Tell Me Lies
1999 reissue of 1998 release, Contemporary Romance
St. Martin's Press, $7.50, 384 pages, Amazon ASIN 0312966806
There are two reviews of this book.Leave it to Jennifer Crusie to take betrayal, murder, steamy romance,
small town secrets and somehow make it funny. Tell Me Lies, a
1998 release now available in paperback, defines the meaning of "having
bad day." This is Crusie's break-out novel, moving from series romance to
hardcover, and it combines a complex plot, a multitude of memorable
characters, and fever-pitch emotion in one unforgettable book.
Maggie Faraday, Frog Point, Ohio's favorite "Good Girl," is most
having a bad day when she discovers a pair of black lace crotchless
that are not hers under the front seat of her husband's Cadillac. Her
husband, Brent, does not top her list of favorite people on the best of
days, but this is simply too much. "Good Girl" or not, this calls for
divorce, especially since it isn't the first time her husband has
"Bad Boy" C.L. Sturgis is not having a good day, either. He is back in
Point after a twenty-year absence to do his ex-wife a favor. His job is
examine the books at the local construction company owned by Howie and
Treva Basset, and Brent and Maddie. But first he has to track down
get permission, and Brent is successfully evading him, a near
in a town as small as Frog Point. Things don't look better after he
to ask Maddie where Brent is, and realizes that the hopeless crush he
on her since the fifth grade is still alive and well.
Maddie's eight-year old daughter, Emily, is not having a good day since
is trying to find a way to get Maddie to let her have a dog, while
not to think about how tense things are at home between her mom and
Treva, Maddie's best friend, doesn't seem to be having a good day,
but Maddie is too preoccupied with her own problems to find out why, at
least at first.
Despite cover blurbs promising murder and mayhem, Tell Me
Lies is not a plot-driven story. It is very much character-driven,
and the murder doesn't happen until quite late in the book, which in
entirety spans only a handful of days. Ms. Crusie is a master, however,
funny yet realistic internal thought, and the humor and witty dialogue,
combined with the occasional unexpected plot twist, make this a page
turner. The secondary characters are as well developed as the primary
all have a believable mix of vice and virtue that makes even Maddie's
scumbag husband a somewhat sympathetic character. The town of Frog
a character in its own right, and anyone possessing experience with
towns will appreciate the shrewdly accurate portrayal of gossip,
loyalty, and love. There are no flat stereotypes here, just people.
This book is a celebration of more than romance and gossip. The
between Maddie and Treva is a high point, and it's mirrored by the
between their two young daughters. The stability of friendship that
stretches over the course of a lifetime, and bridges generations, is
precious in an age where it has become rare.
Maddie and C.L. are loveable, and it isn't hard to want them together
the start. Maddie's determination to get rid of her "Good Girl"
becomes a little extreme, however, and the humor in the role reversal
and C.L. undergo is exaggerated almost to the point of becoming
The pacing is so fast that there is little time for Maddie's attitudes
emotions to evolve, and she makes some rather major leaps from time to
The genuine anguish Emily experiences over her father is a
counterpoint to the humor, and serves as a sober reminder that silver
linings are still attached to clouds. This adds poignancy to the story,
though, and makes the final outcome all the sweeter.
This was the first book of Crusie's that I've read, but it certainly
be the last. Her humor, definitely "woman's" in nature, ranges from
to laugh-out-loud funny, and Jennifer Crusie will be added to my list
authors whose work I turn to when I have a "bad day" of my own!
-- Mary Ann Lien
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