The Thing About Men
I am not a fan of Martha Stewart, so when I saw that The Thing About Men was about a lifestyle diva, I hoped for a good plot since I knew I would not like the character. Silly me – the characters turned out to be the best thing about the book.
Pop culture icon Claire Willoughby built an empire around Simple Pleasures, an omnipedia company devoted to giving her many fans tips on how to live a simple lifestyle in a gracious manner. All Simple Pleasures products feature Claire’s lovely self, and her fans know she can do it all. But Claire has a secret: she is only the public face of Simple Pleasures. The brain behind the operation is her best friend Olive Tully, a brilliant but pathologically shy woman who actually comes up with the ideas and writes the copy.
Eleanor Sage became a devoted fan of Simple Pleasures when it first began. She and Claire have written on and off for years, lately about Eleanor’s new baby daughter Anabel. Claire is astonished to hear that Eleanor has died and named her Anabel’s guardian in her will. She’s even more astonished when Ramsey Sage, who looks like a textbook picture of a bad boy, shows up, claiming to be Anabel’s uncle and wanting to take care of her.
The theme of the book is the importance of family. Claire’s parents died when she was only three, and she was sent to an orphanage. She was never adopted, so she does not want little Anabel to go through what she did. Ramsey Sage left a bad family situation when he was eighteen and has lived a hard life as a DEA agent. He’s come to realize how important family is, and he wants that for his niece.
This emphasis on family is the best thing about the book. Both Ramsey and Claire have endured bleak childhoods, but they are not bitter. They want Anabel to have the stabilty and love that they did not have, and neither of them is silly or childish when it comes to her. Their problem is with each other. Claire is rich and settled – Ramsey is neither. But the real Ramsey and the real Claire are not what they present to the world.
I liked both Claire and Ramsey as characters, but the comedic tone of the book fell flat for me several times. When the humor flowed out of the characters, I smiled and laughed, but all too often the humor seemed forced and unnatural. Ms. Bevarly seemed to be trying too hard to be funny, and it showed. The basic plot of the book didn’t really lend itself to a laugh-a-minute comedy, and I closed it thinking that maybe it would have been better had it been written as a straight story. The sub-plot involving Claire’s friend Olive and her attraction to Anabel’s social worker was treated seriously and worked much better for me.
Despite my problems with the book, when I got to the last page, I decided the good characters more than made up for the uneven comedic tone. If you want a really funny book, I would recommend some of Elizabeth Bevarly’s titles for Silhouette Desire, especially First Comes Love, which is delightful from first page to last.