This is the story of Min and Cal, a contemporary romance that has a lot of parallels to historical romance, in my mind. It’s the spinster bluestoking and the rake with a heart of gold, updated to current models.
First we have Minerva Dobbs – she’s single and doesn’t have much luck with relationships. I don’t know if she’s a virgin, that point isn’t mentioned, but overall she doesn’t have much experience. She’s been dumped by her latest boyfriend and is reluctant to try again, planning to get a cat and remain alone. She has a pretty older sister that is engaged, and a mother who is absolutely horrible. You see, Min is also chubby and is trying to lose weight, a situation not helped by her mother’s harping on the fact. She wears unflattering clothes and keeps her hair up in a bun because it frizzes otherwise; all she needs is a pair of spectacles to complete the frump factor. Much like the historical bluestoking, Min is outspoken and smart. She has a job as an actuarial, but the job is never really expanded on, just mentioned from time to time.
Cal Morrisey is the typical historical rake in many ways – he’s a charming serial seducer who has had many relationships but nothing serious. He doesn’t plan to get married, seeing his parent’s loveless union, and has a couple of good pals that feel the same way. (If this was a historical romance, I’d think his friends were set up as heroes in following books, but that wasn’t the case here.) Much like the rake, Cal is the second son of his family, i.e. the spare. His older brother has gone into the family business, groomed to take over such as the heir to a title would be. Cal has been free to start his own company and make his own fortune. His mother is a brittle socialite, cold and unloving, which is also a trait of historical matrons.
Again, as happens in historical fiction, a wager is made that Cal won’t be able to bed Min within a month. While Min overhears part of this conversation, she doesn’t realize that Cal doesn’t want to date her at all at first. She’s really not his usual type, and yet they end up going for dinner and he begins to be captivated by her. He doesn’t get why she wants to lose weight and urges carbs on her and admires her roundness. Min doesn’t trust him and they have a lot of verbal sparring and share a lot (a lot) of chicken marsala. I bring this up because it’s literally the only food they eat and it’s kind of a strange plot point. However, it doesn’t take long and she begins to transform her appearance – cutting her hair and updating her wardrobe to look better. I guess it took the right man to come along and make her realize she’s pretty?
In the end, there isn’t anything new about this tale. I was frequently bored and flipped through a lot of pages to get to the end. I was frustrated by Min’s constant referrals to her weight (and I get that on a certain level, after all we’re all influenced by the beautiful models we see that tell us we’re not thin enough) but other than her attempts at dieting, she doesn’t try to add exercise to the mix to burn off those calories. I was also irritated by her judging Cal on his reputation alone, when his actions with her reveal him to be a pretty good guy. Then at the end of the 30 days covered in the book, suddenly all is well and love saves the day. I’ve read a couple of other books by Ms Crusie and found them to be more entertaining than this one. Give me a K.J. Charles or a Loretta Chase book any day over this!