Book Review: Maybe This Time by Jennifer Crusie

I’ve decided to start doing book reviews, because I am all kinds of a bibliophile. I’ve had sex dreams involving Brad Pitt in a library and what I remember most vividly is the library. I just love me some books, people.

I’ve decided to start with Maybe This Time (MTT) for a couple of reasons. First, it is a recent release. Second, I worship and adore the snarky dialogue inherent in a Crusie book. Which makes me a long-time, foaming-at-the-mouth Crusie fan. She writes strong feminist heroines who have unapologetic sex and live happily ever after (HEA). For that alone I would want to kiss her with deep tongue, but her books are also funny and sweet and romantic. See? Crusie fan. Also, this is her first solo effort work in a few years, so I was eagerly anticipating it. Finally, it got a mediocre grade over at Smart Bitches Trashy Books, a blog of which I am a big-ass fan, but occasionally fails to understand the magnificence of all writings by my pet authors. That offends my partisan little soul. Plus, I thought the humdrum grade was incorrect, since their interpretation of the book was different from mine, and thus wrong. Because I am The Fokker, dammit. I always get the Last Word.

I will also gives you the heads up that here there be spoilers. Seriously. If you don’t like spoilers you need to flee, screaming and waving your arms the whole way. Moreover, I haven’t done a “book review” in 1000 years so it’s probably ponderous. For those who are still with me, prepare thyself for spoilers.

MTT is a re-writing of Henry James’ famous ghost story, The Turn of the Screw. This gave me some initial trepidation, because that was not a happy book. It is about a governess who is sent to care for two orphans, a little girl and her brother, and she winds up in a haunted country house with two malevolent ghosts who are tormenting/processing the kids. Horrifically, the little boy dies in the end. How in the shit would Crusie rework so there was the HEA I craved? Plus, it wasn’t going to be a romance; it was a ghost story with a romantic sub-plot. I knew the subplot would thus have a HAE, but what about the rest of the book?

The main characters in the original all had (frankly, improved) counterparts in MTT, with Crusie adding some extras who were scene-stealing awesome. Plus, the dialogue was awesomeness with awesome sauce and the romantic subplot was wonderful. Also, she scared the shit out of me in a couple of creepy scenes, so good work.

The complaints about the book in the SBTB review were often centered around the fact that most people didn’t know it wasn’t a romance novel. It was a ghost story. So they were legitimately unhappy the romance took a backseat. But there was a complaint where I felt they had missed the boat. They complained that Andie (the Governess) did not pay enough attention to Carter (the boy; Miles in the original). Yet that was one of the themes to MTT — ignoring someone important, not meaning to hurt them, discovering you hurt them, and then having a chance to make it right. Andie did pay less attention to Carter. She was focused on the much squeakier-wheel, Alice (the girl; Flora in the original). It wasn’t until near the end of the book that she heeded all the blatant warnings and jumped in to save Carter from a ghost. And save him she did. No dead kid in this book, so I liked it better than the original (take that classic writing!). Anyway, I felt that critiquing the book because Andie didn’t pay enough attention to Carter missed the point and was thus unfair.

Also, many readers didn’t like the fact the ghosts could possess people. I didn’t “like” it either but it was what happened in the original writing. So it kind of needed to happen. I’m calling that complaint unfair as well, since it was part of the homage to The Turn of the Screw.

There were two things I did feel were legitimate critiques. First, the male ghost was largely absent until the end when he became central to the plot. I didn’t like that. I was focused on the female ghost as the antagonist and didn’t enjoy the sudden shift. Plus, the female ghost was way creepier. My second critique is dead aunt May. She was also a ghost in the house, and was an addition to the original story. I hated that character. Ironically, I think I loathed her because she was 3-dimensional and both good & bad. I wanted her to be one or the other. Or to be bad and then redeem herself. Instead, she made a bad end that seemed somehow ‘unfinished’. It freaked me out nicely and all, but still … I just didn’t like May. I need, in my heart, for the written character to offer me the resolution so often denied me in real life. It’s like the HEA. It doesn’t always happen in real life, but I want it in my damn books. May took some of the H out of my HEA feelings.

However, MTT, on the whole was a really excellent read and a page-turner extraordinaire. It was scary as hell. The romantic subplot was as juicy and delicious as  ripe peach. I highly recommend this book!

Rating: Oh hell yes, buy it!

