This book is part of the Vino and Veritas world, and can be read as a standalone.
Scott Malone is the “hopeless romantic” second son in a HUGE family. Scott never received much parental attention, but he did learn to be a great caregiver to his seven younger siblings. Scott’s out and his family embraces him–his dad is constantly searching for the lucky man who will become Scott’s permanent life partner. Though only twenty-three, Scott’s been on his own financially since completing high school and he does have a career writing greeting cards. But, it’s freelance, and Scott is forever in debt. Some of his debts come from making grand gestures to the men he’s dating, men who never do seem to appreciate his romantic ideals. Scott’s days from eviction from his apartment when his good friend–and former crush–tells him to apply for a job as a nanny. And, Scott gets it.
Now, Scott is living with a gorgeous silver fox he desperately wants, caring for a precocious girl who’s always down for a great game of make-believe.
Luke Lagomarsino is a 36-year-old, divorced, bisexual man currently taking care of his 6-year-old daughter, Addison, for the next six months while his ex-wife, Kira, is in Myanmar working on a huge investigative journalism story. He and Kira split not long after Addi was born, and Luke feels so responsible for being such a terrible partner that his marriage failed that he hasn’t dated anyone seriously since. Luke needs a nanny, because Addi is more than two handfuls of activity, and his business as a financial analyst is suffering.
Luke is not immediately impressed with the options for a live-in domestic, and Scott is by far the best choice of the bunch. If only he wasn’t so darn incredibly cute, in a mid 20s hipster way. Luke knows that Scott is struggling financially, but he doesn’t realize that the nanny gig is literally saving Scott from homelessness. As Scott makes himself indispensable to both Addi and Luke, he also accepts Luke’s offer to help him recover his financial freedom. And, well, if he’s too cute not to kiss–or even more than kissing–that could be good, as well.
Unmanageable is part of the second phase of the Vino and Veritas collection called In Vino Veritas. The books are a set of multi-author stories that feature the wine bar/bookstore and set in the larger World of True North universe. They are designed to be standalone stories that can be read in any order. This is an age-gap, odd-couple romance with a grumpy, old-before-his-time dad who does NOT want to be a Daddy. He’s mystified how creative and whimsical Scott is, and how he so completely engages and captivates Addi’s energy and imagination. Luke initially finds Scott’s romantic ideas to be silly, yet once he sees how these plans really foster a connection to Addi, he begins to embrace them. Luke has always kept Addi at arm’s length, afraid to hope for a relationship that might fail, like his marriage to Kira did. Watching Scott build such a rapport with Addi is a double-edged sword, since both Scott and Luke will not be her permanent caregivers when Kira returns from her trip. But, if their sexplorations continue, maybe Scott will demand more than just no-strings hook-ups with Luke. And Luke might be able to create the family he’d dreamed of, before his marriage soured.
I really enjoyed Scott, he’s a solid character, always believing in a world (even if it’s fictional) that respects and supports him. Addi is adorable, and she so sincerely wants a connection with both Luke and Scott. Her imagination and her emotional intellect far outpace her father, who’s shut himself off from connecting, until Scott opens his mind to the possibility. I loved how Scott grew, taking fewer romantic chances than usual and making sound decisions about his financial future. He and Luke really connect, and the extended Malone family help to open Luke and Scott’s eyes about how deeply they’ve bonded in the months since Scott takes on the nanny role.
Luke is a tougher nut to crack, on account of his long-standing belief that he’s a relationship curse. It takes some hard truths from Kira and his long-lost friend Landon to wake him up to the fact that he’s sabotaging his life by holding on to the past so tightly. I liked that he was able to eventually get out of his own way, and allow himself to embrace the positives he’d been afraid to acknowledge.
We get some nice counsel from friends in the Vino and Veritas world, including Murph and Jeremy from previous books. Landon, Luke’s main confidante, has just returned to Vermont and is a MC from Underdog, which was recently released. Addi is a good character, not too much of a plot burden (for readers who aren’t enamored of child characters), especially since Scott and Luke love her so much. I really did enjoy her, alongside Scott who gets all his romantic dreams answered, and then some, by Luke.