Jennifer Crusie’s Welcome to Temptation was published in 2000. Older Son was five and I was 27 years old. Although I lived in Los Angeles my parents lived in Lodi, where I grew up. Well, I grew up in Manteca but the two are pretty close and when the wind blows a certain way, both places smelled of cow poo. You now often see Lodi on your wine bottle label. There was once a very good Zinfandel that was grown across the street from a Walmart. I had nothing against it but I told the people I was eating dinner with and they all refused to order that wine.
It used to be, when a book was published, you had to call around and see who had a copy before getting in the car and driving out to buy it. I was visiting my parents when Welcome to Temptation came out. I called around and the only place that had it was a bookstore in the mall in Modesto. Lodi and Modesto are about 40 miles apart, connected by CA-99 a freeway that diverges from the I-5 at the base of the Tejon Pass (or the Grapevine) and goes all the way up the middle of California until Red Bluff, about 100 miles south of the Oregon border.
Driving 40 miles to go buy a book I could wait a couple days to get when the local shop got in their shipment might seem like an odd thing to do. When I told my mom I was going to do just that (Older Son was happily beating my dad at checkers) my mom said, “Want some company?”
To her, this was not an odd thing to do. You wanted a book, you went and got it. If I had said it was in Sacramento, she would have told me to read something out of the linen closet (my mom had so many books she kept literally hundreds of paperbacks in her linen closet). But 40 miles on good road was reasonable and so we set out.
I remember that drive. We started out at dusk and since it was May it would have been about 7 o’clock so we would have had the freeway pretty much to ourselves. We talked, we made fun of how other people drove, we laughed. When I went in to get the book my mom waited in the car. This wasn’t a stroll through the mall, this was a mission. All told, it probably took us two and a half hours to get that book (we stopped for Blizzards at the local Dairy Queen).
After we got back, I pried Older Son and my dad out from in front of the TV and put both of them to bed. My mom disappeared into her sewing room to watch TV, read and embroider a baby quilt she was working on for some random relative.
I stretched out on the old couch in the front room and read until dawn, something that wasn’t out of the ordinary for me. Especially when there were two doting grandparents to look after Older Son when he woke up.
Among Jennifer Crusie fans, there is some debate regarding which is her best book. There are two that usually rise to the top of any list. Welcome to Temptation and Bet Me. I think technically speaking Bet Me is the better book. But every single time I see a copy of Welcome to Temptation I think of that 80 mile drive my mom and I took to buy it, how she literally went along with something most people would think was excessive.
It’s a great book, romantic and funny and the small town in Ohio where it takes place is so fully realized it’s still a shock to remember that it isn’t an actual place.
Here’s a bit of trivia. The original cover had cherries on it and so Crusie fans called themselves The Cherries. I no longer own that copy of the book I bought 19 years ago. I’ve moved too many times. The copy you see in the picture is a signed copy. When I met Jennifer Crusie, I was an inarticulate, babbling fan and she was polite and didn’t laugh at me. A true lady and a scholar.