About Betty Fokker

I'm a stay-at-home feminist mom.
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28 Responses to Book Review: Maybe This Time by Jennifer Crusie

  1. Geri C says:

    I was going to sit down today with MTT (while my husband was out hunting the elusive antlerless elk to fill our deep freeze for another year) but did I get to do that? Nooooooo. At least I got to read the Fokker review.

    What did I do? Housework. Why? Because I worked M-F, was gone last weekend and then worked M-S and my house floor looks like a dog that’s why. Sigh.

    • Betty Fokker says:

      I, too, have lived through this pain. I resent housework like a Mo Fo (Mother Fokker) because it’s a chore, not joy at all. It’s time away form my work and kids and please and I hate it. Here are some nice vibes for you. And metaphorical bacon.

  2. Merry says:

    *** Here be spoilers, not that you haven’t been spoiled already by reading this post so get over it already really honestly some people***

    I was glad that the Carter-neglect was addressed in the book by the other characters, and that Andie eventually gets it. And I agree about the male ghost. There are some hints (very early on, Flo mentions the Emperor in the cards is going to threaten Andie), but it’s easy to miss that when the female ghost comes on strong from the start.

    My trouble with Aunt May is that I had an Aunt May. Well, a great-aunt, but let’s not get picky. So I kept picturing a 90-year-old lady, not a 19-year-old girl. (Yes, the story’s all about my reality. As with everything else in life.)

    • Betty Fokker says:

      I think all stories are “really” about our (the readers) reality. Because they must speak to us and we must empathize with them. Whenever I would think, “Andie should do X” what I was really saying was, “I would do X”.

  3. Keep the reviews coming, this was great. You captured the essence of MTT beautifully. I liked the book a lot – not quite as much as Faking It or Wild Ride, but MTT was a great book and I lost several hours of sleep to finish reading it. It threw me out of the story when North send the kids computers – if the story is set in 1992, it would be unusual to have more than one computer in a household. Of course, I am a geek so there you go. I also wanted to hear more about the male ghost, and wanted to see more care and nurture for Carter, though I think he will get lots of love and attention from North and Andie now. I also did not like May. But, like you, I loved the book and worship as always at Jenny Crusie’s feet.

  4. Becky says:

    I enjoyed it, but not quite as much as I hoped I would. My problem with the treatment of Carter was that she ignored him, acknowledged she ignored him, but never really did anything to correct the problem. Yes, she saved him in a crisis, but after that it went back to All Alice, All the Time. Now, I liked Alice. But we never really got to know Carter. And the bit about the male ghost was just odd. It’s not like Crusie to just drop a crucial character in at the end.

    I wasn’t a huge May fan, but I did like the ending. A lot of ghost stories end with a final shiver. And I can’t say that the housekeeper got what she deserved, because no one deserves that. But there is a certain amount of vengeful satisfation there.

    • Betty Fokker says:

      The ending was kinda awesome-eerie wasn’t it? Brrrrrrrrr …

      I think North is the one who was going to really “save” Carter, so Andie turned the assignment over to him. But It did make it feel kind of unfinished too. Usually, when I read a Crusie it finishes firmly and with resolution. I like that. A lot. Even Wild Ride felt more complete, even though the HEA was just ‘promised’ not shown.

  5. Bitchin Betty says:

    I just finished this book and loved it!!! As an Argh Ink follower I knew that the romance was taking the back seat but even if I hadn’t known I would have loved the book. Pure Crusie, through and through. My favorite passage: Was North’s response to Kelly’s statement'” You’re violating my First Amendment rights!” “I hope it was as good for you as it was for me,” North said.’ Snarky man-gotta love him. Having gone back to the book to find the quote I wonder how one searches for a quote on the Kindle, which I absolutely NEED. Having the paper version I remember that it was towards the end of the book at the bottom of the left hand page and had no problem finding it. On the kindle there is no left and right and no thickness to the book either-for the spatially minded like myself this could be a problem. Not that this lessens my desire for a Kindle.

    • Becky says:

      If you spot something you love and know you’ll want to reference later, like the Kelly/North quote, you can bookmark and go back. Otherwise, I have the same problem with my Kindle and Sony Pocket. You just have to flip around until you find what you’re looking for. It’s about the only thing I don’t love about ebooks.

    • Betty Fokker says:

      My Sweet Babou wishes to buy me a Nook. I am also afraid ‘d lose my ability to re-find stuff … meep!

