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Bibliocrack Review: Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie

Lately I've been feeling a bit blue. Nothing desperate. Just in need of some cheering up, some laughter, something bright inside amid all this dreary weather we're enduring outside. I found myself craving it every night when I settled down to read and just not finding it in the books stacked around me. Then about month ago Keishon over at Avid Book Reader reviewed Manhunting by Jennifer Crusie. I love Keishon's reviews and eclectic taste and I remembered I'd been wanting to give Crusie a try for awhile now. I asked for suggestions in the comments there and got several good ones. The consensus there and on a few other sites I checked was that Bet Me is widely regarded as one of Crusie's best titles. So on my next trip to the library I picked it up and settled in that night, not sure exactly what to expect, but hoping for the best.

Minerva Dobbs is ready to kill her suddenly ex-boyfriend David when he dumps her in a crowded bar a couple of weeks before her sister's wedding. Flanked by her two best friends, Liza and Bonnie, Min tries to focus on the fact that she never liked David much anyway and she's actually quite relieved to be rid of the smarmy loser who insisted she stay on a strict diet and always picked the restaurants they went to. At the same time, in another corner of the bar, Calvin Morrisey is happy to be rid of his marriage-hungry former girlfriend and is looking forward to just running his company and spending time with his buddies. He is neither amused nor interested when David Fisk bets him $10,000 he can't make it with Min within a month. Lucky for Min, she overhears the conversation and determines to beat (and hopefully humiliate) them both at their own game. So when Cal approaches Min in an attempt to get away from David, the game is on and he doesn't even know it. What he does know is this woman wants to be with him approximately as much as he wants to be with her, which is to say not even a little bit. Also, there is nothing exciting or colorful about her except the unlikely and impractical shoes she's got on. But he asks her to dinner anyway and she inexplicably accepts. Hilarity, heat, and shenanigans ensue.

