by Jennifer Crusie

Most of the books I read aren’t exactly mentally or emotionally taxing, however well written and enjoyable most of them are. But I was in the mood for something even less challenging than usual. I picked up this one by the lauded award-winning Jennifer Crusie knowing that this one was one of her early “category” romances re-marketed as a mainstream if short novel. Its first iteration was as Harlequin Temptation # 463 way back in 1993. Digression Warning! So many best-selling novelists first got their start writing old Harlequins and Silhouettes, Candlelights, or Loveswepts. I am sure they must be gratified when their publishers bring back their old very lightly regarded series or category books as “legitimate” novels. Pro tip: if you are a former reader of these “catagories” be sure to do your research before purchasing an unfamiliar-looking book by Debbie Macomber, Jayne Ann Krentz (or her many pen names), Nora Roberts, Sandra Brown, or many others. You may have already read it. In fact, I probably had read this particular book 30 years ago, but of course, I didn’t remember any of it this go-round, so it didn’t matter.

He shuddered. Kate reminded him of Valerie and his ex-wife, Tiffany. Women like that always got what they wanted no matter what it took, not caring who they trampled on to get their way. Efficient. Calculating. Manipulative. Most likely she’d come to the resort to sharpen her golf game, get a tan, snare a husband, and improve her stock portfolio. God preserve me from a woman like that, he thought, and grinned again. God wouldn’t have to preserve him from a woman like Kate Svenson. She’d made it very clear that she wasn’t interested.

Kate has a high-powered career as a business consultant to multinational corporations at her father’s firm. She specializes in businesses that are in trouble and she is very very good at it. But she is a little sick and tired of the people she has to deal with and feels like her life is slipping away. She wants marriage and a family along with her career. She has been engaged three times to suitable men (successful and ambitious, handsome, and good guys) but all three times she broke it off. Something wasn’t right. Encouraged by her best friend Jessie, she decides to apply her business acumen to getting a husband. She determines that a resort catering to her type of man in Tobey’s Corners, Kentucky is just the ticket and books a 2-week vacation there. Unfortunately, every time she goes on a date with a man there that fits her profile, he ends up badly injured or almost dying. This is much to the amusement of the resort owner’s laconic and very attractive brother who is the groundskeeper.

“We gave him CPR. He’s going to be all right,” Kate said. “The doctor said so.” “Dating you is like dating death,” Jake said. Kate looked exasperated. “Nobody has died.” “Not yet.”

Later, she couldn’t remember whether she had tried to stop or Donald’s trying to ruin her potatoes the way he’d ruined everything else had made her temporarily insane. Whatever the reason, she stabbed him with the sharp, narrow, old-fashioned fork and hit a vein in the back of his hand. Donald screamed, and she shoved his hand away so he wouldn’t get blood on her potatoes. “I’m so sorry, Donald,” she said and took another bite…
“What’d you do, bite him?” “He should be so lucky,” Kate said. “I stabbed him.” Jake handed her a drink. “Try not to injure anybody else, okay?” “He deserved it,” Kate said. “I’m sure he did. But if you go around wounding every guy who deserves it, you’ll be taking out most of the hotel.”

They actually hit it off and become friends because they are as far away from each other’s romantic types as can be. He is a lazy and unambitious underachiever, and she is the type of woman who will try to change him and make him move to the big bad city.

It pretty much plays out romantically as you think it will but with some interesting side trips. Kate decides to help a local country bar owner increase her profits and ends up bartending there which she is excellent at, thank you very much. She unexpectedly makes friends with a young Barbie Doll-like fellow vacationer who is there to sow her wild oats before settling down with her rich much older fiance. Things don’t go according to plan. Of course, we have an antagonist, Valerie, who is sleeping with Will, Jake’s brother. She is the ambitious social director who has a much-inflated opinion of herself and her future both with Will and the resort.

“…I’m indispensable.” “Lucky you,” Kate said uneasily. She felt a sudden need to get far away from Valerie, as if she had something contagious that she might catch. Like maybe ruthless ambition and a total lack of humanity. 

Times have changed a lot since 1993. Some aspects of Jake and Kate’s relationship are dated and will not sit well with modern sensibilities. Some are quite ahead of their time and would warm the hearts of progressive feminist-leaning type readers. I was really surprised when Kate takes up for Valerie when her “just deserts” time arrives near the end. She is a bitch and Kate very much dislikes and disapproves of her and her schtick but it didn’t negate the fact that she was treated shabbily by nice Will. When she delivers some home truths to the brothers, it leads to some drama and complications which weren’t easily or totally predictably resolved. But Kate always has the high road and doesn’t back down.

It met all my expectations. It was very funny with a hero and heroine who were well-developed and somewhat unusual. It wasn’t what I would call “gripping” or a page-turner by any means. You pretty much know how it will play out, with some surprises and tensions here and there in the journey to the happy ending. Leisurely read in between other activities, it took me 2 1/2 weeks to finish it. And the book was an enjoyable pressure-free 2 1/2 week “something to read” which really hit the spot.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

2 thoughts on “Manhunting

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