GETTING RID OF BRADLEY by Jennifer Crusie (see her website)
HQN, January 2008
When her husband has an affair, Lucy Savage, with encouragement from her sister, divorces him. But Bradley has promised he'll explain everything and Lucy goes to the greasy-spoon where he's promised he'll meet her. There's no Bradley there, but there is a sexy cop--one who's so disreputable looking, Lucy believes he's a mugger. And he really does almost mug Lucy when someone takes a shot at them when they leave the diner.
Cop Zach Warren had been sent to the diner by a phone call promising him he'd find an embezzlement suspect, Bradley, there. There has to be a connection between Lucy's Bradley and the Bradley he's after. Searching the things Bradley left in Lucy's house--things he left because Lucy's sister bought all new locks the instant he headed out the door--has got to lead to a clue. Unfortunately, though, instead of a clue, Zach finds an annoying cat next door, and continued threats against Lucy. The threats don't seem designed to kill her, exactly, but they certainly are scary. Zach's answer is to stick around and body-guard the sexy schoolteacher.
Lucy believes in logic, not love. And logic tells her that 'her' Bradley would never embezzle a million dollars. It also tells her that Zach is exactly the wrong man for her. But logic doesn't have any explanation for why she wants him around.
In this early novel by Jennifer Crusie (see more BooksForABuck.com reviews of novels by Cruise), Cruise combines humor, endearing (if very odd) characters, and a bit of adventure in a completely enjoyable fast read. Originally published in Harlequin's Temptation line, GETTING RID OF BRADLEY went a long way to establish Crusie's reputation as a star in the romance genre. More than ten years later, the book remains fresh and fun. Zach is a charming character--worried about being in his mid-thirties, insistent that Lucy didn't really beat him up when she'd thought he was mugging her, delighted with his ability to cook nachos and other simple dishes after eating in restaurants for years (as Lucy insists he learn to cook). But Lucy is the real star of the story--concerned about being independent, with frequently changing hair color, flaky enough to ignore Zach's most basic safety requests, but with a real strength that drives the story forward.
Crusie has made a career out of throwing dysfunctional characters into danger and creating a mix of laughter and suspense out of it. In this early novel, she already has the touch. I'm happy to recommend GETTING RID OF BRADLEY for those of us who missed the novel on its first release. (GETTING RID OF BRADLEY was initially released as Harlequin Temptation #480, January 1994).
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