2004 reissue of 2000 release, Romantic Suspense
St. Martin's Press, $3.99, 402 pages, Amazon ASIN 0312932804 Part of a series
I'd never read a book by Jennifer Crusie, and I'm always nervous about picking up a book by an author everyone loves. In this case, I need not have worried. Her new hardcover, Welcome To Temptation, is sexy, intelligent, unexpectedly moving, and Crusie is a heck of a good writer. Her descriptions are so clever, so evocative, and yet so concise, they sometimes took my breath away.
Sophie Dempsey is the only honest and upright member of a close-knit family of inveterate grifters. She's spent her life following her father's cons, and she learned the hard way not to try to get in with the respectable crowd. Then she meets Phineas Tucker, who "looked like every glossy frat boy in every nerd movie ever made, like every popular town boy who'd ever looked right through her in high school, like every rotten rich kid who'd ever belonged where she hadn't." Isn't that a great description? Do we need to know the color of his eyes after a description like that?
Phin Tucker is the mayor of the small town of Temptation, Ohio, where Sophie and her manipulative sister Amy have come to make a film. He is the scion of a long line of Tucker mayors. In fact he's still using his grandfather's campaign posters from 1942 (slogan: Tucker - More Of The Same). He cares about his town, though not as much as he cares about playing pool, and once he takes one look at Sophie, the sparks fly. Phin is everything that Sophie's mother warned her about, but she can't resist him. After getting a load of Phin's technique, I can't say I blame her.
But life is not simple in Temptation. There's this film that Amy is making, which Phin hopelessly wants to believe isn't pornography. There's Phin's ice-queen mother, who wants him to marry the girl next door and who'll do anything to protect him from harmful influences. There's the upcoming mayoral campaign, in which Phin faces a man so obsessed with winning that there's nothing he might not stoop to. There's a variety of people from out of town who show up to cause trouble, including Sophie's terrifyingly smooth con-artist brother (I want to see this guy get a book of his own). And then there's a murder.
All of these numerous subplots and secondary characters are quite interesting, yet none of them succeed in distracting attention from Sophie and Phin's very hot, very troubled relationship. This is not a story of a friendship that slowly blossoms into love. It's about an instantaneous chemical reaction between two people who don't particularly like each other, but whose relationship is so incendiary that they have to go back for seconds - and thirds. Only slowly do they get to know each other enough admit to themselves that there's more going on here than just steamy sex. By the time I was halfway into this book, these two people had become so real for me that when they hurt, tears came to my eyes. I was sniffling at the same time that I was giggling at their deliciously clever repartee. It's a roller coaster ride, and I was riveted to every page.
From the hilarious beginning to the suspenseful middle to the satisfying end, this is a great book, the kind I'll want to reread. But I should mention that, while it is romantic, Welcome To Temptation is not for those who like their romance sweet. The humor in this book can be black, and the sex can be downright raunchy. It's not for everyone. But if you're like me and you like a little spice - make that a lot of spice - don't hesitate. You won't be disappointed.
-- Jennifer Keirans
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