St Martin’s Press, $6.99, ISBN 0-312-97112-5
Contemporary Romance, 2000 (Reissue)
Yes, I know I have no sense of humor, dear Jennifer Crusie fans. And yes, I humbly admit that I have bad taste in romance. But it strikes me as amusing how when one straps a Fiction instead of the more third-rate Romance on the spine, all the Times (LA Times, NY Times, Chicago Sun-Times, Timbuktu Times) scramble to praise this mediocre romantic comedy as “Utterly romantic! Witty! Wicked!” No wonder no one likes critics. They can’t be too smart (present company included, perhaps).
Then again, perhaps they just like insecure, whiny heroines. After all, that’s the way modern women are portrayed from the Oxygen network to women’s magazines – we women smile and put our heads high in our pride in our ovaries, but inside, we are one insecure, seething mess of “I’m too fat. I need a man. I’m unattractive. I want to shop!” neuroses. Maybe that’s realism to the press and the media.
Me, I think this book should be called Whiny for You. Okay, I did take a vow not to whine about whiny heroines. So I’ll try to overlook the fact that the heroine is one whiny, insecure woman who can’t do anything but to cling to a man, even if she has to settle for third best. Never mind that she dithers, can’t speak up for herself, and she needs a man because she needs one, not because she wants one.
The plot is nothing short of contrived attempt at being cute. Our heroine Quinn McKenzie is engaged to a nice catch, Bill, who has a great body and is a great teacher in the same school where our heroine works. Never mind that Bill patronizes her. Quinn thinks it isn’t fair to hurt his feelings, so she shuts up and lets him do the macarena all over her spineless comatose form (go figure).
Then, Quinn finds yet another stray dog, but damn it, this dog is special! Quinn and the dog bond, and when Bill throws the dog to the pound, Quinn dumps Bill (not before a lot of hand-wringing, of course). She also gets her ex-brother-in-law Nick Ziegler to help, and naturally, they shag under a car while the dog looks on.
The pace is good, the writing’s snappy and alive, but the relationship is pure “Cor, ain’t that boring, guv’nor?” material. Why Quinn? What’s so special about Quinn that distinguishes her from the 22-year old girls the pushing-40 Nick goes out and down with?
I have no idea.
That’s easy – Quinn, in typical Modern Woman stereotype, can’t get any decent man to save her life. She’s too self-absorbed in her pity party that she wouldn’t know Mr Right if Mr Right drives up in a steam roller and squash her into pancakes. I love doggies, and I believe I’m expected to go “Aw, so cute! Nick saves a dog!” but my impression after the whole fiasco is” “Great. Full House, anyone?”
There’s also a subplot about Nick’s bro Max’s wife Barbara. Hubby works so hard to give her a good life, but what does that irate, whiny woman do? Complains that hubby is boring, he doesn’t love her anymore, yadda yadda.
The nail in the coffin is at the end of the day, it is so hard to see Nick and Quin together in five years from now. There’s nothing in Quinn to actually keep a man by her side, sooner or later I bet Nick would get bored by her incessant need for attention to boost her insecurity. Nick too, shows no sign that Quinn is different from the prepubescent girls he prefers. Heck, Quinn doesn’t even have anything in common with him. Come to think of it, I don’t think Quinn even likes men.
But it is so easy to see Nick throwing his TV and remote into the back of his truck and calls “See ya babe! It’s been fun but it’s time I go a-movin’ along!”. And with American Pie (“Bye bye Miss American Pie!”) blaring from the speakers, of course. Then Quinn would sit down, weep, and mope until the author takes pity on her and give her another NYT-bestselling sequel that everyone would praise and clamor for.