What A Man's Gotta Do
Last year I discovered Karen Templeton and glommed her books. I enjoyed all of them, fell in love with the town of Spruce Lake, Michigan, where most of them are set, and put her on my automatic buy list. When I began What A Man’s Gotta Do, I was happy to see it takes place in Spruce Lake, and it features an itinerate chef hero and a plus-sized heroine. No sheiks or secret babies? Already I like it!
Eddie King is a chef, a excellent one. He has moved from place to place, job to job in spite of the pleas of his employers to stay. Eddie’s mother died when he was young, he never knew his father – whom he thought abandoned them – and he grew up being passed from family member to family member. After a brief, failed marriage, Eddie cultivated a lifestyle of never settling down and getting involved with anyone. Years ago, when he was a teenager, Eddie lived with relatives in Spruce Lake where he had learned to cook at the local diner. As the book begins, he arrives in Spruce Lake to work for a few months at Galen Farentino’s restaurant.
While he’s at Galens, Eddie runs into the restaurant’s bookkeeper, Mala Koleski. Mala and Eddie knew each other from high school – she was the good student and he was the sexy loner. Mala is now a single mother with an apartment for rent in her home. Before she knows it, Eddie is her tenant.
Eddie and Mala were attracted to each other as teens, and the attraction begins again when they first set eyes on each other. But their pasts will not allow them either an easy fling, nor a commitment. Mala wanted nothing more than a loving marriage like her parents’, her brother and her friends. But Mala’s own marriage was to a cold man who constantly put her down because of her weight. Mala is not obese, but she is big – I pictured her as about a size 14 or 16. Mala’s husband was so put off by the changes that childbearing made in her body, that she had sex in darkness rather than listen to his taunts. Finally, he left and neither she nor their two children have heard from him.
Eddie’s past as a child who never had a real family has left him like a scared dog, wanting the warmth and light that he can see in a home, but wary of possible kicks. He has always settled for standing outside and looking in, but now he thinks he might just want to come inside.
I loved this book. I loved how Mala was so realistic – a perpetually tired single mother, who has been burdened with too much work and too little love. Her children are not the impossibly cute angel children of some romances, but realistic kids who fuss, act up, and get on your nerves. Eddie and Mala’s problems are also realistic and not contrived. They have been hurt in ways that go to their cores – Mala by a man who rejected her as a woman, and Eddie who was almost a throwaway child. It isn’t until they confront their demons – Mala’s ex-husband and Eddie’s long-lost father – that they can let go of the past and love each other in the present.
What A Man’s Gotta Do is a wonderful feel-good book and started my 2003 series romance reading off to a promising start. If you are burned out on impossibly perfect heroines and would like to read about a realistic woman who finds the love she has always yearned for, pick this book up. I think you will love it as much as I did and like me, go back and glom the rest of Karen Templeton’s books. She is one of the best series romance writers around.