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Rereading Jenny: The Cinderella Deal

January 19, 2014

[Spotlights can contain spoilers. This one certainly does.]

I am highly medicated on something that doesn’t let me sleep very deeply, or for very long, so I doubt I can give this book what it deserves, which is a huge round of applause.

applause

Man, I hope that works. I’m on the app.

Anywhoodle, first off: the leads.

Daisy Flattery: manic pixie dream girl–or is she? at the very least, she is “quirky”

Linc Blaise: First fully-likable, feminist/ally male protag

Sex: vanilla

Type of book: straight-up romance

Recurring elements: quirky secondary cast, “suit” (yuppie was going out of style, I guess), cool bff

Damn the Ex still missing? Technically yes. They don’t need to damn the guy; he was already a loser.

Fighting the Manic Pixie Dream Girl before she even existed: Daisy is a free-spirited teacher-turned-unemployed artist, who quit her day job to live her dream. Unfortunately, her dream pays terribly, and she’s working so hard on side projects and making more of the same art that she’s not growing as an artist. Mostly she is just doing the same thing over and over again (primitive something something) with a pet who puts the cat in catatonic, Liz.

Living upstairs from her is a suit/yuppie named Linc. He’s a good guy, a smart guy, a professor actually. His dream job is at a college where he can be tenure-track and do more than grade the same crappy intro papers over and over again. He sees this opportunity in Prescott, Ohio, where a conservative little college exists where he can teach grad students and work on his next book.

Both characters are looking for career freedom, basically.

Linc meets the hiring committee of the tiny college and the guy he needs to impress most likes “traditional values” and wives, and Linc makes up a fiancee on the spot. It is pretty much the first time he ever lies, and he’s annoyed with himself but more annoyed at the idea that a fiancee is what puts the job within his reach. So fight stupid with stupid, right?

He needs a fiancee.

Of the two unattached women in his building, Julia, Daisy’s bff, is too sharp to play traditional values, even for a day, so he defaults to Daisy, whom he barely knows but for her seeming to hate him and being a storyteller. He plays to the latter aspect and she plays to the fact that she’s broke.

Meanwhile, they’re sizing each other up. Daisy sees Linc as a stuffed shirt with a crazy car (a black Porsche that she calls “the Nazimobile”) and Linc sees Daisy as a crazy post-hippie with the ability to lie. Not lie, she says, tell a story. What’s the difference? he asks. A lie is something you completely make up. A story contains elements of what you want to happen. She tells him he wasn’t really telling a lie to the school dude (um, Crawford; I forget his exact title–president?). Instead, he put out there what he wants. Of course she’ll play along. For a lot of money. He agrees and off they go.

He loves this idea of a not-lie story; he gets very wrapped up in the idea that he’s projecting what he wants. He really DOES want a fiancee in Prescott, Ohio. Someone more sophisticated than Daisy, of course, but she would project the down-home sweetness Crawford’s looking for, and he would okay her, and then they would “break up” after he moved to Prescott.

The thing is, Daisy is down-home sweetness. She’s quirky, too, though, and Linc wants her to hide it. Although he can’t deny she’s fun and interesting, she’s also messy, disorganized, and way, way too crazy to like.

Daisy is a hit with Crawford, who turns out to be very handsy, and his wife, a woman who goes around in an alcoholic stupor just to deal with her awful husband and desperately wants someone to play her daughter, specifically Daisy. Both Daisy and Linc have some guilt, but Daisy falls in love with Prescott and sees it as a place where she can grow. She falls for a house, too, and after she goes back home and Linc moves up there, Crawford’s wife Chickie talks him into buying it and painting it the way Daisy would want.

Linc, of course, tries to tell Crawford it’s ended, but Crawford won’t hear of it, and tells Linc to go back and get her. By this time, Linc and Daisy miss the life they’ve pretended they can have, and they miss their attraction and their budding friendship, so he makes her another deal: marriage, career freedom, for about a year.

At this point they’re totally fooling themselves but not the reader.

This is another book where Crusie builds a community, and that’s one of the things that I’ve always loved about her. You don’t have this couple in isolation, although I do think many couples DO live in isolation. You’ve got Daisy’s town friends and connections, Linc’s coworkers and boss and students, who start taking over their house, their families, and her bff on the outside to give perspective. You’ve got Liz the apathetic cat, and a rescued kitten from the beginning of the book, and a rescued dog who is completely pathetic yet lovable.

And then you’ve got Daisy and Linc, getting to know each other, actually changing. Not just him, not her pixie-ing her way through his life, but her too, trying to find the balance between her wife-self and her creative-self.

This is a big deal for me, I think. It’s one of the things you could look at on the very surface and see “Daisy is a free spirit. Daisy gets with Linc. Daisy no longer feels like a free spirit. Linc compromises for her but is it enough?” I saw that on a Goodreads comment, and it annoyed the crap out of me, because Daisy LIKES being organized once she starts doing it. She LIKES her home, when puts certain Daisyesque touches on it. It might not be exactly what she’d do if she were on her own–not even close–but she’s both people, the adult Daisy who set up everything in advance when the flu came through town, just in case, and the crazy Daisy who doesn’t take enough care with herself to not puke up a burger and Coke because she wanted them and, darn it, she wanted them.

But that commenter, who annoyed me, also didn’t recognize that Linc likes both sides of Daisy too, which is why he can compromise. He likes that she makes him laugh and gets him out of his rut and stops him from turning into his mother/her dad (mostly her dad). He likes it from the beginning, when he plays along pretending to be her brother (the truth in that story being that she wants someone to protect her). He’s embarrassed by her at times, but he IMMEDIATELY challenges that in himself. It’s right there on the page. At first, it’s a “It’s not my life, so who cares?” challenge, and then it’s “It’s my life too, can I handle this?” challenge.

I like it.

I also like that Linc is really into women’s rights. He loves her feminist paintings and she loves the book he’s working on about feminism and birth control. He doesn’t march or wave flags or declare himself because he doesn’t have to, any more than she does, and for once, that’s on the page but not thrown in our faces–not that I think it’s not legit that other leads do, and have to, because sometimes it needs to be said, but sometimes it doesn’t; it’s just how we live our lives.

Anyway, great book, I feel like I’m missing a couple of things, but whatever. Daisy isn’t skinny. This is for Loveswept, not Harlequin, which is maybe why the cover is stupid and the sex is boring.

Oh, yeah, Art. Daisy likes a guy named Art. Since part of the deal was that she and Linc can have discreet affairs, she even goes so far as to kiss Art. Art is a great guy who on paper should be able to give Daisy everything she needs. But the reality is that Daisy needs someone who takes care of her as well as loves her–not just that, but a bit of a challenge. Art isn’t a challenge, even though he’s awesome.

AND the secondary romance thing? Sub.Verted.

Finally, the covers.

I read the original, not the reprint, and I hear there are differences but I have no idea because my daughter owns the reprint, not me.

20140119-121527.jpg

He looks stupid. It’s not as stupid as the reprint cover though.

20140119-121605.jpg

This is not the right dog.

A cover I like? The trade cover:

20140119-121639.jpg

THERE you go.

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