Beginning January 1, 2013

Stop by the new site and take a look around.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Maybe This Time by Jennifer Cruisie

Maybe This Time by Jennifer Crusie
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Recent Historical (1992), Paranormal, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (342 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4.5 books
Reviewed by Poppy

Andie Miller is ready to move on with her life. She wants to marry her fiancé and leave behind everything in her past, especially her ex-husband, North Archer. But when Andie tries to gain closure with him, he asks one final favor of her. A distant cousin has died and left North the guardian of two orphans who have driven away three nannies already, and things are getting worse. He needs someone to take care of the situation, and he knows Andie can handle anything....

When Andie meets the two children, she realizes the situation is much worse than she feared. Carter and Alice aren’t your average delinquents, and the creepy old house where they live is being run by the worst housekeeper since Mrs. Danvers. Complicating matters is Andie’s fiancé’s suspicion that this is all a plan by North to get Andie back. He may be right because Andie’s dreams have been haunted by North since she arrived at the old house. And that’s not the only haunting....

Then her ex-brother-in-law arrives with a duplicitous journalist and a self-doubting parapsychologist, closely followed by an annoyed medium, Andie’s tarot card-reading mother, her avenging ex-mother-in-law, and her jealous fiancé. Just when Andie’s sure things couldn’t get more complicated, North arrives to make her wonder if maybe this time things could just turn out differently....

Take Jennifer Crusie’s trademark cast of quirky-but-realistic characters, mix in suspense and some paranormal activity and you have a whiz-bang book worth the six-year wait since her last solo effort.

I’m a huge Jenny Crusie fangirl, so as much as I may have enjoyed her collaborative efforts, I’ve been anxious for her return to solo releases. While Maybe This Time is nothing like I expected, and is quite a bit different from the Crusie novels of old, I wasn’t left wanting.

North and Andie were divorced ten years ago, but now Andie’s back in his life, demanding that he stop sending her alimony checks (that she’s not cashing anyway) so she can move forward and marry someone else. North handles her announcement with a bit of shock and an offer: he’ll pay her to take care of two kids he’s inherited. All she has to do is settle them down and bring them home. The only catch? No governess has lasted very long, another person died after trying to remove the kids from their home and there are whispers of ... ghosts.

Andie, determined but flexible Andie, needs the salary so she can enter her new marriage debt-free and can’t see how it can be that hard to bring two kids back to Columbus. Besides, she doesn’t believe in ghosts.

I have to admit to going into this book thinking it was a regular romance, where the relationship between the hero and heroine was primary to the plot. I was wrong. At first, I was disappointed when Andie and North spent nearly no time together in this story (except occasionally on the phone, and frequently in their thoughts) for more than the first half of the book. I wish I’d gone into reading this without that assumption, because I would have been more excited about the book right off the bat instead of waiting and waiting and waiting for them to be together. Understand, I’m telling you this so you’re prepared because it would be a shame for you not to enjoy this book to the fullest. Because the fact is, it’s a hoot ... a shivery, don’t read it after dark or you’ll be looking over your shoulder at the slightest sound, mysterious kind of story that was thoroughly enjoyable.

That’s not to say there wasn’t a romance here – but it really only takes place near the end. My advice is to enjoy the book for what it is and not get frustrated for what it isn’t.

I’m consistently amazed at how Ms. Crusie can take characters who should be utterly unbelievable and make them seem like they could be your neighbors or your friends. There’s creepy Mrs. Crumb, adorable Southie, neurotic kids, Carter and Alice and more. By the time I was done reading this, I felt like I knew them all and I wanted to know what else happened to them. I was so completely invested in them, utterly involved in their lives I was sad and a little lonely when I finished the book.

I really loved Andie best of all, though. She was so level-headed in the midst of chaos and took everything in stride (well, most everything anyway). She’s a little loopy, but earnest and loving, and fairly open minded about things (must be her mom’s influence!) and she wormed her way right into my heart. And it’s not that North wasn’t wonderful (if occasionally bemused), and he was the perfect foil for Andie, but I have to admit that Southie was my fave male character. I’m fairly certain I heard a rumor that Ms. Crusie is writing his story, and I can’t wait to read it.

If you’re a fan of complicated and quirky casts of characters, if you a like a lot of gothic ghost story with your romance, if you enjoy cleanly written, funny, fabulous books then I think you’ll adore Maybe This Time. Welcome back, Ms. Crusie. I’m so glad you’ve returned.