A Man Worth Loving
When I eyed the cover of A Man Worth Loving and saw what appeared to be a baby wearing a toupee, I had to remind myself that I am not in the habit of judging a book by its cover. If I was, I’d miss out on way too much of the romance genre. Unfortunately, in this case I should have paid attention to my first reaction and left this one on the shelf.
The story, set in the small California town of Emmett’s Mill, centers on the plight of widower Sammy Halvorsen and his infant son, Ian. Sammy’s wife died in childbirth and he has, understandably, taken this very hard. He reacts to his pain by drinking, having one-night stands, and generally trying to avoid spending much time around his six month old son. After several months of this behavior, Sammy’s mother finally intervenes and hires a woman from her quilting group to serve as Ian’s nanny.
The book starts off fairly strong with a priceless initial meeting between Aubrey Rose and the hungover Sammy. Over the space of a few pages, the author manages to show us Sammy in pain and at the end of his rope, as well as Aubrey’s instant fondness for Ian. It’s obvious that Aubrey finds herself resenting Sammy, but her compassion for Ian leads her to take the job.
This could have been a very heartwarming story of healing and new love, but it never lives up to its promise. For starters, someone as lost as Sammy needed a strong heroine and Aubrey never fully projects that strength. Despite keeping some secrets and having a rather convoluted backstory, her character felt somewhat two-dimensional throughout the book. In addition, most of her and Sammy’s interactions revolve around child care and their relationship felt professional rather than romantic. Sammy’s pain at times feels achingly real, but the shared chemistry just never kicked in with these two. Given that Sammy lost his wife only months before and was locked in the midst of his grief for nearly the entire book, the lack of chemistry is hardly surprising but also not terribly romantic.
To make it worse, the book spends way too much time exploring two themes that grated on me. First, we learn early on that Aubrey fled the big bad city to come to Emmett’s Mill. Don’t worry if you forget this detail because you’ll be reminded often and it’s all rather simplistic. City=shallow, materialistic and heart-breaking to live in, Country=wholesome, wonderful lifestyle. Aubrey is also child-obsessed in a major way and the author is rather heavy-handed in painting Aubrey’s deep heart for children, her love for Ian, and so on. Aubrey and baby Ian have way more chemistry than Sammy and Aubrey.
The theme of love overcoming grief and loss has been handled powerfully in a number of romances and, when done well, it can make for a very hopeful read. Sadly, the author in this case just did not deliver. Sammy is a well-drawn character even if not a deeply romantic hero, and I did enjoy some of the secondary characters, but in the end, this book added up to a slightly less than average read.