Just Like A Man
There are few writers out there with a more distinctive voice than Elizabeth Bevarly. In fact, I would argue that her voice is so very distinctive that readers either love it or . . . well, they don’t. I’m definitely in the first group – something that should give you the frame of reference you need to decide if Just Like A Man is a book for you.
What worked very well here for me is the author’s formidable skill at harnessing the sheer power of words to nail a character and an attitude. For instance, heroine Hannah Frost refers to herself in her internal monologues as an “overworked, overextended, overdressed, but egregiously underpaid – not that she was bitter or anything – director of a tony private school.” (That oh-so-bitter “not that she was bitter or anything” phrase crops up at least 100 times in this book and it made me smile virtually every time.) What didn’t work quite as well for me are the extreme lengths to which the author requires you to suspend belief in order to buy into key aspects of the plot and a secondary romance featuring an oh-so-plucky heroine who was so darned plucky that I occasionally found my less-than-plucky self in very real danger of hurling. (And, yes, the level of pluck-dom is so extreme that the high school world is more than warranted.)
Hannah doesn’t buy for one minute that the sexy father of a recalcitrant pupil is just a CPA. And, as the reader already knows, it turns out she’s right. Well, actually Michael Sawyer is a CPA, but he’s also a former operative for a super-secret government agency back on the job to find out just what Adrian – an uber bad guy and former operative for Michael’s agency who recently surfaced as an executive of a mondo computer company and a board member of Hannah’s school – is up to and, natch, to stop it. Michael’s wise-beyond-his-years fourth-grade son is the entree he needs to get closer to Adrian by enrolling young Alex in Hannah’s school.
Since Adrian is obviously more than interested in Hannah herself, not surprisingly, Michael turns his investigative sights on the prim (but definitely not bitter or anything) headmistress – a task that is hardly unwelcome since Hannah stimulates a bit more in him than just his investigative interests. But, despite the fact that Hannah’s hormones do the happy dance when sexy Michael is anywhere near her neck of the woods, will she be able to forgive him when she finds out who and what he really is?
Though much that goes on here stretches credibility (though I won’t go into detail for fear of spoilers), the characters of Hannah and Michael are, in direct contrast to the extreme nature of the over-the-top plot, very real, indeed. Raised by a n’er do well con-man dad, Hannah’s obsession with all the trappings of security and respectability are a painful reflection of her chaotic childhood. Michael is a good guy and a great dad who finds himself falling in love at the worst possible time – while engaged in an investigation he knows could be key to the future safety and security of his country. Now that’s bad timing!
The secondary romance is a trademark of the author’s books. Normally, I love her back-up couples (especially Lucas and Edie in How To Trap A Tycoon), but this story involving a very young, very plucky teacher (who’s so plucky she holds down something like five jobs) and a 40-something billionaire just pushed me a bit too far. See, she doesn’t know he’s rich and he keeps admiring just how plucky she is working all those jobs and keeping her plucky optimism at full steam while living in a dumpy and definitely non-plucky neighborhood, not to even mention she has really plucky you-know-whats. Okay, so I can deal with the age difference. Fine. What I found more than hard to take is the kind of extreme Cinderella-like rescue nature of the whole thing. No matter which way you look at it, this just isn’t the author at her best.
But with the author’s humor on full display and two lead characters I more than liked, Just Like A Man is a book certain to please those who – like me – enjoy Ms. Bevarly’s trademark wit. Just forget that secondary romance (it’s easy to skim), prepare yourself for some over-the-top antics and the fantastical nature of the extreme plot, and I think there’s more than a good chance that you’ll very much enjoy the ride. I certainly did.