Jennifer Crusie had me from page one. I liked Min and Cal so much it was perfectly delicious watching them push each other's buttons and alternately despise and surprise each other. I liked all four of the best friends--particularly the sappy-but-impossible-to-dislike Bonnie and Roger, determinedly pursuing their happily ever after no matter how hard their well-meaning friends tried to convince them it doesn't exist. Yes, it was utterly predictable fluff. But the writing was surprisingly deft and the characters were no cardboard cutouts. Every now and then I'd run across a sentence that was at once airy and light and perfectly placed to resonate with the reader or sketch out what was going on between characters at the time. There were a couple of "villains" that behaved just as you might expect, but even they turned out to be grayer than I thought. But secondary characters aside, Min and Cal make this romantic comedy. They're real and fully-fleshed out and they have histories and families and careers and it all comes into play as they try and fail to remain detached from each other. So much of why I had a ridiculously good time reading Bet Me was the nonstop humor. An early example from that first dinner:
Cal turned and saw Emilio, this time with a fragrant platter of chicken marsala, golden-brown filets and huge braised mushrooms floating luminously in dark wine sauce.
"Oh, my Lord," Min said.
Emilio beamed at her as he served. "It's a pleasure to serve someone who appreciates food. Taste it."
Min cut into the chicken and put a forkful in her mouth. She looked startled and then she closed her eyes and began to chew, her face flushed with pleasure. When she'd swallowed, she looked up at Emilio, her eyes shining. "This is incredible," she said, and Cal thought, Me, look at me like that.
"Try the mushrooms," Emilio said, happy as a half-Italian clam.
"Go away," Cal told him, but Emilio stayed until Min had bitten into one of the huge mushrooms and told him with heartfelt passion that he was a genius.
"Can I get some credit for bringing you here?" Cal said when Emilio was gone.
"Yes," Min said. "You are a genius at restaurants. Now be quiet so I can concentrate on this."
Cal sighed and gave up on the conversation for the rest of the meal. There was a skirmish at the end when Min tried to insist on separate checks, but Cal said, "I invited you, I pay. Back off, woman." She looked as though she were going to argue for a moment, and then she nodded. "Thank you very much," she told him. "You've given me a lovely meal and a new favorite restaurant," and he felt appreciated for the first time that night.
When they left, she kissed Emilio on the cheek. "Your bread is the greatest, Emilio, but the chicken is a work of art." Then she kissed him on the other cheek.
"Hey," Cal said. "I'm right here. I paid for the chicken."
"Don't beg," Min told him and went out the door.
"Morrisey, I think you just met your match," Emilio said.
"Not even close," Cal said, grateful to be without her for a moment. "This was our first, last, and only date."
"Nope," Emilio said. "I saw the way you looked at each other."
"That was fear and loathing," Cal said, opening the door.
"God, you're dumb," Emilio said, and Cal ignored him and went out into the dark to find Min.
And just for fun, here's an early scene where Min tries on her Maid of Honor dress and deals with her mother:
Min took a deep breath and popped the button on her skirt. "Look, Mother, I am never going to be thin. I'm Norwegian. If you wanted a thin daughter, you should not have married a man whose female ancestors carried cows home from the pasture."
"You're half Norwegian," Nanette said, "which is no excuse at all because there are plenty of slim Nordic beauties. You're just eating to rebel against me."
"Mother, sometimes it's not about you," Min snapped as she held her skirt together. "Sometimes it's genetics."
"Not your loud voice, dear," her mother said, and turned to Diana as she held up the corset. "We'll just have to tie it together."
"Good idea," Min said. "Then when I pass out at the altar, you can point out how slim and Nordic I am."
"Minerva, this is your sister's wedding," Nanette said. "You can sacrifice a little."
"I'ts okay, it's okay," Diana said, holding out her hands. "There's time to have one made in Min's size. Everything will be fine."
"Oh, good." Min stepped up on the platform to look at herself in the trifold mirror. She looked like the blowsy barmaid who worked in the inn behind the castle, the one who'd trash-picked one of the princess's castoffs. "This is so not me."
"It's a great color for you, Min," Diana said softly as she came to stand behind her on the platform, and Min leaned back so their shoulders touched.
"You're going to be the most amazing bride," she told Diana. "People are going to gasp when they see you."
"You, too," Diana said, and squeezed Min's shoulder.
Yeah, when my corset explodes and my breasts hit the minister.
"What happened to your eye?" Diana said in Min's ear, low enough so that Nanette couldn't hear.
"The beast hit me last night," Min said, and then when Diana straightened, she added, "I walked into his elbow. Not his fault."
"That's the wrong bra for that dress," Nanette said from behind them.
"You're not by any chance my stepmother are you?" Min said to her mother's reflection. "Because that would explain so much."
"Here, darling," Nanette said and handed her five different colored lace bras. "Go in there and put one of these on and bring me that cotton thing. I'm going to burn it."
"What cotton thing?" Diana said.
"I'm wearing a plain white bra," Min told her as she stepped off the platform, her hands full of lace.
Diana widened her eyes and looked prim. "Well, you're going to hell."
"Diana," Nanette said.
"I know," Min said as she headed for the dressing room. "That's where all the best men are."
"Minerva," Nanette said. "Where are you going"
"It's Thursday," Min said, over her shoulder. "I'm meeting Liza and Bonnie for dinner, and I don't want to talk about my underwear anymore." She stopped in the doorway to the dressing room. "Order the bigger corset--much bigger, Mother--and we'll try this again when it comes in."
"No carbs," her mother called after her as she went into the dressing room. "And no butter."
"I know you stole me from my real parents," Min called back. "They'd let me eat butter." Then she shut the door behind her before Nanette could tell her to avoid sugar, too.
Sigh. I loved this book. Clearly a case of the right one at the right time. I took it back to the library knowing I would need to go out soon and procure my own copy because I can tell I'll want to revisit these characters. I laughed so much reading it and by the time I finished everything was bright and lovely inside once more.

