Jennifer Crusie has never been an especially prolific author and that’s even more true now. But each of her books sticks with me. I love the crazy plots, the zingy one-liners, the madcap escapades. Each of her books sits on my keeper shelf, waiting for me to pick them up and revisit those characters I know and love as well as old friends. And like old friends, Crusie’s books have taught me things, life lessons that I carry with me out into the real world.
Family Makes You Crazy
All of Crusie’s books are filled with family, which makes sense because family shapes us and makes us who we are, for better or worse. Family gives you your start in life and if you’re a Crusie character, they drive you up a wall. Min in Bet Me even goes so far as to give up butter to appease her mother. Rest assured, the book makes it clear what a horrible tragedy that is. In Welcome to Temptation, Sophie ties herself into knots to get her movie made while also trying to keep both her brother and sister from getting themselves arrested. She lies, cheats, steals, even risks the love of her life to protect her siblings. There is nothing that threatens your sanity like the people you love most in the world.
And then there is my own favorite Crusie, Faking It. Every single character in that book is bent, twisted somehow. Secret persona, criminal history, or simply scary needlepoint, they are all a bit, or a whole lot, left of center and I love every single one of them.
“And living with you and the girls, of course,” Mason added, smiling at her. “Little Eve and Matilda. How are they?”
Eve’s been divorced since her husband came out of the closet, and Tilda’s given up forgery for burglary.
"Fine,” Gwen said.
“You were always the best part of his life, Gwennie,” Mason said. “You don’t mind me calling you Gwennie, do you? It’s what Tony always called you. It’s the way I always think of you.”
“Of course not,” Gwen said, thinking, Yes, I mind, and fat lot of good it does me.
Family Makes You Whole
Whether it’s the family you were born into or the community that you make yourself, no character is happy until she is surrounded by the people who love her. Many of her books involve a heroine who is looking for a new family, either because her own is a bit broken or because she has lost her family somehow. Nell spends Fast Women moving from bitterly mourning the end of her marriage to finding herself surrounded by love, of her new friends and her new man.
In Welcome to Temptation Sophie is always on the move until she comes to the small town of Temptation and wants nothing more than to stay.
“You get this all the time,” [Sophie] said. “You live in this movie set of a town, and you belong absolutely and everybody loves you and I bet you don’t even appreciate it because you’re too busy being cool and powerful.”
“Do you have any idea what you’re talking about?” Phin said.
“Yes.” Sophie started down the slope to the river. “I’m talking about what you have and I don’t. All you see is politics and problems.”
To go back to Faking It, all that wacky gets smooshed together and somehow turns into something better. Tilda is stuck running her family’s art gallery and then in strolls Davy to mess everything up and then eventually make everything right. Tilda and Davy manage to turn two lifetimes full of lies and secrets and a criminal past and a not-too-legal present into a family.
Dogs Make Everything Better
I love dogs. Cats are soft and sweet but they make me sneeze. Dogs are playful and devoted and always there for me when I’m down. Jennifer Crusie knows all this which is why most of her books prominently feature a dog. Anyone but You features a dog that steals the show from the hero and heroine even as he plays matchmaker. (True story: I had to look up the title of this since I think of it simply as Fred’s book.)
Tell Me Lies starts with a reasonably content Quinn deciding she wants a dog. It seems like simple choice, a small decision but that one stray dog unravels her life until she isn’t that content with it anymore and starts making some big changes, huge changes. And it all starts with the rescue of a dog.
[Quinn’s] destiny was a small black dog with desperate eyes, so she missed the significance at first.
[…] It looked cold and scared and hungry and anxious as it struggled in Thea’s arms, and Quinn’s heart broke. No animal should ever look like that.
Love Is Magic
From the literal magic of The Unfortunate Miss Fortunes to the fairy tale quality of Bet Me to the more commonplace romance of Charlie All Night or Getting Rid of Bradley (okay, okay, they’re ordinary for a Crusie book) there is no problem that love doesn’t solve in Crusie’s universe. That’s why it’s a place I like to visit often.
Julia Broadbooks writes contemporary romance. She lives in the wilds of suburban Florida with her ever patient husband and bakes ridiculous amounts of sugary treats for her teens' friends. Find her on Twitter @juliabroadbooks.