About That Man
About That Man features many themes you’ve probably read before: a quaint close-knit little town filled with busybodies, a workaholic contemporary hero in need of redemption, a modern day spinster with a painful secret, and a rambunctious orphan to bring them all together. These same-old, same-old elements typically don’t bother me if the relationship swelters, the characters pull at my emotions, and the storytelling is entertaining. But when a story lacks these ingredients and contains absolutely no surprises, like this one does, it becomes a classic “C” read in my book.
Daisy Spencer always dreamed she’d be a loving mother but those dreams came crashing down around her six years earlier when she discovered she was barren and her fiancé broke off their engagement. Since that devastating blow she’s steered clear of men and lived her life quietly, teaching Sunday school and enjoying outings with other women’s children. Secretly she longs for a family. When she catches a recently orphaned ten-year-old named Tommy hot wiring her car, she shocks her family and friends by moving the lonely boy into her home.
Daisy’s two hunky brothers (both conveniently single with sequels forthcoming) and her well-to-do father, “King” Spencer, are frantic with fear for Daisy’s valuables and for her heart. They do their best to discourage her, but she remains firm. However, these hunky men need not worry because before you can say “plot contrivance,” a long lost uncle is located. Daisy, the eternal optimist, holds out hope that the uncle will be unfit or uninterested so that she’ll be allowed to keep Tommy.
The uncle, Walker Ames, is a hardened D.C. cop who has allowed his job to consume him. He has no room in his life for a young boy. His devotion to his work has already cost him his wife and distanced him from his two young sons. He silently suffers with the ensuing guilt and feelings of failure and believes he’s lousy father material (which is pretty dead on). Feeling terrible about his sister’s untimely death and his failure to locate her sooner, he decides to visit Tommy out of a sense of duty.
What follows is far too many pages of predictability without a sufficient amount of spark to liven up the story. Walker and Tommy meet and begin to bond. Walker and Daisy share a kiss. Walker needs time to figure out the situation and decides to let Daisy keep Tommy for a few weeks. Daisy invites Walker to stay at her house on the weekends so he can continue bonding with Tommy. Walker and Daisy begin to do some bonding of their own and, well, you can guess the rest.
Tommy is a punky but needy little boy and his dialogue, for the most part, reminded me very much of my sweet but sometimes punky eleven year old nephew. Daisy and Walker are decent people with insecurities and human foibles but, much to my frustration, the only thing keeping them apart was Tommy. That was not enough to sustain my interest. It also didn’t help that the focus of the story did not remain on their relationship for any sufficient length of time. There is a dull and predictable drug-running subplot, and a plethora of typical small-town folks (many of them small minded, none of them entertaining) who take up far too much space. Daisy says it best when she confides to a friend about her feelings for Walker (on page 323 of this 400 pg book):
“Okay, I’ll be as honest as I can be. I care about him, probably way too much. But with all of this other stuff going on, how can we possibly spend enough time together to figure out if we have a future together?”
About That Man tells a familiar story without that extra oomph needed to make it a satisfying and memorable read. I certainly won’t be biting my nails in anticipation of the two sequels to come if they follow this format.