Monday, May 2, 2011

The Manny Diaries by Kilt Kilpatrick

TITLE: The Manny Diaries
AUTHOR: Kilt Kilpatrick
PUBLISHER: Ravenous Romance
LENGTH: Novel (roughly 59k)
GENRE: Gay contemporary erotic romance
COST: $4.99

Evan hasn’t come out of the closet; he’s been dragged out by his best friend. In his bid to get over his new identity crisis, he starts out by trying to find a job. As a struggling artist, though, he doesn’t have many options. A chance encounter at the museum leads him to what seems like the perfect opportunity – as a manny to a precocious eight-year-old. He gets a Vespa, gets paid to play with a child he adores, and, oh yeah, the dad is the Clive Owen-lookalike of his fantasies. What could go wrong?

I’m always hesitant to buy things from this publisher. My luck with them has not been the greatest. Then when I do, they tend to sit on my TBR pile for that very reason. When I get around to reading a book from them, however, it never seems to sway my opinion one way or another. This one was no exception.

Told in 1st person, this is the story of Evan, a young man in his twenties, who has only just realized that he’s gay. He’s had no experience. Until six months prior to the story’s start, he’d been dating the same girl for over five years. Once he realizes the truth, however, he’s ready to embrace it, starting with turning a new leaf in his life. First priority: find a job. As a struggling artist, he has few marketable skills, and much of his early efforts are frustrating. He goes to the museum as a treat before another interview, and there bumps into two people who will change his life – a gorgeous Clive Owen-lookalike and a precocious eight-year-old girl. He takes to the girl immediately, and when her mother offers him a job as a manny, he leaps at the opportunity. It’s only later that he learns that his dreamboat is also the girl’s father, so he has to figure out how to keep his libido in check and not ruin the best thing that’s happened to him in a long time.

This is pure fluff escapism right from the very start. The characters are slightly over the top and often funny, and Evan’s propensity to go off into fantasies at the drop of a hat indicative of the slightly whimsical nature of the entire story. In order to be best enjoyed, this is the nature in which it should be read. Anyone expecting a lot of realism and well-roundedness, things that are usually found in contemporaries, will likely find themselves very frustrated.

Evan’s humor and light tone go a long way in helping the story along. For a good chunk, it doesn’t feel like a romance, but rather, the gay man’s version of chick lit. Evan goes about his life, trying to find himself, being attracted to people along the way, before finding a path that ultimately leads him to the man he really does want, who in this case turns out to be his charge’s father. The humor helps in perpetuating this tone, and if some sections get bogged down in discussions and details that do little to advance the plot (and honestly, feel more like attempts to show just how much research has been done), I was forgiving of it, because I still liked Evan at that point.

But then he and Liam, the girl’s father, get involved. And things went downhill from there. It’s not just because Liam is dry and boring (their first real conversation that went on for pages about science and religion and other stuff almost had me stopping right there). It’s also because it didn’t feel like the same book I’d started. Gone was the madcap nature. In its stead was a bland, predictable romance that felt like it was trying to be more realistic in tone but couldn’t break free of its more escapist beginnings. By the time Evan’s boss suggested the trip to Cancun, I was ready for the book to be over. I wasn’t believing or enjoying any of the characters by that point, and the pacing really got stuck in the mud.

I never recovered from that. What charmed me at the start failed to remain consistent throughout the story, and ultimately, I felt let down.


7/10 – Evan’s lighthearted voice makes up for the sometimes sluggish pacing and minor editorial stuff that niggled at me

Hero #1

6/10 – Likeable but hugely inconsistent

Hero #2

5/10 – Bland and a little boring

Entertainment value

6/10 – It started out well, as long as I considered it as pure fluff and escapism, but I really had to struggle to read the last third

World building

8/10 – A ton of detail, not always deftly doled out, gives Evan’s world a very vivid feel



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