If small towns are filled with heroes like Crusie's (Crazy for You, p. 163, etc.), then romance readers may begin to crowd the highways. Sophie Dempsey, the "daughter of a thousand felons," and her sister, Amy, come to the town of Temptation, Ohio, to film an "audition tape" for Clea Whipple, a local girl turned porn star whose anchorman husband has run off with her inheritance and refuses to give it back. Sophie is one of the only honest, if repressed, members of a family of charming cons and thieves. After her mother's death, she raised her sister and her brother, Davy, who now specializes in parting shady businessmen from their dubious gains. Their father, a guy with a long rap sheet, is permanently on the lam. In the upright town of Temptation, the major bones of contention appear to be the painting of the water tower, which looks like a large erect phallus, and the ordering of new streetlights. These rather boring proceedings are presided over by Phineas Tucker, whose silly name hides a really hunky "town boy"—a single father who owns the local bookstore. Phin, immediately taken with Sophie's lower lip, seduces her with promises of slightly kinky sex. Sophie hasn't had any good "head-banging sex" in quite a while, if ever, and is inspired by Phin's technique, using their love scenes as a template for Clea's video. Crusie seems to have perfected the fan-delighting art of erotic, comic, and yet homey sex, with the understanding that the head-banging sex is made possible by that head-banging other word: love. Into this jokey, soft-core mix, Crusie inserts modern-romance's de-rigueur murder and hometown violence, the working out of which threatens to derail her plot as well as the appeal of roadside America. Nevertheless, with her third seriously pleasing hardcover—bright, funny, sexy, and wise—it's time to welcome Crusie into the pantheon of top-flight romance writers.
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