Review: Maybe This Time by Jennifer Crusie

Title: Maybe This Time
Author: Jennifer Crusie
Obtained: borrowed from library
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Format: hardback
Rating: 4/5
Read for: Amazon Best of 2010 Challenge

Blurb (from dust jacket)

Andie Miller is ready to move on with her life. She wants to marry her fiance and leave behind everything in her past, especially her ex-husband, North Archer. But when Andie tries to gain closure with him, he asks one final favor of her. A distant cousin has died and left North the guardian of two orphans who have driven away three nannies already, and things are getting worse. He needs someone to take care of the situation, and he knows Andie can handle anything…
When Andie meets the two children, she realizes the situation is much worse than she feared. Carter and Alice aren’t your average delinquents, and the creepy old house where they live is being run by the worst housekeeper since Mrs. Danvers. Complicating matters is Andie’s fiance’s suspicion that this is all a plan by North to get Andie back. He may be right because Andie’s dreams have been haunted by North since she arrived at the old house. And that’s not the only haunting…
Then her ex-brother-in-law arrives with a duplicitous journalist and a self-doubting parapsychologist, closely followed by an annoyed medium, Andie’s taro card-reading mother, her avenging ex-mother-in-law, and her jealous fiance. Just when Andie’s sure things couldn’t get more complicated, North arrives to make her wonder if maybe this time things could just turn out differently…

My Thoughts

Overall, I really liked the book, but at some points I felt like the scenes were ridiculous (such as the seance scene, where someone knocks at the door every five minutes). But let’s back up a minute and start from the beginning.
Andie is a school teacher, and she’s recruited by her ex-husband to go visit his wards, a twelve-year-old boy and his younger sister, and to find out what’s wrong with them. All Andie was trying to do was return the alimony checks that North had sent her every month for ten years (that’s a long time to go without cashing checks, and a long time to not notice that the recipient wasn’t cashing said checks).
North guilt-trips Andie into going, and Andie dutifully goes to the old, creepy house that has a moat (yes, really), although the moat is only mentioned and rarely ever noticed. Andie meets the children, silent Carter and screaming Alice, and Andie has her work cut out for her. She manages to buy her way into the children’s lives, and eventually starts changing their lives around.
I wasn’t entirely pleased to see Andie buy her way into the kid’s lives. She figures out what they enjoy, or don’t enjoy (Alice likes sparkles, butterflies, and the color blue, and Carter likes comics and drawing), but it was a way for her to get involved in their lives and get them to trust her. I just don’t like the idea of buying anyone’s trust, no matter how attentive or thoughtful the gift.
The real story eventually develops once the ghosts start appearing, and while Andie spends a lot of time trying to get to the bottom of the ghost mystery, she certainly has a lot of drama going on in the real world, like trying to get Alice to brush her hair, and trying to get Will to understand that no really means no.
The novel speeds up even more with the addition of Southie, North’s little brother, his girlfriend, and her cameraman, not to mention a parapsychologist who is caught in his own Catch-22 (he cannot see ghosts because he doesn’t believe in them, yet he is a skeptic and will not believe in them until he sees them), and it speeds up again with the arrival of more people, including the fiance, Andie’s mother, North’s mother, and a few other people.
I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of this book. It’s definitely different from Crusie’s other novels. I went into it knowing about the supernatural element, but I was unsure of the extent; did the story take place in a haunted house? Does the main character fall in love with a ghost? I just wasn’t sure, and at least on that front I was pleasantly surprised.
The main problem I had was the relationship between North and Andie. We’re told that they were divorced ten years prior after a very fast marriage, and that they still love each other. However, Andie spends so much time with the kids and trying to solve the ghostly mystery that she hardly has time to interact with North, and it leaves their relationship lacking. There’s no build-up into a new relationship between them; they simply jump into it, and usually one of the most exciting parts of a relationship is the build-up.
While I enjoyed the book, I did so for very different reasons than the other Crusie books I’ve enjoyed. It has a nice ghost element, but if you’re going to read it, don’t look for the usual romance.

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