Any Man Of Mine
by Rachel Gibson, contemporary (2011)
Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-157911-0
Any Man Of Mine is a Couple With Issues romance story. Sam LeClaire, a hockey player, and Autumn Haven, an events planner, were husband and wife about five years ago. The marriage lasted for only a few days, but long enough for a baby to be conceived. Were not for a paternity test proving that the brat was his, Sam wouldn't have even acknowledged that kid. In the years since, he pretty much provided only financial support to his kid. When the story opens, Autumn and Sam meet again just as he decides that it's time he pull up his pants, stop schtupping skanky groupies, and become a better father to Connor. Fortunately for him, Autumn has existed in a state of limbo like all romance heroines wronged by their men, waiting for that day for him to come back and love her again on his own terms. This is fun, really, kind of like fantasy drug for jilted women who couldn't move on from the past.
I have to warn you, Sam is a complete asshole for a long time in this story, although he's an asshole by design. Ms Gibson is fully aware of what a gargantuan gaping anus that her hero is being. On the bright side, he's an asshole mostly in flashback scenes, so it's not like he's a complete loss where the present is concerned. Almost, that is. The tiger doesn't change its stripes overnight, so there are still enough moments when he accuses Autumn of playing silly games with him for not putting out, moments where I find myself thinking dreamily of the lovely things I can do to his private bits with a big machete. I do feel that Sam's exactly what he is, though: a spoiled hockey star used to bagging groupies without thought and repercussions, so in a way, his behavior is right in character. Autumn puts up a valiant fight, occasionally dressing down Sam just like he deserves, but in the end, she's still another romance heroine whose life is put in stasis under the pretense of motherhood, waiting for the man to wise up and come back to her. She's a romance novel cliché, in other words, and a pretty obvious one at that. The only person I end up feeling sorry for is that poor kid. He feels like the most real character in this book, which should tell you something, heh.
My problem with this story is that, I feel, the author focuses too much on the past and not enough on the present. I get plenty of scenes telling me that Sam is an asshole, but at the same time, his relationship with Autumn remains curiously underdeveloped. Just like the rest of the story, it's a relationship that is built on familiar tropes and even clichés. I keep waiting for some scene, any scene, that deviates from the formula and take my breath away, but for the most part, this is just another story of how our heroine manages to be the one "true" "good" woman for our skanky hero, compared to the shallow skanky hos he used to consort with, only in this story he takes five years to come to his senses.
Because of the underdeveloped feel of the story, things don't come together as well as they should here. Sam is too much of an asshole for too long, and in the end, I'm supposed to buy his apology to Autumn and believe that he will be a wonderful husband. Sorry, darling, I may be a romance reader but I'm not one that is born yesterday.
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