Maybe This Time, by Jennifer Crusie

A new Jennifer Crusie novel is always cause for celebration, and Maybe This Time—her first full-length solo effort since 2004's Bet Me—is no exception. In this lively re-working of Henry James's novella The Turn of the Screw, Crusie replaces James's vulnerable, ghost-bedeviled heroine with someone considerably more resourceful.

When Andie Miller shows up at her ex-husband's law office, she has a plan: drop off a decade's worth of uncashed alimony checks and sever ties with him forever. Andie has no intention of getting involved with North Archer again, but he asks for one last favor. North has recently become the guardian of two orphaned children living in a decrepit mansion in southern Ohio. The kids are refusing to leave their house, and their tantrum-throwing, budding-arsonist antics have already ousted three nannies. North offers Andie ten thousand dollars to stay with the children for a month, stabilize them, and convince them to move in with his family in Columbus. Andie accepts (ten grand would get her out of debt), but when she arrives at Archer House she realizes the kids' misbehavior is motivated by something darker than childish willfulness....

The biggest flaw in Maybe This Time is North, who falls painfully short of the romantic ideal. In fact, most of the book's setup hinges on him being a total butthead: the children's aunt dies falling from one of Archer House's crumbling towers, the little girl has a psychotic break, and one of the previous nannies tells him Archer House is haunted, but he's too busy with his law practice* to go down and investigate. He improves over the course of the story, but any guy who can justify leaving two vulnerable children in a dilapidated house in the middle of nowhere is not the kind of dude who deserves a Happily Ever After, so I found it rather disappointing—SPOILER—that he gets one.

Happily, North's role is minor—remarkably so, considering the packaging of Maybe This Time clearly suggests “supernatural romance”. Crusie packs her plot with a crowd of quirky background characters, including an short-tempered medium, an asthmatic parapsychologist, a pair of feuding in-laws, and a soulless TV reporter with over-bleached teeth, but the most important relationship in the novel is Andie's bond with her two charges, Alice and Carter, which grows from guarded interest to a fiercely protective love. Their mutual regard is touching, and adds a genuinely sweet note to the story that contrasts beautifully with Crusie's wickedly funny take on the supernatural.

*Seriously. It's not like he's saving lives or something. He's a lawyer!
Posted by: Julia, Last edit by: Julianka


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