The Man Plan by Elise K Ackers
Destiny Romance 2012
Cora has had enough of being alone. Now that her father is dead, she has no family left, no boyfriend, and no one to spend Christmas with, and she’s never felt so lonely. It’s September now, and she comes to a decision: she will take matters into her own hands, meet a man, and have someone to spend Christmas with. And, hopefully, the rest of her life, too.
The night she stays up doing “research” – poring over romance books and movies – her loud music brings her downstairs neighbour, Matt, up to complain. They’ve never met before, but soon Matt is hearing all about “the man plan” – a safe person to talk to, since Cora quickly learns he doesn’t commit and has no interest in finding a woman to love and stay with.
Their friendship takes off from there. Cora finds it easy to talk to Matt and share her ideas for meeting men, and doesn’t mind when he laughs at her – like when she pretends she can’t change a tyre while wearing skimpy shorts, waiting for a man to offer assistance. And Matt enjoys spending time with Cora, hanging out on the weekends, making her dinner – she’s a low maintenance friend, a woman who’s not trying to get into his pants. Their feelings for each other creep up unnoticed, and, they each think, unreciprocated. Worse, they both think there’s no point. Cora understands that Matt could never offer her what she wants, what she needs. And Matt, an only child, still suffers from the emotional and verbal abuse of his parents, who hate each other and drag their son into their conflicts. With role models like that, he doesn’t even think he’s capable of having a real relationship.
It will take a leap of faith from both of them to not let this chance go, to take a risk and leap together.
Quite simply, I LOVED this book. It had everything I liked and plenty I didn’t even know I liked. Maybe I don’t read enough contemporary romance, but it was fresh and, while staying true to the genre, deviated from many typical cliches. Matt was no billionaire, for a start. He’s a hard-working middle class man, a project manager for a construction company. His parents are middle class too, though they way they speak to each other, and to him, makes them sound incredibly vulgar and lower class. Cora, likewise, is middle class, working as an editor at a publishing house. This puts them on equal footing from the beginning. Money isn’t an obstacle or a sticking point. An abundance of it doesn’t give Matt a position of authority over Cora. No, they’re just two adults who live in a low-rise apartment building in Port Melbourne, the kind of people that Melbourne is full of (especially in the suburbs around the bay), and this is the fun and lively story of two of them meeting.
One of the things I loved about this book was its tone. Ackers writes with a light, friendly, bantering kind of tone, setting an atmosphere that is so welcoming, warm and, why not: cuddly. The kind of story you can snuggle with, a real comfort read. It connects with your emotions without being at all melodramatic or manipulative, and is realistic and familiar in setting, plot and characters which makes it easy to simply enjoy it for its own sake. It’s well grounded in the familiar, with popular culture references and a running Superman joke. There’s also humour here, with light banter between Matt and Cora, and some of the characters are funny in the way they’re described. Matt continuously makes fun of Cora, calling her crazy because of her man plan, and in true Aussie style, she goes along with it, giving as good as she gets.
She watched him, too surprised to comment. He dumped the pan int he sink, ran the water for a moment then helped himself to the cutlery drawer. Seconds later, he was pressing the bowl into her hands, a fork poking out of the top. She gazed down at the spaghetti bolognese.
“Are we sharing?”
He laughed. “No. That’s just for you.”
“Are you kidding? I don’t want to have dinner with you. You’re as nuts as they come; you’d probably think it meant something and then go ahead and fall in love with me.”
“You’re safe there,” she muttered, stung yet amused. “I’d never fall in love with someone like you.”
“Someone like me?”
“A hopeless case. What’s the point of falling in love on your own?”
“I couldn’t agree more. And on that note, I’m out of here.”
