Ah! Every once in a while a book comes along that makes you say “Yes! That is how I want to write!” For me that book was Welcome to Temptation, by Jennifer Crusie.
Welcome to Temptation is a Contemporary Romance with some hilarious humor and a touch of mystery/suspense. Oh, and lots of very good sex. What makes it so good? The fact that the heroine, Sophie, is pretty sure she’s never had good sex … until she meets the hero, Phin.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. The novel opens with Sophie and her sister Amy arriving in the quirky nowhere town of Temptation, Ohio to film what is supposed to be a come-back video for washed-up movie-star Clea. Clea used to date their brother Davy and has turned to the sisters to make this video about her going back to her old hometown and meeting up with her old boyfriend Frank. Simple, right?
Oh no. Nothing is ever simple in Temptation. The town is packed with a full spectrum of wacky characters, from the ridiculous to the sublime. It’s also rife with small-town politics. And in charge of it all is the town’s handsome young mayor – and local bookstore owner – Phineas Tucker.
Phin doesn’t particularly want to be mayor, but his father (named Phineas Tucker) was mayor and so was his grandfather (also named – you guessed it – Phineas Tucker), and Tuckers don’t lose elections or anything else. Phin isn’t happy with his life, but when Sophie shows up in town to make a movie he is drawn to her, first out of civic responsibility and curiosity and then out of pure lust.
Of course, things get a little complicated when the comeback video the sisters are shooting turns into a porn starring Clea and her ex-high school boyfriend Frank’s very young son. And then someone turns up dead … and everyone thinks they are the one who killed him.
Yes, this is exactly the kind of book that I want to write! I can’t tell you how many times I laughed out loud while reading it. I love a book that’s full of humor. It wasn’t just the humor of the plot either. There was hilarity in every detail. Crusie knows her characters backwards and forwards and knows exactly how to describe their foibles. She knows small-town life and all of the reasons it is both ridiculous and wonderful. Every scene was believable in every way.
But it’s not just the humor of this story that I’d love to write. The characters were so three-dimensional that I was able to put faces on them, to see the way they moved, and to catch the looks in their eyes, all without boatloads of description. In fact, I don’t remember there being much description beyond what was necessary. You could see the universe these characters were interacting in based on their actions and reactions alone. It was the ultimate in showing over telling.
And the story was sexy as all get-out! But at the same time, the sex itself wasn’t vividly described. There was a lot of it, but it was central to the plot. The sex life of Sophie and Phin related in every way to the personal journey they were each on and was the ideal tool to show the character growth they both experiences. That sounds clinical, but the point is that all of that sex – not to mention the prolific use of the F-word – was essential without being gratuitous, titillating without being crude. I love how Crusie weaved it all into the story without beating me over the head with it.
Yep, there were so many things I liked about this book that I might actually have to go back and read it again someday! Too bad the copy I have was loaned to me by a friend from church. I definitely have to read the sequels and other works by Jennifer Crusie. Her style of storytelling is something I want to study and emulate. In fact, reading Welcome to Temptation might actually change the rather dark Contemporary I was going to start writing soon into something with much more humorous elements. We’ll see!
I’m not entirely sure what’s up next on my reading agenda. I have a novel to beta-read for a friend and a few bits and pieces that I want to take care of. After that, we’ll see. Stay tuned!