BET ME
Jennifer Crusie


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St. Martin's Press, 2004
Reviewed by Barbara Fielding

Min Dobbs and Cal Morrisey are two people who don't believe in happily-ever-after fairy tales.

Min, an actuary in her family's insurance company, has just been dumped by her current boyfriend because she wouldn't sleep with him. Her business is risk assessment, and sometimes her professional calculations impact her personal life choices as well. Min was never in love with David, she just needed a date to her sister's wedding. She never felt comfortable enough with David to take their relationship to a deeper level. Her best friends, Bonnie and Lisa, advise her to move on to her next romantic interest as soon as possible. They even pick out a possible candidate for her; the best looking guy at their favorite hang out, the Long Shot bar.

Cal Morrisey is in partnership with his two boyhood friends, Tony and Roger, in a software seminar business. They are chronic gamblers who bet on small time stuff. One evening at the local bar, David, one of their seminar clients, bets Cal he can't pick up the curvy brunette across the bar. Since David just broke up with her he knows she's in a mood to savage the next man who crosses her path. Cal is handsome and easy going and he has never had a problem picking up ladies. He tries to get out of the bet without offending a client, but David insists. Cal never realizes that Min overhears their wager.

Later Cal crosses the room to ask Min out to dinner, but Min has figured out a way to turn their lousy bet back on them. She accepts. After an outrageously expensive dinner and an evening trading wisecracks and zingers, Min and Cal find they are exhilarated and attracted to each other. There is no chance they will ever go out with each other again, but circumstances keep throwing them together with surprising results. While Min and Cal struggle with their issues of mistrust and attraction, family and friends run interference in their wacky relationship. Can two non-believers in happily-ever-after recognize true love when it's staring them right in the face?

Jennifer Crusie is a master of romantic comedy. She's taken an interesting look at modern day theories of love and romance, which are explored through her supporting characters: Cynthie's pop psychology of dating, Tony's chaos theory of attraction, and Bonnie's idealized fairy tale viewpoint.

Min has a "zaftig" full figure and loves food. She has some great scenes involving Krispy Kreme donuts and chicken marsala. Crusie tackles Min's weight issues straight on and with humor. One of my only complaints about this book is you can't read it without getting hungry. Another involves the lesbian bartender's attraction to Min. It's a minor scene, but it felt a bit awkward.

Overall, BET ME is delightful and wickedly funny. The story moves like a roller coaster ride, fast with lots of curves and hills. It's got lots of symbolism going on, like Min's trendy shoe fetish she loses one shoe and Cal returns it, a definite Cinderella reference. This is one of Crusie's best novels, and it comes with a modern day fairy tale romance.

April 2004 Review

 

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