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Rereading Jenny: What the Lady Wants

January 8, 2014

[Spotlights may contain spoilers.]

So, we have two types of books so far: the more plot-dense straight-up mysteries, and the romances–which may or may not have a little mystery going on in them.

What the Lady Wants is a straight-up mystery.  Mitch is a private detective, and Mae is the fake femme fatale who uses him to get what she wants–her family distracted while she finds her recently-dead uncle’s missing diary.  So she tells Mitch that her uncle was murdered, and he doesn’t buy her act for a second, but still ends up trapped in her family’s craziness.

So this will be another theme from now on: crazy families.

Mae is neither career driven (not at all) and in her own way (much), nor is she a doormat (much), and I think she suffers for it.  Of all the romance-era heroines, she is my least favorite.  There’s nothing wrong with her, really, but I think she’s lacking that Crusie spark.

Mitch pretty much gets all the spark in this, and I was with him until the Opening the West speech, wherein he tells her that men have to cheat because even if you have the sexiest, most wonderful woman at home, you’ll want to sleep with the next one, just because she’s there.  Because we get all this from Mae’s perspective–because it’s presented as Mitch Fact and not Mitch Trying to Put Distance Between Them–he comes off as pretty much the scummiest.

Plus, this book does a huge disservice to librarians.  Mitch LOVES librarians; he’s dated a ton of them. And yes, I know, this was 1995, not exactly the year of the Rebellious Librarian, but they’re pretty much described across the board as shy, unremarkable, and looking for commitment.


The real problem with this book, though, is that it hits the ground running, as do all Crusie books–she hates prologues, she believes everything should be set up in the first scene–but it moves too fast at first.  Trying to figure out who everyone is is a disaster.  Getting a read on the characters is difficult, but maybe it’s supposed to be because it’s a mystery?  I wish it weren’t, though, because it took me a while to warm up to everyone.  Why does Carlo think it’s okay to want to bang his cousin and acts like she’s super virginal even though she’s been married before?  Why does Uncle Gio have a different last name?  Is he her mother’s brother?  Why does everyone act like Harold and June are totally elderly and can never work again, when they’re just as old as everyone else?  Why does Uncle Gio have a grandson but no kids?

This is the first time Crusie connects characters in one book to another, though.  Nick and Tess are there, and Tess is either playing a great game with Mitch or else she’s really mellowed from the last book.  I honestly couldn’t tell.  Does it feel shoehorned in?  Maybe a little, but Nick comes up again later, so it’s not as bad as other attempts at this that I’ve read.

The sex is tame and boring and non-boundary-smashing compared to the other works.

But: there’s a dog, a great dog (I just wish I could’ve visualized the cabinet thing better, but I feel like I couldn’t get a read on it from the description).

Oh, and I forgot to say this too before: Crusie seems to work on a two-type guy level too: you’ve got the super handsomes and the super manlys.  Nick and Mitch are super manly.  Richard is super handsome.  I forget what Jake is.  Probably both.  But I like this because there’s some sexy-ugly going on here, which is a nice change from the always-beautifuls of typical romance.  I believe she says that Nick’s face is made out of “slabs” which is incredibly descriptive but nothing like what you’d read elsewhere.

Oh, and revised cover in the picture?  Awful.  Mine is from the skinny-shadow era of romance covers, but at least it looks like the mystery it is.


Next up: Charlie All Night, back to straight up romance, with a little mystery thrown in.  Crusie finally ditches the skinny heroines.  No dog yet though, but it’s cool.  Fred’s after that.


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