Cal is a gorgeous charmer who has the unfortunate character flaw of dumping women a few months after making them fall desperately in love with him. Min is a smart, sassy, chubby woman who is far too savvy to fall for a guy like Cal. Only when Cal gets unwillingly drawn into a bet two get Min into bed within a month, it’s GAME ON for Cal and Min!
Full disclosure: I’m not a chick lit reader so it’s hard to distinguish if my issues with this book are specific to the story or simply a mismatch between me and the genre. But you can bet me I won’t be recommending Bet Me to anybody anytime soon.
My review is more of a discussion of the book so fair warning – Spoilers below…
Min is chubby. You’re probably wondering why I would include the term “chubby” in a character description. Is this relevant? Am I just mean? Fat-shaming?
No Min’s weight is like the 3rd protagonist of the story. We’re constantly bombarded with her inability to fit into her bridesmaids dress. Every meal she and Cal share involves him offering her a piece of bread and her refusing it because “carbs”. Her mother shows up to periodically shout out scathingly horrible phrases like, “No butter!” and “Men won’t love you if you’re fat!” I had to look up the author online and was surprised to see that she doesn’t have a weight issue because the book reads like she’s trying to work through some serious issues about self-image and food.
The 4th protagonist is chicken marsala. These characters spend every day of the month eating, talking about, or attempting to cook chicken marsala. There should never be this much chicken marsala in a book. Ever.
Despite their differences, Min and Cal quickly recognize that they have a special connection. This is spelled out for you in bold letters. As in when Cal looks at Min across the table, his inner voice says, HER PICK HER. If you enjoy the emotional state of your characters being spelled out in clear detail for you with no room for interpretation you will enjoy the developing romance between these too.
Additionally the two major hurdles keeping Cal and Min from HEA is:
a) Min can’t believe Cal would ever really love her because she knows he’ll just break her heart because that’s the guy he is.
b) Min knows about the bet. And although she would never dare broach the subject with him, clearly despite the fact that he behaves like a total gentleman at all times, he’s truly a cad because of the bet.
But here’s the issue – if we judge Cal by his actions, he’s a great guy. Instead of judging him based on his actions, however, Min spends the entire book judging him based on hearsay. At a certain point it’s hard to root for a woman who continues to judge a man exclusively based on what his ex-girlfriend told her at a bar.
Also, despite Min’s insistence on NOT falling in love with Cal, she enjoys kissing him so much that they continue to do so. Only after every earth-shattering embrace she quickly reminds him, “Don’t forget, we’re just friends!!!” You know who else does things like this? 16 year old girls.
There’s a large cast of fairly fun characters surrounding Cal and Min – her friends and family, his friends and family. But their presence largely serves as a foil to keep Min and Cal spending time together.
Despite Cal’s “mommy issues” (which again, are directly spelled out for you) they fall in love. If the book wasn’t entirely my cup of tea, the ending was a major fail. They’ve known each other a month and are desperately professing lifelong love to each other on day #30. Wedding proposal and all. After one month. Sorry my willing suspension of disbelieve is not quite willing enough to buy that.
Also the big scene at the end involves Min, mostly naked and tied to the couch while Cal valiantly waits for the bet to end so he can officially LOSE the bet. While they wait, Min has to point out to him, “You should know, I’ll only get fatter as I age!” Clearly this is so Cal can yet again promise that he’ll love her forever even if she should be 400 lbs. But seriously – ENOUGH WITH THE WEIGHT/FOOD ISSUES!
And probably just an issue for me, but I like to believe that when the woman of your dreams shows up in lingerie talking about how much she wants you, a gentleman would toss her into bed and make passionate love INSTANTLY, bet be damned. Waiting around for an hour while she begs for sex and you stalwartly stand there staring at the clock wasn’t the most satisfying romantic resolution I’ve ever read.
I can’t say Bet Me was completely un-entertaining, it had it’s moments. I almost didn’t write this review because I bought the book based on a trusted fellow reviewer and I don’t want her to hate me. And also because after I looked up the author, I have to say her blog is delightful (this analysis of Cordelia on Buffy/Angel is a must read for anybody who loves Whedon as much as I do). So while I have to suggest you give Bet Me a pass, the author’s site is definitely worth checking out.