Faking It is a rather carefully contrived series of coincidences, but then, most romances are. I like Jennifer Crusie’s novels because the heroines are rarely 20 year old waifs. Matilda Goodnight is definitely not a 20 year old waif. Neither is she cosmetic-ad gorgeous. She’s struggling to hold together a family and a failed art gallery when a problem from her past announces itself, propelling her from mural painting to art theft in a single evening. And Davy Dempsey, the brother of Sophie Dempsey (Welcome to Temptation, a previous novel) is not your typical romantic hero. For one thing, he’s a liar and a thief, and considers himself a master manipulator. He plays his way into the Goodnight Gallery, and pursues his own problem (embezzled money) while helping Matilda solve hers (art fraud.)
Another great feature of Crusie’s books is that you usually end up getting three or four romances for the “price” of one, and this book is no exception. Tilda’s sister, Eve, who has a slight problem named Louise (a second personality) meets her match in this story, and so do Tilda’s mother and niece. It’s cute, feel-good fun all the way around, but with a tangle of plots. It quite reminds me of Shakespeare, except without the tragedies. You could boil this book down to “with help from a lovable scalywag, Matilda Goodnight rediscovers her passion for painting,” and that would be pretty accurate. However, you’d miss the fun with the hitman, the crazed, beautiful, but aging Clea Duval, and my favorite storyline, the secret that Gwennie Goodnight never confessed to her daughters. It’s a big package to unwrap in a relatively short book, so it’s all layered in odd little ways that grow off one another like a houseplant.
A lot of romantic cliches give up the ghost in Crusie’s novels: she’s body positive (although size isn’t mentioned in Faking It, she’s had heroines in double-digit dress sizes in other novels, like Bet Me) sex positive (and sometimes hilariously sex negative, such as when Tilda fails to feel the earth move after letting Davy sloppily seduce her) and the stories are well-written. If you love romance, or if you used to but now you’re sick of the same-old same-old, you might want to try these.
The dog makes it, and there aren’t any huge trigger warnings, unless perhaps you don’t like the idea of using a “multiple personality” as a plot device. I didn’t give this book five stars mostly because I disagree with the idea of using mental health for humor purposes, but Eve/Louise is definitely an interesting complication.