Manhunting (1993) by Jennifer Crusie, 288 pages, list price: $6.99 (B&N). That cover is of a reprint. I have in my hands the original, Harlequin Temptation #463 from September 1993. Just what is up with boxer shorts on the cover,huh?
Crusie’s contemporary romances are quite good. I say that only because I’ve had success with quite a few of them (Welcome To Temptation, Anyone But You, Trust Me On This, The Cinderella Deal and yes even Crazy For You & Fast Women). I haven’t read her collaborative stuff and don’t know if I ever will. This is what she needs to get back to, this!
I enjoyed reading Manhunting. The experience reminded me why I always rushed out and bought her hardcovers. As usual, Crusie tackles the issues of modern day women who have careers who are still left feeling unfulfilled with humor and sincerity. Thirty-five year old Kate Svenson has a great career going for her in a top management consulting firm but lately she’s been feeling miserable and lonely. In the space of three years she’s been engaged to three different men who were all wrong for her.
Her best friend, Jesse Rogers, a cake decorator, single as well, tells Kate to devise a plan for her search for Mr. Right since business plans are what she loves doing. Kate makes out her plan and comes up with what she thinks she wants in a man. You know, stuff like being tall, distinguished, handsome, successful and rich. She’s so disillusioned midway into the story that she settles for human. I can feel her on that last one.
But anyway, Kate decides to implement her plan by taking a two week vacation at a golf resort in the small town of Toby Corners. She vows to unwind and relax and find her Mr. Right. When she gets there, she’s dressed in a business suit (oh no she didn’t!), hair in a stiff bun and is looking less than unwound.
Then there’s Jake Templeton, an ex-tax attorney who left the city behind to come back to the country and lay around. City life was never his style and his ex-wife, Tiffany, had more ambition that he did so she left him. Jake’s a laid back kind of guy. Since quitting his successful job, he grew a mustache and decided to invest his money into his brother’s cabins/golf resort as a silent partner. For five years he’s been sitting on his ass and his family is tired of it. They try to get him involved in life again but so far no luck.
Most of Jake’s mornings are spent out on his boat sleeping the day away or chaperoning at social events and parties. He’s the go to person when someone gets a bit rowdy. Kate meets him when someone at a luau gets a bit too friendly with her and Jake is there to give her a hand. But she shows him that she is more than capable of saving herself. Nevertheless, he keeps an eye on her anyway.
Now, Crusie is good at showing rather than telling how two people meet, become friends and then fall in love. She’s really good at this. The best. This is one of her better category romances (and no I haven’t READ THEM ALL). The romance took place in a short period of time (think it’s two weeks) but damn if I didn’t believe or feel that these two people hadn’t known each other longer. It felt so real and natural and the chemistry flowing between them was electric.
There’s a villainess (always is) and in this case, it happens to be, Valerie, an ambitious, snobbish woman who is trying to manipulate Jake’s brother, Will, into marrying her among other things. Funnily enough, she views Kate as her role model and Kate is appalled (!). But then Will is not above reproach. He let Valerie build up expectations about their relationship that he didn’t have plans to meet and he gets called on it (good deal).
Overall premise is that Kate comes to this small town in Kentucky to find her Mr. Right but she spends most of her time with Jake, who she says is Mr. Wrong. The humor (as always it’s funny) lies with the losers that Kate keeps dating. Her plan for finding the right man proves to be stupid (hey, her words). Sure they’re all distinguished and rich and successful (if it’s true) but some were outright awful. The running joke around town and with Jake is that almost all the men she dates ended up injured in some way (very funny as well).
But hey, once the romance got going, it was pretty hot and steamy. Sexual tension built as the protagonists spent more and more time together. The whole town, like the readers, see that these two people belong together only they don’t know it. But when they realize it, they make up for lost time.
Now, as for the conclusion, what could possibly be the conflict to keep our lovers apart? Kat’s bad luck with men? No. Kate’s career back home? Sure. Jake’s aversion to marriage and always assuming that every career woman is like his ex-wife? Yes. Failure to confront the future? Bingo.
The ending is, yes I’m gonna say it, idealistically sappy but I was grinning anyway. I enjoyed the dialogue in here as well as the principal characters. I enjoyed the side stories that included the towns people, the friendships, the camaraderie and the homey feel of a close community.
If I had to cite criticisms, it was that darn repetitive “he’s not right for me” and “she not my type” song. But then the tune changed as they spent more time together. And another thing that I’ve noticed with the last two categories I’ve read by Crusie is the women always having to make the move to another city or give up their career and ambitions for love and family. For once I’d like to see the hero do the same but I’d be holding my breath forever before that happens.
Crusie is really good at writing about relationships between women. I love that about her books. Moving forward, Manhunting was good overall. I enjoyed it for what it was and hopefully there are more category stories by her to discover (like what else is really good in her backlist?). My grade, B+. This was a good romance. No werewolves. No shifters. No suspense. Just a plain ole regular contemporary romance novel.
This review is apart of the 2010 TBR Challenge! Please visit the other participants. This book is also still available in print and ebook where print and ebooks are sold.