2013 Book #13 – Faking It, by Jennifer Crusie

*happy sigh* I love Jennifer Crusie. The way she writes is just so entertaining. I loved Welcome to Temptation, and when the friend who loaned me that book said, “There’s a sequel, you’ve got to read that one too”, well, that was the easiest sell in history. I went in to Faking It with high expectations and I was not disappointed.

Faking It

I don’t want to spoil too much of the plot of Faking It for you, but it involves art forgery, theft, family secrets, millions of dollars, and true love. What I love so much about Crusie’s writing and what I want to talk about today is how brilliant and colorful her characters are. All of them. Yes, this counts as a contemporary romance, but the characterization goes far beyond “Hero”, “Heroine”, “Secondary Characters”.

But let’s start out with that hero and heroine.

They’re bent. That’s all there is to it. I’ve read so many romance novels where the heroine is strong and feisty and has to prove herself to something or someone. The same could be said for Tilda, the heroine of Faking It. But more often than not, authors take their protagonist so seriously that they ascribe a sort of do-no-wrong mentality to the motivations they have and the actions they take. Tilda spends most of this novel chasing after a goal which is so not the right thing for her to be doing that it’s almost cringe-worthy. Of course, the beauty of her character journey is how she reaches that goal and how the goal changes.

In the meantime, Tilda is a heroine who weighs a little too much, drinks more than she should, wears glasses and has crazy, curly hair, and breaks her back at a job she doesn’t really love but is very good at. Now, I’m no expert in contemporary romance and this might be just another average contemporary heroine, but to me Tilda really stood out. She’s the nerdy girl that usually ends up with the quirky smart guy.

And then there’s Davy, the hero. And I use hero in the loosest possible sense of the word. Because Davy blows into town with nefarious goals. He’s a con man. A very good con man. And he meets Tilda in a closet as he attempts a heist. Yeah. He proceeds to stick around in an attempt to help Tilda with her naughtiness, and much more naughtiness ensues.

But Tilda and Davy are only a small part of the fun. Tilda’s whole family provides a crazy cast of characters that make you roar with laughter and shake their head at the pain that motivates they into their eccentricities. You’ve got Gwennie, Tilda’s Double-Crostic obsessed mom who really just wants to leave it all behind, Eve (aka Louise), Tilda’s angelic elementary school teacher sister who has an alternative identity as a sex-crazed lounge singer, Andrew, Eve’s gay ex-husband who Tilda used to be in love with, Nadine, Eve and Andrew’s precocious and eccentric daughter who sees her boyfriends as career opportunities, not to mention Clea, Davy’s ex-girlfriend and current mark, Simon, Davy’s interfering British ex-con man friend, and Ford Brown (obviously a fake name), the hit-man sent by Clea to take Davy out. And really, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  Oh, and of course Steve the dog.

The awesome thing about all of these intricately well-drawn characters is how rich their own stories are, and how deftly Crusie weaves them into the story. Possibly the biggest amateur mistake that I see a lot of writers make is to blurt out everything about the characters in the book as soon as they are introduced. It’s like writers want their readers to know everything about the characters that they do right from the word go. But Crusie parcels out the back story and personality of each of her characters in tiny spoonfuls. She doesn’t tell you who these people are, she makes the story of who they are the plot of what is happening to them in the present.

I really liked Faking It. I loved Welcome to Temptation, mind you, but Faking It was well worth the read. One thing that both books shared that I see so few writers attempt is raising the stakes higher and higher to almost ludicrous heights, but in a way that keeps you on the edge of your seat and makes you laugh. One of my biggest pet peeves about comments certain reviewers make is that the action of the plot is totally unrealistic. Well of course it’s unrealistic! It’s the plot of a novel, for gosh sakes. If it was realistic to the lives we all live, it would bore us silly. Crusie incorporates the most bizarre circumstances and twists to her novels that you could imagine – things that are completely unrealistic – but they work because of how deeply she commits to the characters. The action of the plot might be unrealistic to you or I, but for these crazy characters it seems par for the course.

So yes, I liked this book. And next up in the queue is something entirely different, a historical western. It should be interesting to see how the change in genre and tone effects my reading experience.