Sometimes I wish I lived in Jennifer Crusie’s world. Everyone has a fabulous time, even when they’re miserable, and the only dialogue allowed is witty banter. Every heroine has a loyal dog (or three) to keep her company until Mr. Right - strong, studly but absolutely bonkers over her - shows up. Getting Rid of Bradley is the latest Mira reissue of a Crusie category novel that was released before she hit the big time with her hardcover debut, Tell Me Lies. It’s not my favorite old Crusie, but it still provided me with lots of chuckles.
On the day her divorce becomes final, Lucy Savage Porter decides she couldn’t possibly sink any lower. She’s having a really bad hair day, her ex-husband Bradley didn’t even show up in court, and she’s stuck in a dumpy diner, listening to her sister Tina tell her she should be more spontaneous. Then things get even worse. She tentatively makes eye contact with the dangerous looking guy across the room, which is a bad idea because he accosts her outside the restaurant. Fortunately, she bashes him in the head with the physics book she has in her purse. Unfortunately, she soon learns that she has just assaulted a police officer.
Zack Warren doesn’t know much about the crazy woman who insists she beat him up (he maintains he didn’t fight back because he didn’t want to hurt her), but he thinks she might be the lead he needs to catch a big time embezzler. He’s your basic commitment-phobe without being tortured about it - he just figures that commitment = maturity = death, so he’d rather avoid it. But this deranged woman, who has three ridiculous dogs and hair that keeps changing from one hideous color to another, needs a keeper, so he sticks around. And learns that, when the right woman comes along, settling down isn’t really a fate worse than death.
Starting with the opening scene, which shifts quickly back and forth between Lucy (with Tina) and Zack (with his partner Anthony) on a collision course with each other, the Crusie roller coaster starts off at a furious pace and doesn’t let up for 250 pages. The weak link in the novel is Lucy, a smart but clueless physics teacher. She does a lot of fluttering about and yelling that she is going to change by becoming more spontaneous and independent, but she is more ditzy than capable, at least until the novel’s end when she takes care of herself quite handily in a crisis. But it’s hard to think of a yummier hero than Zack, the hard-boiled cop whose fear of commitment vanishes like a puff of smoke once he gets to know Lucy. He’s smart, handy and caring. The gesture he makes that opens Lucy’s eyes to his true feelings is both pricelessly funny and poignantly sweet.
Getting Rid of Bradley showcases one of Crusie’s trademarks, the lovable mutt. Lucy owns three dogs, and the author’s love for the canine species shines through clearly. The dogs are just as important secondary characters as Tina and Anthony, and are arguably more three-dimensional.
If you have only recently discovered Crusie through her hardcovers, or if you didn’t realize what a treasure you had the first time you read these books in their original category format, you owe it to yourself to get a copy of Getting Rid of Bradley. Next up - in November 2002, alas! - is What the Lady Wants. Well, what this lady wants is for Mira to hurry up and reissue more of Crusie’s backlist.