Note: I went on a bit of a Crusie binge after this and, four books in, Bet Me is far and away my favorite. Definitely the best of the lot.

Book Binge Review
Dissecting Perfection Review
Kathy Holmes Review
Laura's Review
Petit Fours and Hot Tamales Review
Royal Review


  1. I'm glad you enjoyed Bet Me. It's a picker-upper, that's for sure.

    I find that I have to be in *exactly* the right mood for it though, or all the quippiness wears me out. But Crusie does have a lovely hand with humor and you gotta love that Cal loved Min just exactly as she was, fabulous!

  2. This sounds AMAZING! I absolutely MUST read it!!

  3. I remember that I like this book when I read it :)
    Glad you have enjoyed reading it as well.

  4. Sweet! I had this book on request at my library for months before the book was finally catalogued as lost! I recently found a friend has it in her stash of giveaway books so I've claimed it! I can't wait to read it now!!! :)

  5. Is one of the four Crusie books you binged on Anyone But You? I read that one over the summer and really liked it.

  6. I'm glad to hear you enjoyed it. I found Cruise's dialogue especially entertaining: always witty and sharp. I'll have to try Bet Me next, I'm in a bit of a slump myself.

  7. Anonymous3:40 PM

    Have you read Welcome to Temptation? I think that's my favorite Crusie. I haven't read her in a while - I took a break after disliking the last two I read, but I remember enjoying Bet Me, too. Karen

  8. Kati, that's exactly what it was. And I can see what you mean about being in the perfect mood. But it really did have the whole Bridget Jones' Diary thing going on with Cal & Min. Just the way she is. :)

    Brizmus, lol, yes you MUST! Because it's delightful.

    Pat, I really did. Perfect timing, as I said.

    Christine, I think it'll be a home run for you. And, yes, ANYONE BUT YOU was the 2nd Crusie I read. I loved the two characters so much. I wished it was longer because I didn't feel like they got enough development time or depth. But they're probably my favorites after Cal and Min. :) That cute doc with his Daffy Duck boxers...

    Michelle, I really did. I think it's good for what ails you so you might go ahead and give it a shot if you're feeling slumpy. I thought the dialogue in this one was the sharpest. Ate it up. :)

    Karen, I'm finishing up WELCOME TO TEMPTATION tonight as a matter of fact! It's nice and long like BET ME and I find I like Crusie better when she's got some space to explore. The shorter ones just don't quite do it for me. I've enjoyed Sophie and Phin very much. She just showed him she knows her way around a pool table. *grin*

  9. Anonymous6:50 PM

    I am missing the Jenny Crusie gene. Everything about her should be what I like: the quips, the romance, the dogs, but she leaves me cold. I haven't been able to make it through most of her books (people keep telling me "oh, but THIS one...") and these excerpts don't convince me I'm missing anything.

  10. Oooh this looks interesting! I've never read a Crusie but she's been recommended a couple of times.

  11. Anon, no worries. At least you know for sure. If those excerpts don't interest you I'd just wash my hands of it and move on. I recently ran into a similar situation with an author everyone and their dog loves and I've read three of her books and just nothing. I don't have the gene. So I know how you feel.

    Chachic, that's where I was and I'm glad I gave her a shot. Like I said, for me the others don't match up to this one. But your mileage may vary. I think it's a good place to start, though.

  12. This book is one of my favorite comfort reads. Favorite of all her books too. I've lost count of how many times I've read it but it always puts me in a better mood :)

  13. Oh, I so love this one as well!!! *sigh* *grin*

  14. "Good idea," Min said. "Then when I pass out at the altar, you can point out how slim and Nordic I am."

    Oh that made me laugh so hard! I almost was against this because I was sure I'd hate this book too. But then I realized it's Jennifer Weiner's books I always end up disliking. Maybe I'll give this one a shot.

