Gregory MacPherson II has one more tenant to evict before he can go full steam ahead on the initial phase of his building project that will see a poorer, crime-ridden area get the first of many planned facelifts. This is what Mac does—what he was born to do—reclaim neighborhoods in the name of progress. Never mind that it uproots the many who needed those low rent apartments or store fronts in order to live, they are an eyesore and Mac is there to clean house and turn a tidy profit. Surely once the owner of Hailey’s Comic can understand what Mac is doing, he will turn over his store and let Mac begin demolition of the building. Unfortunately, the Hailey whose store boasts his name not only knows what Mac intends, but is determined to stay out his lease to prevent it from happening as long as possible.
Hailey, too, was once a young professional climbing the corporate ladder and found he hated the idea that his job was responsible for leaving people homeless and jobless. When he moved to Ball’s End and opened the store, he found his tribe—a community that embraced his quirky sense of style, his being gay, and his rundown, poor attempt at bookselling. He loves the neighborhood and they love him and nothing Mac can say will change that, even if the attraction he feels for the man is so tangible you can almost see it.
Tanya Chris has written one of the sweetest and funniest romances I have read in a long time. I raced through Him Improvement after immediately falling in love with both Mac and Hailey. Mac was so stuffy, so sure of himself and Hailey was the polar opposite in every way except confidence and even that changed as the story went on. These two were absolutely delightful together. From the way Hailey slowly wrapped Mac around his finger business-wise, to the intimate moments they shared that were infused with lots of heat and a little bit of whimsy, the dynamic between these guys couldn’t have been more entertaining to watch.
Hailey, a product of two nomadic hippies, and Mac, the son of two wealthy parents, fit together like glove and hand. Because the author was able to blend intelligence with an ingrained sense of social activism into his character, Hailey skirted that line between being a radical and just a plain old caring idealist. It was so well done that I couldn’t help but fall in love with him. Mac, while gruffer and more “establishment,” changed so radically due to his falling in love with Hailey that he morphed from an unlikable snob to someone who I really wanted to see happy. Their journey was surrounded by a bevy of side characters who really made me understand why Hailey loved his community and fought to keep it from changing.
Him Improvement is not my first Tanya Chris novel, but it is definitely my favorite to date. With just enough friction between what Hailey wanted and what Mac envisioned, coupled with the loveliest emerging romantic entanglement between the two men, this novel was a delight to read from beginning to end.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.