Recent Reading: Lavender’s Blue by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Meyer

This was the oddest reading experience, because I read the first 25% of Lavender’s Blue before I started working on Marag. Then I started working on Marag and stopped cold with Lavender’s Blue. This was at the point when Liz had been whapped with the rock and is lying dazed in her mother’s front yard.

So there’s Liz, lying there dazed, and there I left her for … let me see … nine weeks, give or take. So … I remembered the beginning well enough. Liz arrives in Burney, a great cop stops her for speeding, we find out Liz has quiiiite a reputation in town based on her pranks during high school, and we move on from there. The description says:

As Liz navigates her dysfunctional family, her flamboyant boss phoning in from Chicago, her still-interested ex, her bridesmaid dress from hell, a dachshund with issues, a disaster of a wedding, assault, murder, and three hundred and ninety-three teddy bears, Vince shows up to get her through, even though he knows that the real peril for him in Burney is the one who came with her own warning label: Liz Danger.

The last line is misleading. Vince does not at any point consider himself to be in peril, from Liz or anybody else. He’s a very emotionally stable guy. However, the rest of it is accurate enough. I really enjoyed the book, for the following reasons:

–Liz is fun, and whoa, her family.

–Vince is amazingly emotionally stable, solid, and competent, which I like a lot in a male lead.

–Vince’s boss, the chief of police, skirts the edge of almost seeming like a bad guy, but actually, though the authors are kind of giving him a bad guy role, they aren’t really doing that. I very much appreciated this.

–Ditto for a jackass of a kid, who kinda turns out to be not such a complete jackass. There is a fairly strong tendency for many people who might be thoroughly unpleasant to not be written that way. Not all of them, I don’t want to imply that, but several for sure.

–The actual writing is truly top-notch, and I will now focus on that.

***

Look, I know I’ve said this before, but crowd scenes are hard to write. I’ve also said this before, but Jennifer Crusie does great crowd scenes. In this particular book, these mostly take place in Liz’s car.

Liz is ghostwriting a memoir for a very rich celebrity named Anemone who … I’m not sure why she’s famous, actually. It’s not important for her to play her role in the book, which by the way is a GREAT role and I LOVE Anemone. We all need a rich boss like Anemone, especially if we suddenly get into trouble of some serious kind.

Anyway, there’s a deadline for this ghostwriting job, so Liz needs to leave town, and of course events conspire to prevent this. But in the meantime, she will go to her car with her laptop and phone, park somewhere out of the way, and try to work on this book. And it’s hilarious because half the town will turn up, climb into her car, and everyone will be having conversations with everyone else and there is this massive clutter of characters and dialogue and Crusie is REALLY GOOD AT THIS.

***

“Who the hell is that?” Anemone [on the phone with Liz] said.

“My Aunt MaryLou Blue just got into the car,” I told her.

“MaryLou Blue?” Anemone said. “You’re kidding me.”

“Put that phone down,” ML said.

“No,” I told ML. “I’m on the phone with a client and you don’t have an appointment.”

“MaryLou Blue,” Anemone said. “Who is she?”

“I told you, ML is my aunt.”

“She goes by ML?” Anemone said, and then added, “No, wait. That makes sense. Nobody’d want to spend her life as MaryLou Blue. She’d have to move to Whoville. What does she want?”

“What do you want?” I asked ML.

“I want to talk to you about Lavender. She’s going to ask you to be her maid of honor.”

“She already did.”

“Somebody named Lavender asked you to be her maid of honor?” Anemone said. “Who the hell names a kid Lavender?”

“You have to tell her no,” ML said over Anemone.

“Really.” That was interesting. “Why do I have to tell her no?”

***

Anyway, this goes on, and then Liz’s mother turns up and joins the conversation, and this sort of thing keeps happening, with two people and then three and four and up to five or so all joining in, one by phone so no one can hear her except Liz, and it gets super complicated and funny.

I will add, the story itself is fun, but not super light, because (a) there’s a murder, and (b) the family dynamics, whoa, and (c) there’s an element of loss and sadness that I won’t say is exactly pervasive, but it’s there. The story in this novel is about moving on more than anything else, and so there is stuff to move on from, as one might expect. But people do move on, and there’s a lot of room for a good future. Which I guess may be exciting, as there are sequels.

I liked Lavender’s Blue a lot and immediately bought the other two books in the series. Once again, I’m pausing for a moment of pleased anticipation because Crusie has a big backlist and you know how fun that is, I’m sure, digging into the backlist of a new favorite author.

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4 thoughts on “Recent Reading: Lavender’s Blue by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Meyer”

  1. Glad you liked it!
    The snark, snappy dialogue, family dynamics and interesting characters really are essential Jennifer Crusie strong points.
    The murders and tight exiting plots are more Bob Mayers strong suite, so her solo-written backlog is a bit lighter on that. But it sounds as if you’ll enjoy her writing even when there’s no murder to solve or assassination to avoid, so in that case you’ve got a lot of fun to look forward to.

  2. I found I would have to stop just to savor some line she had written- she was that sharp. I’m not sure if it’s that her references fit into my age range, or what exactly makes her so amusing to me, but she is. I wouldn’t exactly call her a comfort read though.

  3. Alison, definitely not comfort reads nor exactly romances. Too much darkish stuff happens in these books for them to be actual romance novels. There’s often a lot going on in these books besides the romance. But if I wanted a comfort read, I’d pick up something else.

    Hanneke, good to know about Cruisie’s solo novels being a bit lighter than the ones with Mayers. That’s helpful for deciding which to pick up next.

  4. That chaotic conversation with the whopper “Nobody’d want to spend her life as MaryLou Blue. She’d have to move to Whoville”…! Okay, adding this to my Want To Read Sometime list. It sounds like a book I might just be giggling through.

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