  15. I am so happy to see this. Just yesterday I was at a thrift store and bought this for a buck, and then in the car home I was wondering if it was one of her good ones everyone talks about. So, yay! I might save it for a picker upper, too.

    Though, this thing you said made me want to read it right away:

    "Every now and then I'd run across a sentence that was at once airy and light and perfectly placed to resonate with the reader or sketch out what was going on between characters at the time."

  16. Anonymous10:05 AM

    I'm so glad you're enjoying Temptation! I thought it was a lot of fun. I agree the longer novels are better. The last two I read were reissues of shorter books and I didn't enjoy them. I have a copy of Agnes and the Hitman, one of the books she wrote with Bob Mayer, but I'm hesitant to read it. Karen

  17. I've read just about everything Crusie has written (even picked up Cinderella Deal just yesterday), and also really like Bet Me. I had a couple of others I really liked though...just can't think of them off the top of my head right now. I'm glad you joined in the Crusie-fest and that they've brightened things up for you. :)

    P.S. Hope to see you on Saturday???

  18. Yay, I loved this one. I also liked how their inner selves would sometimes go "This one" every so often in the story.

  19. J, that is very good to hear. I had a feeling I would re-read it as a comfort read and I'm glad to know you have many times over.

    Ana, *grin* I wondered if you did and thought you rather might.

    Sami, lol! Some great scenes with her horrible mother. I'd give it a shot. I've never read any of Weiner's books. I'm take it I shouldn't run right out and get one?

    CJ, I would. It's perfect for just such an occasion. As for that comment, she just did such a good job of balancing the ridiculous and ridiculously funny with those lines that ensure you feel the real bond forming between Min & Cal. *happy*

    Karen, *nods* same. Finished TEMPTATION and was happy they worked things out. It was dicey there for awhile...*grin*

    Becky, I'll be there! Looking forward to seeing you.

    Janice, when I saw your review was when I went out and got it. I knew it was sure to be good then. :) And thank you for mentioning the "This one" moments. LOVED those.

  20. I need to read Bet Me sometime soon. I see you beat me to it. How did you rate Manhunting? -Keishon

  21. It must be time for me to reread this book! I read everything I could find by Crusie when I first discovered her. The only things I haven't read are Cinderella Deal and Dogs and Goddesses which was one of her collaborations and I have absolutely no desire to read! Can't wait for the next stand alone book by her!

  22. Angie,

    Sadly I thought I would really love her stuff, but I couldn't finish her first book Good In Bed. Then I read the sequel, Certin Girls, and almost loved it until I hit the last 25 pages. I stopped reading it. I can't say why obviously, but you might really enjoy her books. Don't take my word for it. She really does have good writing skills and she is pretty funny.

  23. Try Faking it. It's the story for the brother from Welcome to Temptation. Faking it and Bet Me are my favorites. Crazy About You is good too but I agree, I like the longer ones best.

  24. Great review! I've read Temptation years ago and really enjoyed it, and I have been meaning ever since to read more from her. Bet Me sounds like a good place to start!

  25. Keishon, it wasn't my favorite. I enjoyed it, though, as I've enjoyed all of hers. But I really loved BET ME. :)

    Marg, I know what you mean. She's an author it seems you just blow right through a ton of her books when you discover her. I'm not much of one for collaborations either.

    Sami, noted.

    Starmmie, thanks for the rec. I didn't realize she continued on with any characters. That's cool.

    kay, definitely start with BET ME. Soooo good. :)

  26. Anonymous3:01 PM

    Just spotted this - thanks so much for the link! And I'm so glad you loved BET ME as much as I did. Really sets the bar high for all other contemporary romances :)

    Happy reading!

  27. So glad I had this book to turn to this weekend. It was delicious. I need another just like it!

  28. dissectingperfection, true dat!

    Liza, you know how happy it makes you when a book I hand you works. BET ME is literally a perfect weekend read.


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