mother of a four-year-old, and Hebrew School teacher. At no point do her roles make her feel schizophrenic.
Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie is the book I recommend to readers who have not read romance yet. The first time I lent it to a friend she almost put it down after one chapter. She was accustomed to reading literary fiction and got little chills the first time she plunged into commercial waters.
“Don’t compare it to literary fiction,” I told her. “They’re not trying to do the same thing. Compare it to the last romantic comedy you saw at the movie theater.”
She took my advice. She loved the book.
My sister had read a few other romances my mother and I had left lying around, but hadn’t really loved one yet. She read Bet Me and loved it so much she immediately made chicken Marsala. Yeah, chicken Marsala plays a major role in this novel. It is, in fact, the catalyst for everything.
Without it, the hero couldn’t woo the heroine, couldn’t figure out what makes her tick, couldn’t demonstrate what makes him so dreamy. And the heroine could never figure out what she wants in her life and what she only thinks she wants because other people want it for her. It is all about the chicken Marsala.
But lending this book out to not-yet-romance readers is a problem for me. In fact, I now have two copies of this book. There’s the older, mass-market paperback, with the light blue cover with clouds and the plastic shoes with the cherries on them (Shoes also play a major and swoon-worthy role in this book.), and then there’s the new edition, which is trade paperback-sized and has a really pretty white cover with two red dice.
A bunch of Crusie’s novels are being reprinted and I’m collecting them all. And only the mass-market paperback is available for loan from the Ricki library. Unless I REALLY trust you and you live near me. Because I need Bet Me around. Because what if I’m having a bad day? Or I can’t sleep? What if I’m sick and I don’t want to start a new book because I won’t be able to concentrate but I just want something that makes me feel happy? I need to have one copy of Bet Me always on hand!
It’s hard to pin down exactly what makes Bet Me so good. The premise is sort of typical romantic comedy fare. The heroine, Minerva, is a little overweight and dresses like she’s ashamed of her body (but still wears awesome shoes). The hero, Cal, is unbelievably good-looking and dreamy, with just a soupçon of tortured, and a cute nephew and a meddling ex. There are supportive besties and irritating family members and the titular bet that brings the romantic pair together and then keeps them at arm’s length for the requisite 400 pages.
It’s not like it’s new territory. It’s just that Crusie does it better than anyone else. You leave this book wanting to snuggle it close to your chest forever.
What do you recommend to people who’ve never read romance before? What do you recommend to people who don’t read YA or sci-fi or fantasy?
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