It was so much fun, watching their friendship grow, seeing Matt become increasingly jealous of the men Cora does meet, yet in such good-natured denial about his own feelings. He doesn’t agonise over it, his turmoil isn’t belaboured, there’s just enough self-reflection to flesh him out and get the reader on the same page, without boring you. Certainly there are men out there who are like Matt without having any kind of reason for it, it’s just their lifestyle of choice and I don’t know, maybe they’re just inherently selfish. While there are other romance books where the male lead is reluctant to commit because of his parents’ example (like Jennifer Probst’s The Marriage Bargain, as a recent example), but the fact that Matt’s parents are just so ordinary in every other way, and whose horribleness is so believable without the artificial gloss of wealth – everyday people are much more relatable, rather than alienating, and this was, overall, one of the things I loved the most about this book.
It didn’t hurt that I loved Cora and Matt. Cora is grieving over the loss of her father, but turns her loneliness into a positive plan for action, rather than wallowing. She’s frank and open about it, and her motivations are believable, understandable, and make her very human.
“… I want someone for me. Just for me. Who gives a damn if they don’t hear from me during the day, who calls me with their news. I want to be someone’s top priority.” She pressed her thumb and forefinger to her closed eyes and sighed. “I know it sounds like a lot to ask, but it’s really not. I just want to be the one for someone. I want to be a part of something bigger than me.”
He was quiet for so long that she lifted her head and opened her eyes.
“This Man Plan…” he said, trailing off.
“Feminists might hate me for saying it, but I need a man. If a man loves me, he might marry me. If he marries me, we might have kids.”
“You want to build a family for yourself.”
She nodded. “Exactly. My parents met when they were toddlers. My mother once pushed mud into my dad’s mouth. They went through school together and became a couple at my mum’s fourteenth birthday party. They completed each other, you know? They were all either of them ever needed and they took on the world together. I want that. Even to be a fraction as happy as they were would be a dream come true.”
And that is, of course, the point of romance fiction, why it’s the biggest selling genre of all genres: the fantasy – if it even is a fantasy – lives strongly within us. Because very few people actually like being alone. Matt thinks he does, he likes his life, but after spending so much time with Cora – on outings and hanging out that, to anyone but those two, looks clearly like they’re a couple – his life starts to feel increasingly empty without her. There was good solid chemistry between them, a slow-burning sexual tension, one that isn’t satisfied until the very end – and no graphic content (if you like romance but don’t like the sex scenes, you might be interested to hear that).
And finally, I loved the conversation between Will and Cora at the end, that made her take that risk, to take a chance on Matt.
“Tell me this: do you think he is incapable of love?”
“Then do you believe that when – yes, when he falls in love with you – that he’ll do it to whatever capacity he can?”
Something light and ticklish fluttered in her stomach. She pressed a hand there to stop it. “Yes.”
He nodded. “Isn’t that enough? Isn’t that all we can ask of anyone – to love us with all that they are?”
Her hand found her mouth. “I’m being an idiot, aren’t I?”
“No, Cora. You’re just taking a breath before you take the biggest chance of your life. [...] Don’t do this if you’re hoping to change him.”
She blinked up at her old friend, aghast. But then she considered this more deeply. Will waited in silence, understanding the gravity of the moment, then he smiled when he saw something new in her eyes.
“He’s perfect as he is.”
Yep. I completely adored this book.
My thanks to the publisher for a copy of this book via Netgalley.
“I really enjoyed this delightful romance, with Cora’s self imposed Christmas Day deadline The Man Plan is a lovely seasonal read. [...] I enjoyed the light hearted humour, especially the witty banter between Cora and Matt. The story flows well and the dialogue rings true.” Book’d Out
“…a tale that every women who reads this book will agree with and most will even think – OMG I’ve done that or at least tried it , some might even say OMG I did that and it worked.” The Phantom Paragrapher
“The Man Plan is a sweet romance story, with a touch of Holiday Spirit. This is a book about finding love in unexpected places, and I enjoyed the story.” Book Savvy Babes
“THE MAN PLAN is by turns hilariously funny and filled with heartfelt emotions. I love friends-to-lovers stories, and this is one of the best that I’ve read.” Life is a Kaleidoscope
“It wasn’t all about finding a husband, but about building a life with someone. [...] Even though it is a shorter novel, Ackers still manages to create believable character conflict for Matt too and so the romance that develops between them is believable and so is its resolution.” The Australian Bookshelf
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