The Care and Feeding of Unmarried Men
By far the thing I most liked about The Care and Feeding of Unmarried Men was its title. It promised so much and delivered little other than a few aggravating plot elements, including a heroine I could not like or empathize with although I tried – I really tried. Unfortunately the spunky title had nothing to do with story either.
Eve Caruso looks to be a perfect woman – she has a perfect figure, perfect blonde hair, and a perfectly perky yet snobbish personality. A society columnist, Eve writes the Party Girl column for the Palm Springs daily newspaper as well as articles for a Southern California luxury magazine. Eve’s work environment usually involves her hobnobbing with society’s richest at the very best parties where she not only blends in but is also vastly popular.
Nash Cargill aka the Preacher is a different sort of hero – he’s made his fortune on the monster truck circuit. He prefers for few to know about the MBA he holds because it’s better for business if he’s thought of as just another good old boy. Although he has always been the one to end his relationships with the women in his life, he still has a reputation among his family and friends as the knight in shining armor rescuing ladies in distress and making their lives better before leaving them. It’s a habit he wants to break, but figures rescuing his younger sister is a different sort of game altogether. Jemima Cargill is a young Hollywood starlet who has been the victim of both a stalker and a hit and run accident in the past year. Fearing her latest accident may indicate Jemima is still in danger from her stalker, Nash has come to the California desert to see about her well-being and protect her if necessary. And he also wants to talk to that party girl tell-all columnist who spilled his sister’s whereabouts and see exactly what she is up to.
Eve’s ability to support herself as a writer has never been in question, what with the tidy sum she tucked away. But an insider trading tip the year before proved too great a temptation and Eve greedily risked her entire nest egg, resulting not only in the loss of her investment, but an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission. She sold her house and car to help cover her losses and now works extra jobs to make ends meet. Her stepmother’s spa, a favorite haunt of the Hollywood set, provides Eve with a place to live, hide, and work as she continues to write her columns, pinch pennies, and attend parties. In addition to her financial woes, her grandfather is retiring from his position as “boss of the bosses” in the California mafia and trouble is brewing.
Nash meets Eve when he shows up at the spa looking for his sister. He realizes immediately that the super-beauty, despite her extreme sexiness, spells trouble for any man. But for some reason Eve equates coming on to a man with scaring him away. I must admit I was confused when on page fourteen in an attempt to warn Nash away, she reaches under the table and scrapes her nails along his upper thigh while she wets her lips with her tongue. Apparently this is to let him know that she is too much woman for him, but it never made sense to me. Wisely, Nash knows to keep his distance – but unfortunately not long enough.
The relationship between Eve and Nash is erratic at best with Eve attempting to control every minute they are together and Nash alternately allowing her to take control or letting her think she is. Although he has no wish to let this man-trap eat him alive (a sentiment that is stated many times in many ways) Nash’s savior tendencies surface when he senses the demons behind Eve’s actions. Eve is irresistibly drawn to Nash as well although she believes him to be annoying and arrogant but, hey – a man would need a lot of arrogance to get past the walls she throws up.
Such a completely gorgeous and vain heroine is difficult for me to take unless she has a great personality to compensate for it. Eve doesn’t. Her numerous unresolved issues appeared as shallowness and I wondered about her level of maturity. Yes, she lived through some tough experiences, but her fear and self-isolation in the middle of a loving, supportive family seemed too contrived. The depth of her problems was the driving force of the book and to put it bluntly – I’m not interested in reading an entire book about such a self-centered character.
An intriguing secondary romance between Nash’s younger sister and a masked mysterious guest of the spa firmly held my interest and made me wish they had an entire book of their own. As far as heroes go, Nash had his moments, but his pursuit of the heroine in the end just didn’t add up for me. Character driven romances are my favorite type of romance, regardless of their era, and since I hope to see more of this type of romance out there, I had high hopes for The Care and Feeding of Unmarried Men. I just wish it had lived up to its title.