The Thing About Men
by Elizabeth Bevarly, contemporary (2004)
Avon, $6.99, ISBN 0-06-050946-5


Claire Willoughby and Olive Tully are friends from their college days and together, they have started a successful "simple housekeeping" franchise, Simple Pleasures, that spawns a bestselling magazine and a hit TV show. Claire is the brawn, so to speak, as compared to Olive, the brain, she's the more outgoing and hence better for the image of the franchise than the stage-fright prone Olive. So far this arrangement works, until a fan, Eleanor, passes away and her will names Claire as the guardian of her three-year old daughter Anabel. Hey, it could be worse - Eleanor could have been a big Michael Jackson fan *shudder*.

Claire thinks that she is not up to being a mother, but the other alternative is to put the girl into the care of Social Services. Claire's younger days were spent in an orphanage. While her experience was, as she described it, benign, she immediately launches into that oh-so-familiar and unthinking anti-social service mode of thought. When she learns that Anabel has an uncle, she hires a private investigator to locate her.

Who shows up at her doorstep but a guy that "wore extremely faded blue jeans, slashed at both knees, and an equally faded denim work shirt whose sleeves appeared to have been ripped completely from their seams". He also comes complete with a band of tattoo on his arm, stud earring, and black biker boots. Instead of telling him, "Sorry, mister, the Leather Daddy Village People Night is at the gay bar down the street", she learns that he is Eleanor's estranged brother Ramsey Sage coming down to claim Anabel. Never mind that he has no job, no money, no hope, no opportunity, and that he is sporting a tattoo that I hear marks him as a dominant top in the S&M-friendly section of the gay community, he thinks that he can take good care of Anabel. Claire... doesn't think so. So the battle lines are drawn. Will they fall in love? Will Ramsey come out of the closet?

Oh, and Olive falls in love with some social security guy that comes around.

Humor is very subjective, but in The Thing About Men, I find the humor in this book really, really forced. Ms Bevarly has a tendency to take a punchline and repeat it several times over the next few pages (such as the line about Ramsey getting drunk in a seedy bar in Central America early on in the story) that she inadvertently dilutes the effect of the punchline. While Ramsey and Claire and the secondary couple are decent if unoriginal characters - Ramsey's impressively flaming bike daddy closeted persona notwithstanding - and the plot is okay but nothing new, it is easy for me to put down this book because the author repeats her characters' internal monologues way too much. The repetitious mental babbles of the characters makes this story a tedious read. A more judicious editing to cut out the monotonous repetitions would have done wonders for this story. As for the overuse of a single punchline to the point of overkill before moving on to the next punchline, well, I guess only Ms Bevarly can do something about that.

Rating: 74


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