I've always been a voracious reader. It's what got me started blogging in the first place - I was reading blogs for YEARS before I ever started writing one. When I find a really great book I love to pass it on to anyone whose eyes don't glaze over when I gush on and on about it. So, inspired partly by Jenners and her book reviews and partly by Mama Kat's discussion at the blog frog, I've decided to start Fiction Fridays, where I will review the books I'm currently in love with. No cute button because I have zero idea how to make one! If I manage to figure that out I will remedy that. In the meantime, here's the first review:
Jennifer Crusie is one of my all time favorite female authors. She's one of the few authors who fall into my Buy The Hardcover The Day It Comes Out Because Waiting For Paperback Would Kill Me category. Her writing is sharp and witty and her characters banter cleverly back and forth in a way that makes me fall deeply in love with each and every one of them, often within a few pages. You want to become best friends with her heroines and you want to marry her heroes. Her female characters are smart, funny and independent and her men are all the things men should be - strong, protective, funny, and sexy as hell.
I also appreciate that her heroines are not virgins, and she never, ever uses phrases like "her heaving bosom" or "his throbbing manhood". These kinds of things are what make it SO OVERWHELMING sometimes to navigate the romance section of the bookstore. When I read a romance novel, I want to be able to picture MYSELF in the starring role. I don't want some unattainably perfect, devastatingly beautiful heroine being dramatically wooed by some over the top, hypothetical Prince Charming. I want a female who sometimes makes the wrong decisions in life and love! A man who screws up occasionally! Messy sex that makes me alternately swoon and laugh out loud! You should finish a good romance novel and think, that could happen to me, not not in a million years, because I'm not her and guys like that don't exist outside of romance novels.
Ok stepping off the soapbox. To summarize: her characters are real and imperfect, and the sex is dirty and fun.
(I will just say here that I have not read anything else by Bob Mayer except for the other novel he wrote with Crusie, Don't Look Down (also fantastic). Their collaborations involve her writing the female POV scenes and his writing the male POV scenes. They each choose some plot point they want the story to incorporate, and they just kind of jump right in and see what happens. I am blown away by how well their writing styles complement each other. These two books have made me determined to read Mayer's other books ASAP.)
In Agnes and the Hitman, Anges is a warm, feisty chef with an unfortunate penchant for taking a frying pan to her cheating fiances. She and her adopted bloodhound Rhett have just moved into Agnes' Southern dream home, but for some reason armed men are showing up left and right in foiled dognapping attempts. Shane is a retired mobster's nephew, working in a questionable profession himself, called into town to watch over Agnes as a favor to his uncle. Add in a dirtbag fiance, a best friend's crazy mother, a mob wedding that needs to happen at any cost, and a decades old murder mystery, and you've got a book you will open, fall immediately into, and emerge from only when finished.
I cannot say enough good things about this book. It's one that I reread whenever I want a really good escape. The first time I finished it I turned to Nick and said, "If I were to write a book, I would want it to be this exact book". I've had similar feelings about almost all of Crusie's books. They always seem to have the perfect balance of realism and fantasy. The characters are flawed enough to be relatable, there are enough setbacks for the outcome to be believable, and the endings are always completely satisfying. Predictable? Maybe, but what romance novel isn't in the end? Crusie incorporates enough surprises along the way to keep things from being too formulaic. There's usually some sort of mystery element involved, and that keeps the plot moving quickly along and allows for plenty of character development. I would reccommend Agnes and the Hitman to anyone looking for a great modern romance.
If any of you have read this or another of Crusie's books, what do you think?