Wednesday 24 May 2017

#CBR9 Book 51: "Charlie All Night" by Jennifer Crusie

Page count: 304 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars

Alice "Allie" McGuffey is the best radio producer WBBB in Tuttle, Ohio has ever had and it's pretty much the unspoken truth that she's the reason the radio station runs as well as it does. She loves her job and thrives on it, so when the radio station's current Drivetime star, Mark King, who up until two months ago was her lover, tells her that she's been moved to a different time slot, and from now on, he'll be using Lisa, her former intern as his producer, Allie is not happy. It's not like Bill Bonner, the radio station's owner would be fool enough to fire her (the place would go under), but she's been relegated to the 10pm-2am slot, previously occupied by a conspiracy nut who ended his career at the station two weeks earlier by shooting up the console. Angry and hurt, she walks into the local bar, determined to pick up someone, anyone who can make her forget about Mark.

Allie is not going to be broken. She has a plan. First she's going to find someone to sleep with, who will make her forget about Mark King once and for all. Then she's going to make her new DJ so famous that the station owner will beg her forgiveness and give her any choice producing gig she wants. Of course, the man she sits down next to and propositions is none other than Charlie Tenniel, the station's new DJ. Except, unbeknownst to anyone but Bill Bonner and his wife, Charlie has no radio experience whatsoever. He's there as a favour to Mr. Bonner because Charlie's father and Bill are old friends, and there have been some threatening letters sent to WBBB. Charlie is just going to pose as a DJ (borrowing the reputation of Ten Tenniel, his drug-dealing DJ brother) while he investigates the threats. He's unlikely to stay in Tuttle for more than about six weeks, and therefore isn't exactly looking to make an impression.

Yet Allie is so charming and determined, and after being invited to dinner with her and her gay roommate Joe, Charlie goes against his better judgement and agrees to stay on their sofa. And when Allie later at night asks him to seduce her, he initially tries to refuse, but when she persists, he doesn't resist for long. She also tells him about her plan to make him a big name in Tuttle, something he adamantly refuses to agree to. Nevertheless, despite his continued attempts to make bad and boring radio broadcasts, he keeps getting more and more listeners, and despite promising himself he's not going to stay on the sofa and not keep ending up in Allie's bed every night, the two continue their trysts. That is, until they inadvertently reveal their fledgling relationship on air, and make a public bet to stay celibate, both determined to prove that their gender is better at going without sex. They will need to spend their days keeping their hands off each other and their nights sleeping apart.

Of course, getting to know one another better, without allowing sex into the equation builds up the tension between them to an unbearable degree and makes them aware of how compatible they are on all sorts of other levels too. But Charlie was never meant to stay in Tuttle for too long, what will Allie do when and if he actually leaves?

This is yet another romance I got in an e-book sale absolutely ages ago and never got round to reading. Jennifer Crusie tends to write really enjoyable and fast-paced contemporaries, and I have yet to come across one I didn't enjoy. For someone who's struggling with involuntary infertility, it's nice to read books where there is no pregnancy epilogues, and in several of her books, the heroines aren't interested in ever having children. Her heroine are always smart and capable, and frequently not in the first blush of youth. Allie is 36, and actually two years older than Charlie, the hero. She's extremely good at her job, but not to an unbelievable degree and it's clear that she's had to make sacrifices along the way and that her best friend and roommate, Joe, is actually worried about how much of her self-worth and identity is tied up in her job at the radio station. She's clearly never had a particularly satisfying romantic or sexual relationship, and seems more upset about losing her job as Mark King's producer than by the fact that he dumped her two months' earlier. A little bit too career driven, she needs some distractions.

We're never given a clear back story for Charlie, except that he's not really one for settling down and seems never to stay in one place for too long. I don't think he's actually a detective, even though he's sent to Tuttle to help investigate a suspected threat, and it seems as if his nomadic lifestyle is quite a frustration to his parents. Strangely, his brother seems to be much more of a black sheep, having been arrested for drug-dealing and quite possibly also left a pregnant wife behind when he fled to whereabouts unknown. Quick to adapt and very charming, Charlie becomes a popular and proficient DJ, even though he tries his very best to remain unnoticed. He feels very protective of Allie and keeps doing his best to make Mark jealous, since the guy never appreciated her when he had her.

As is also the case with a lot of Crusie novels, there is a dog as part of the plot, in this case a tiny runt of a puppy, near death, who has to be hand-reared back to health by various radio station employees. While Charlie initially believes the puppy, Samson, to be a goner, he sees how invested Allie is in making it eat and survive and through the determined efforts of most of the various night time DJs and hourly feedings over several weeks, the puppy pulls through and becomes something of a mascot for Charlie and the radio station.

Crusie says in her introduction of the book that she wanted to see what a relationship that started with a one night stand and later became less physical might look like and in this book she basically has lovers to friends to lovers once more and manages it excellently. This is a really quick read, with a great main couple and a lot of fun and quirky supporting characters. I'm so glad I finally read it and really should do my best to chase down the rest of the books I have left unread in Crusie's back catalogue.

Judging a book by its cover: This book has a pretty cute and fairly simple cover. Two sets of lower legs and feet, belonging to people who are clearly snuggling up together. I'm going to assume that they're on some sort of giant blanket on the floor, because no bed I've ever seen has that much room at the foot of the bed once two grown humans are lying down on it. I'd say that perhaps they were half sitting, but the angle of the legs is all wrong for that. Still, as romance covers go, not bad at all.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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