Jennifer Crusie's Bet Me is more than a love story. It's also a book about calculating risk, eating food, taking chances, friendships, comedy, and did I mention food? After I finished the book last weekend, I immediately picked up the phone and ordered chicken marsala. If you've read Bet Me, you know why! And if you haven't read it yet, maybe you should. Unless, of course, you're trying to avoid doughnuts and Italian food, or if you're training for a marathon.
Min Dobbs has just been dumped. To make matters worse, she now has no date to her sister's upcoming wedding, for which she's got to fit into a bridesmaid's dress that's way too small. Add all that to the fact that she hasn't eaten carbs in weeks, and you'll find that Min isn't having the best month. Her mother's constant nagging over her weight definitely doesn't help. When Min meets the handsome and charming Cal Morrisey, it might seem like the answer to at least some of her problems, but things aren't that simple. There's the unfortunate issue of a bet that Cal placed with the guy who just dumped her. (Also, fans of the musician Morrissey will find the spelling of his last name — with one 'S' — troubling throughout the book.)
Min and Cal start spending a lot of time together. It seems they just can't stay away from each other, despite both of their intentions and the constant interference of family and friends. What really seems to be the glue of their relationship, aside from physical attraction, is — you guessed it — food! Cal encourages Min to eat, which opens up a whole new world for her. Food is so central to their romance, in fact, that some scenes involving chocolate doughnuts left me feeling more than a little unclean. Maybe I'm just not ready for such an intimate connection between pastries and sex.
Crusie's writing is funny and bright and her characters are flawed but likeable. Over the course of the novel, Min grows to accept herself, embraces carbs, and feels good about her body, and Cal is a big part of these changes. A heroine who doesn't have a perfect body, whose hair is frizzy, and who doesn't always feel confident is someone that a lot of women can identify with. Cal, on the other hand, might seem a little too good to be true, but any man who encourages high levels of doughnut consumption can't be all bad! As Min opens up to the things she has tried so hard to deny herself, she gains the self-assurance she sorely lacked. Bet Me is recommended for fans of funny, contemporary romance with a smart female lead.