      • Delia says:

        Madame Fokker, I just got a Nook for my birthday. It has a search function. You can also add bookmarks and make notations as you read. Oh yes.

        Nice review, too. I didn’t have too much of a problem with May. She was a teenager who was being manipulative — it happens. I have to agree about the male ghost, though. He’s referenced in the Emporer card, he’s shown on the tower, he’s seen standing with the others during seances, and you kinda get the feeling he has something to do with the burn marks on Carter’s floor, but that’s about it. I wish he’d been incorporated more.

      • Betty Fokker says:

        Now, I feel better about the Nook!

  6. LitDiva says:

    Thanks for the review! Haven’t read MTT yet as library doesn’t have it in yet and I am persona non grata due to wildly overdue copy of Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert. :) I love henry james but the Turn of the Screw creeped me out big time. Killing off kids bugs me.

  7. lunarmom says:

    Well done on the review. There are no Crusie books I don’t love. This one was much anticipated, and I adored it as well.

  8. Beth (Invisible Betty) says:

    Nice review – keep ’em coming.

    I enjoyed MTT enough that I read it twice (just to make sure I hadn’t missed anything the first time around), but I didn’t get the “scary” part that many others have alluded to. Maybe because real-life is scarier than any book or maybe because I’m not really a scary book fan. I enjoyed the characters, especially Andie and North, but wasn’t particularly enamored of Aunt May. The other ghosts seemed somewhat undefined, but that didn’t really bother me, as it was the living characters that I really enjoyed following through the story. While I prefer Crusie’s earlier works, this one will still go on my repeat-read list.

  9. Lola says:

    I was thinking about Carter the other day and why I was so drawn to his character. I think I *was* Carter growing up. Well, not the ghost-prevert-attacking-me-Carter, but the middle child who had a juvenile delinquent older brother and a still in diapers younger sister. I did not want to cause my parents any more stress and grief than they already had, so even as a ten year old child I knew it would help my parents out if I stayed out of the way. I was the quiet one who stayed in her room with the door closed and read books. And played the stereo really loud to drown out the screaming outside my bedroom door.

    • Betty Fokker says:

      My Stitch is the middle child. Lilo is very dramatic, so I bust my tuchus to make sure none of my precious loves ever need to be “quiet”. Fokk that. I will beg them on my knees to bother me. Big hugs for the ten-yr-old you, from Auntie Fokker.

  10. grandma K says:

    I really thought this was a very romantic book. Faking It and Bet Me are my favorites, but this makes up the top three.

  11. Clever Betty says:

    Someone mentioned the Emperor in the cards foreshadowing the male antagonist ghost. I got it. And I loved it. This is a Jenny thing that I adore and I hate that so many people miss it and ‘blame’ her.

    A similar thing happened in Wild Ride. She foreshadowed that the relationship between MAB and Ethan would be brother and sister by having someone remark about how much they looked alike and everyone missed it.

    I was happy with North taking over care of Carter. You could see that eventually they would totally relate because North had similar experiences and knew what he needed.

    And the romance completely worked for me. I loved Andie. I loved North. I was so happy to see them come back together.

    I didn’t like May or the housekeeper. I felt like they got the end they deserved. No light for May to go toward but rather she and the housekeeper stuck in that horrible old house together.

    I also read the book twice. Once right before going to have it signed by Jenny (bragging)! And I will read it again, I’m sure. I just loved the dancing-in-the-kitchen-while-baking hour.

    And poor Dennis stuck to the couch which they brought with them out of the house. What a love.

  12. Lola says:

    After what the housekeeper did to Carter (putting him in a room with a broken fireplace and knowing about that ghost trying to get to him) I think she got off too easy. She’s happy, dammit, and that’s the only thing I didn’t like about the ending. I wanted sweet revenge. The housekeeper has the upper hand with May and for now, smug and in control. I wanted her to suffer the way Carter did. Bitch is evil. I just might have a tad bit of unresolved childhood issues going on here too.

    But Jenny’s books just get better and better. Love her.

    • Clever Betty says:

      Wow I could see where that would bug you or anyone. I guess it washed over me because I thought she really did believe that Carter killed May. Even so, he was a child and she shouldn’t have treated him that way.

    • Betty Fokker says:

      Yeah, I wanted her guts for garters as well. Who does that to a kid??? If Andie was Fokker, there would be yet another dead person in that house because of that.

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