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Manhuntin g by Jennifer Crusie
(Mira, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 1-55166-618-9
Here's one reissue that's worth the money. Sure, it's a slim 250 pages that was once a category romance, but Manhunting is a blast. It confirmed for me that Jennifer Crusie's meteoric rise to bestselling hardcover author was justly deserved.

The plot involves the classic case of opposites who realize they are meant for each other. Kate Svenson is your typical buttoned-up businesswoman who descends upon a Kentucky resort, hell-bent on finding an eligible bachelor who can meet all of her requirements for a perfect husband. Jake Templeton is the part-owner of the resort, a laid-back charmer who has abandoned the fast track world. Jake's favorite pastime is fishing, but he's so lazy that he doesn't even use any bait, lest he actually catch something.

Kate and Jake meet, size each other up, and decide immediately that they are not meant for each other. Instead, Jake becomes Kate's buddy and the amused witness to Kate's dating disasters. Meanwhile, Kate befriends a young beauty who is determined to have a last fling before marrying her dull fiancÚ. She also welcomes the friendship of the owner of a local bar, who encourages Kate to find the wild woman within. Then one night Jake and Kate finally realize what everyone around them has already figured out - they're perfect for each other. But Kate has to go back to her high-powered job, and Jake has no intention of re-entering the rat race. Can there be a happily ever after for these two?

Well of course there can, and reading Manhunting is a joyous romp to the finish line. There's just so much vitality and happiness in the book that you enjoy every page. You have to love a book that features:

  • The goofy slapstick humor of Kate's encounters with other men, which invariably end up with the poor saps being tossed in a pool, hit over the head or almost killed by heart palpitations;
  • The fast-and-furious Tracy and Hepburn banter between Jake and Kate, as they flirt without realizing they're flirting;
  • Crusie's trademark emphasis on female friendship, as Kate relies on old and new girlfriends to help her figure out her true priorities;
  • The thrill of Kate literally letting her hair down and learning, to her amazement, that she can have a good time as working as a substitute barmaid;
  • And most of all, that wonderful moment when the scales fall from Jake's and Kate's eyes, and they realize how much they want each other.

I read Manhunting in about an hour. Then I read it again. During the past few weeks, I've taken it out and re-read my favorite pages whenever I need a lift. It's just that much fun. Mira plans to re-release additional Crusie books on an annual basis - Getting Rid of Bradley is scheduled for November 2001. Frankly, one a year is far too few, and I hope that they expedite their schedule. I've read a lot of so-so and near-miss romance novels lately; it's sad but true that a seven-year-old re-released category is the best thing I've found in months.

--Susan Scribner

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