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I’ve been horribly lazy about updating my Desert Island Bookcase, currently it’s only got a few books in it, but the necessity of compilling a collection of books that you’re always going to want to read was bought sharply to mind this week when I caught a cold.  I’m lucky enough to be extremely impervious to colds, while the rest of the family is hawking and snuffling, I breeze about suffering at worst from a mild sniffle which disappears within 24 hours, so of course when I do snag the dread disease, I suffer far more – and make everyone else suffer – because I’m not used to being ill.

I tried my usual trick of denying that I had a cold (known in the family as ‘Mum’s got a Notgotta’) but had to give up on the strength through joy weeding the rose bed act when I started to sneeze so much that I couldn’t see the bindweed.  So I retired to palely loiter on the sofa with a good book.  And there lay the nub.  To palely loiter in a satisfactory manner you’ve got to have the right book, one that isn’t too taxing for the poor germy brain, one that’s doesn’t have anyone with a severe illness – for goodness sake you’re the one who’s taking centre stage on suffering here, one without an annoying plot for you aren’t up to being irritated and one that, hopefully, is going to make you feel a bit more cheerful.

Even better than the sofa… I could do with this every evening.

The first two books, bought at the euro a book sale, hit the floor within 25 pages each on the grounds of being pompous and hideously badly written.  The third was consigned to the bin on wet heroine grounds, I couldn’t take another page of wanting to grab the woman and shake her yelling ‘Of course you’re never going to have a good job and win the love of your life if you behave like a self-sacrificing doormat.’.  In no mood to risk another disappointment I turned to old favourites.  My fingers lingered over EH Benson, Georgette Heyer, Diana Wynne Jones, Kate Atkinson, then alighted on the row of Jennifer Crusie’s.

Jennifer Crusie is an American writer of romance who stands way above most others in the genre because she can write and because she’s funny.  Genuinely funny, not slapstick funny but play on words funny.  And her characters are people, the women are mature, often in their thirties, who look after themselves and wouldn’t dream of hearing a suspicious noise at the top of the house and going to investigate it wearing a transparent nightie and armed with a hair brush; likewise her men are a long way from the fantasy cardboard cutouts that populate most romance novels though they do share one thing in common with those creatures – they’re really good in the sack.  Oh yes, there’s sex in Jennifer Crusie’s novels, she’s known for her ‘hot’ sex scenes and, believe me, they can make you forget you’ve got a cold, even when you’ve read them before.

And last but not least, the romantic elements are believable.  Her characters don’t argue for nine tenths of the book then fall into bed and find everything’s sorted out and it’s true lurve, they might cross swords but there’s always a connection, they talk to each other, they fancy each other of course – there are those hot sex scenes after all – and the difficulties in the path to a happy conclusion are understandable and reasonable and never because the heroine believes the bitch ex-girlfriend who sidles up and says that actually the hero’s secretly engaged to her…

I’ve had a lovely two days revisiting Welcome To Temptation – the title refers to the signpost outside the small town of Temptation in Ohio and not what the two main protagonists get up on a pool table – and it still makes me giggle.  So that makes it a worthy inclusion in the Desert Island Bookcase, along with Faking It, Fast Women and Bet Me and a couple of other Crusie’s.  OK, that’s more than a single book by each author but it’s my bookcase and I’m entitled to change the rules.

And if this cold goes on I’ll be going back to Georgette Heyer…

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