The Man Ban
The best thing about a man ban: resetting life and expectations for yourself. The worst thing about a man ban: falling off the wagon. It’s inevitable, unless you’re heading for a life of abstinence, that following any dating ban you’re going to have to get back in the game at some point. How you go about it is what really counts.
In The Man Ban, Nicola Marsh lays out a solid plan for navigating a dating hiatus that’s full of puns and charm. Harper Ryland is mid-pivot in life when she meets Manny Gomes at her best friend Nishi’s elaborate Indian wedding in Melbourne. She’s strongly of the opinion that since he’s overly handsome and confident, he’s a player. She’s extra catty because launching her new food-stylist career with the event’s beautiful, elaborate food is making her anxious. Plus, Manny’s sex appeal battering her raw nerves is hitting all her worst insecurities.
But the more they get to know each other, the more Harper discovers her initial assumptions about Manny were wrong. He’s an ER doctor who works with her friend’s new husband, and there’s something about Manny that penetrates her self-imposed man ban safety net.
Serendipity strikes when Harper and Manny are in the same hotel in Auckland – he for a medical conference, she as the new food stylist for the luxury hotel chain. All her carefully laid plans are dissolving after her assistant for the photo shoot calls in sick, until Manny steps up to save the day as a stand-in.
He had an inherent ability to make her smile when she felt like crawling into a corner, curling into a ball, and rocking.
Manny’s a good guy. A good doctor. He makes quick decisions in the emergency room and tries to get a good read on people he meets. He’s close with his eighty-six-year-old grandmother Isadora, who goes by Izzy, and while she’s fully Team Manny, she is not supportive of interracial marriages. But Manny is more evolved than Izzy and doesn’t think twice about Harper’s not being Anglo-Indian. But he does think of her, nonstop. And he does step out of his comfort zone to help her just because he can.
Appearances carry a lot of weight in this story. Harper was diagnosed with vitiligo thirteen months earlier, and her beautiful mother wasn’t crazy about her ex-boyfriend because of his slouchy laziness. Harper’s whole career is based on the appearance of the food she’s styling. Manny’s grandmother is worried about appearances should he marry a woman of a different racial background. But rather than letting appearances control the outcomes, they drift to the background and become part of the conversation. Manny and Harper are adults, making their own decisions and charting their own paths. I love that the focus is on the two main characters, who have equal skin in the game and share equitable expectations. The dialogue is natural, the pace crisp, the characters a delight to watch grow. These are two adults who develop a friendship that blooms into a romance at the right speed. The Man Ban is the perfect light-hearted read to wrap up the summer.
~ Dolly R. Sickles
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