's CBR6 Review No:58

When matricide isn’t an option

Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie (Buy on amazon.com)


Bet Me had a pair of horrible, horrible mothers. I finished the book a few weeks ago, and moreso than many other details, the utter heinousness of both the hero and the heroine’s mothers sticks with me. I’ve met supercilious and cold women like the hero’s mother, so she was at least someone who I believe exists on the planet, but Minerva Dobbs — our heroine — is cursed, having been born of the nastiest caricature of a human. If this story is to be believed, Mother Dobbs speaks never to her children other than to play Calorie and Wardrobe Police.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me throw a little plot summary at you, from Goodreads: “Minerva Dobbs knows that happily-ever-after is a fairy tale, especially with a man who asked her to dinner to win a bet. Even if he is gorgeous and successful Calvin Morrisey. Cal knows commitment is impossible, especially with a woman as cranky as Min Dobbs. Even if she does wear great shoes and keeps him on his toes. When they say good-bye at the end of their evening, they cut their losses and agree never to see each other again.

But Fate has other plans, and it’s not long before Min and Cal meet again. Soon, they’re dealing with a jealous ex-boyfriend, Krispy Kreme donuts, a determined psychologist, chaos theory, a freakishly intelligent cat, Chicken Marsala, and more risky propositions than either of them ever dreamed of. Including the biggest gamble of all–true love.”

Mostly, this was a cute, fluffy story. I liked both Cal and Min as characters; they were both clever and funny without coming off as excessively quippy in the Sorkin-esque sense. The cast of characters was amusing as well, and with the exception of the obvious villains, they were given a surprising amount of depth in their personalities relative to the time they each appeared on the page. I was wary at some of the gender stereotyping that goes on, but nothing was outright offensive, just the typical gender essentialist dating advice that you hear from friends who are well-meaning but nonetheless haven’t discovered feminism.

I’m gonna be honest: I went into this expecting more sex, mostly because I like my contemporaries to be a little more on the erotica side, and I don’t really dip into the whole swath of contemporary romance that’s more “chick-lit” than erotic. So unfortunately, as sweet as this story was, it wasn’t really my style. Call me boorish and ban me to fanfiction.net if you must!

If you loved this one, go read more reviews by . Do it right now!


  1. Emmalita says

    If you haven’t read it, you might like Welcome to Temptation. Same level of banter and characterization, but with more steam.

  2. says

    I’m not a chick-lit gal so I also was unimpressed with this book but can’t really tell if that is due to the book itself or the genre. Another title for the review could have been, “Love Through the Cloud of Fat-Shaming.” You totally nailed it, the Mothers are horrible and the relentless nagging about her weight was unpardonable. Who would spend time with somebody who was constantly commenting on what you ate? Ugh.

    The repetitive callbacks to Chicken Marsala was also off-putting. We get it, you really like chicken marsala. You’ve learned to cook it and now are eating it on an almost daily basis. Fantastic. Now maybe you can expand your repertoire to other dishes?

    That being said the author’s blog is FANTASTIC and through this book, I’ve become a huge fan of her blog (she writes about writing, story construction, etc – many of her posts are like a master class) and it’s well worth checking out.

    • alwaysanswerb says

      God, the endless parade of Chicken Marsala. And donuts. This is DEFINITELY me being hyper-sensitive, but I was having a hard time deciding if the running theme of food and eating and Cal wanting Min to eat was about celebrating her appetite and her learning to accept herself, or if it was kind of just: “Min fat. Min like food!”

      • says

        But was Min fat or did Min think she was fat? Was she just kind of luscious?

        Speaking as someone who grew up with an insidiously fat shaming mother, I could relate to Min a great deal. Oh, the baggage. THE BAGGAGE.

        • alwaysanswerb says

          I suspect ‘luscious’ is exactly what she was. Whether the book intended this or not, it rather illuminated conflicting messages out there about food and eating: on the one hand, eating will make you fat (therefore unattractive); on the other hand, eating is a euphoric and often sensual experience (see: Cal getting turned on by Min enjoying her dinner.)

          I have continued this comment in many different ways, trying to expand on that thought in any number of tangents, but deleted them because, as I have just concluded, my thoughts on this subject are very discombobulated.

  3. says

    I personally prefer both Welcome to Temptation and Faking It to Bet Me, but having now read more contemporary romance from the late 90s, early 2000s, I can see why so many people adore this – Crusie just does it better, in my humble opinion than say, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, who is the other author of contemporary romance from this time period hailed as a fan favourite.

    She does tend to have a formula. There are frequently slightly chubby heroines (which I’m all for), an adorable plot moppet of some sort, a lovable dog and overbearing parents somewhere in there. I suspect that if I’d read her books when they first came out, I would have loved them. As it is, I like them, but rate more recent contemporaries higher.

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