Story Rating: 4.5 stars
Audio Rating: 4.25 stars
Narrator: Kenneth Obi
Length: 6 hours, 18 minutes
Quinlan Gregory was disowned by his autocratic father at the age of 18 after he came out. Anticipating the bad situation, he had sheltered just enough money from his trust to pay his college tuition. While at school, Quinlan was befriended by Sammy Lowell, and Quinlan really fell hard for him. Even if Sammy didn’t love him back, he recommended Quinlan to take over as a “manny” to Sammy’s six younger cousins, the Robbins-Graysons.
Over seven years, Quinlan has lived a spartan life, going to school, teaching lessons, and working toward his master’s degree while caring for the many Robbins-Grayson kiddos. The eldest, Dustin, was a totally jerky kid—Quinlan caught him smoking and kissing a boy in the bathroom at a wedding the first time they met. A quiet and patient young man, Quinlan didn’t really know how to manage sullen and surly teenaged Dustin, or his precocious younger siblings, but he learned on the fly. Quin’s gentleness overlays a steel core of love for the family he’s joined. It’s his steadfast loyalty to Dustin and his siblings that gets Dustin’s approval, and they begin to work together in the care of the kids.
Over the years, Quin became an integral part of the extended Robbins-Grayson family, but he doesn’t much take care of himself. He doesn’t date a lot, even when men show a keen interest. Watching Sammy survive his life-threatening anemia and get married was heartbreaking—in different ways—for Quin. He relies on Sammy’s big loving family. They make him welcome even when his own family doesn’t want him.
Meanwhile, Dustin has grown all the way up. In his early twenties now, Dustin has made no secret that he’s set his heart on Quinlan. Helping Quinlan leave on his final summer music tour, Dustin gives Quinlan a brain-melting kiss and a promise to stay in close touch. Quinlan is resistant to turning their deep and comforting friendship into a physical one, because he’s unwilling to risk losing Dustin’s family if anything should go wrong. Now Quin has to figure out if there is a place for him in the family as he explores having a relationship with Dustin.
I listened to A Fool and His Manny in audio and the narrator is new to The Mannies series. Kenneth Obi rises to the challenge of handling this character-rich story. As a listener, it’s not always easy to discern one character from another in this ensemble cast. I don’t think that was a shortfall of the narration, though. There are many important conversations that take place with 6 or more persons at once. Also challenging, from an audiobook standpoint, was the common use of flashback to demonstrate giant bits of plot that weld Dustin and Quinlan together over their years. I often had to pause and rewind a bit to make sure I knew when in the narrative I was. This was a little jarring, but understandable in the scheme of the plot, for me.
Dustin becomes the rock Quinlan gets to lean on, especially when he learns there’s a power struggle brewing within his estranged family. It’s down to Dustin and his family to make sure Quinlan isn’t harmed, emotionally or financially, in the proceedings. The animosity his cold-fish of a mother displays is shameful, but Quinlan has a front-row seat to his “adoptive” family walking through fire for one of their own. It’s an amazingly sweet story, with Quinlan and Dustin finding both their first, and their true, loves. There are a little bit of sexytimes here and there, mostly at the end. And, it’s a totally happy ending, with Quinlan’s true family embracing him and Dustin sweeping his former manny right off his feet.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.