Story Rating: 3.75 stars
Audio Rating: 4 stars
Narrator: John Solo
Length: 6 hours, 14 minutes
Tino Robbins is weeks away from completing his college degree when confronted with a proposition of the decent kind. While helping his high school sister with her at-home business by delivering her homemade Italian dinners, he meets Channing Lowell and his nephew Sammy. Sammy’s mother died suddenly just weeks before. Channing has taken custody—and it’s not going well. The housekeeper is a horrible woman, and Sammy’s so heartbroken he keeps acting out. Channing needs a domestic, now, and he offers to pay all of Tino’s school loans and write him an excellent recommendation letter for any job he wants, if only Tino will agree to being a “manny” for Sammy for the summer.
Tino’s unsure about this idea. He knows how hard domestics work—his own mother did it for years until she opened her own referral business. And he’s frustratingly attracted to Channing, a sweet and sexy bisexual thirty-something man, who happens to be loaded and run ethically and morally considerate businesses. Tino’s afraid his crush will result in humiliation, or maybe even sexytimes. And that’s troubling because Tino’s never even dated, let alone has sex with, anyone.
In the end, Tino knows he can’t turn down this offer, and he moves into the beautiful home with the pool, pouty grieving child, and conniving homophobic housekeeper. He tries to get his bearings, but it’s not easy, especially as Channing spends more and more hours away attempting to relocate his business offices nearer to Sammy’s home and Marella, the housekeeper, bails on more and more of her responsibilities.
I’ll be honest, I had trouble with the logic regarding keeping around a neglectful, disrespectful, opportunistic housekeeper who seemed barely more than a caricature and plot device. It felt like manufactured drama considering there was real drama—namely the guardianship of Sammy who has a living father—being completely ignored. Tino’s devotion to both Sammy and Channing was admirable, although I struggled a little with the relationship development. I also found it really odd how invested Tino’s parents were regarding his infatuation with Channing. I mean, Channing’s a good guy. I got that. And I sympathized with his predicament. I didn’t quite get the attraction, though. He’s a wealthy, professional man who could have anyone—Tino was rightfully insecure. That said, I liked that what developed between them took time and talk. They don’t get physical for weeks, and it’s a longer, slow burn before they do more than kiss.
Tino’s boisterous friends and family are all sweet, and mostly uncomplicated. They have nothing but love for Tino, which made me wonder why he sold himself so short regarding his career plans and dreams on one hand—and on the other he felt he was too highly educated and meant for such better things than being a caregiver and partner to Channing. This dichotomy confused me, with Tino seeming flighty, which is okay I suppose. He is 22. His attitude made me think he didn’t respect the role of a nanny/manny, despite how much respect he gave his own mother who did similar work most of her adult life.
I enjoyed the audiobook, though I struggled with John Solo’s narration at the beginning. There are many different characters, male, female, adult, teen, and young child, and the narrator had sufficient range to bring these diverse voices to life. However, his tone was almost unwaveringly buoyant and up-beat. With the grief-laden beginning, this seemed a mismatch—like a smiling newscaster relating horrifying news. Once the shock of Channing and Sammy’s situation had worn off, we’re dealing with lower-level emotional situations and I think there was a better balance between tone and content. He did a good job through the sexy moments, and I liked how Channing and Tino worked out their attractions and built a relationship that suited everyone’s needs.
This is a sweet read, but not one of my faves from Lane. I enjoyed the layered and loving family dynamics, which are a hallmark of her stories, and felt the audio adequately related this tentative and engaging love story, but some of the plot elements missed the mark for me.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.