Title: The Manny Diaries
Author: Kilt Kilpatrick
Publisher: Ravenous Romance
Buy Link: Buy Link The Manny Diaries
Genre: M/M Contemporary
Length: Novel (203 pages)
Rating: 3.25 stars out of 5
A Guest Review by Cole
Review Summary: This novel about a recently out gay man’s new job as a nanny and his affair with the child’s father had me laughing as much as groaning from the gaps in plot throughout. Overall, a story as equally good as it is bad.
Young art student Evan Ross falls out of the closet and into the fire when an unexpected sexual encounter with a friend changes his life forever. His rocky – and surprisingly hot – search for true love and a real job (not necessarily in that order) takes him on a series of romantic adventures and misadventures, from the lofty hills to the seedy streets of San Francisco.
When he lands a job as a male nanny for a precocious 8-year old, his career and romance paths start to converge – and he finds himself falling for a dead-ringer of his dream man, Clive Owen. The only problem? It’s the girl’s straight father.
Can he land his dream job and his dream man? THE MANNY DIARIES is sexy, warm and hilarious novel with a supporting cast of quirky, lovable characters, a fun pace, and a true-to-life setting.
The Manny Diares tells the story of Evan Ross, who has only recently been straddling the threshold of the closet. He’s been firmly shut in it his whole life, even from himself, enough that the only thing that made him realize he might be gay is when his girlfriend of 3 years starts to get horny. Having been brought up as nice Baptist children, Evan and his girlfriend were waiting to do the deed until marraige, but after moving to San Francisco together so Evan could go to art school, the nice young lady started feeling the taboo desires of pre-nuptial sex. Suddenly, Evan’s excuse of being a “gentleman” won’t cut it with his girlfriend’s burgeoning inner sluttiness and he is forced to realize that the real reason he’s waiting until marraige is because he has absolutely no sexual interest in her. Fast forward to six months later, at the start of this novel, and they have broken up, she is off with her new boyfriend and knocked up, and Evan is firmly straddling the threshold of the closet. He won’t cross it, even though all his new friends are urging him to, until his best friend Trini, a loud and bi-sexual Phillipino woman takes him out and practically pushes him into the arms of a hunky Russian naval officer on leave. Finally, deciding that it is the right time to make the choice, he takes the sailor into a dark corner and… well, I won’t tell you, I’ll just tell you that it doesn’t work out so well for poor Evan.
Evan is alternately thrilled and nervous about starting his new life out of the closet. He can finally do what he wants! But the stars just don’t seem to be aligned until he meets the doppleganger of his hunky celebrity crush, Clive Owen, in line at the cafe at the SF MOMA. The man is in a hurry, but things seem to be looking up for Evan. He helps a little girl who is alone at the museum, and spends all day with her talking in made up languages and making up stories about all of the artwork. When the little girl’s mother arrives, she’s elated that her daughter took to Evan, as most people are put off by her daughter’s strange imagination. Learning that Evan is strapped for cash and looking for a job, she offers him a position as little Monica’s nanny and Evan accepts. The problem, as Trini tells him, is that all of those strange things the lady has done (like buying him a Vespa and having him rub lotion on her back out by the pool) are pointing to her being a cougar in disguise and eager to make Evan her cabana boy. it seems that Evan is really in for it, though, when Monica’s father Liam comes to visit and he sees the man from the cafe for the second time, just as he’s weilding a cardboard sword, wearing a knights helmet, and sporting a construction paper moustache.
What is great about this story, is that it is at typical fall in love with a man who is unavailable or in a position of authority who is straight plotline, but told in such a funny way that it seems fresh and new. The only problem is that there were some very big glaring problems in the story that ultimately took away my enjoyment and left me with a dissatisfied taste in my mouth. Ultimately, as I finished the book, I could look back on pieces of the book that were incredibly good, and some that were equally bad.
The main draw to the story, and its high point, is the narration by Evan. He has a very funny voice that a few times left me in stitches, and most of the time was incredibly enjoyable. There were a few times where the humor fell flat, but I really didn’t mind as the rest made up for that fact. Also, his two friends, Trini and her cousin Rodel, were even more hilarious that Evan was, as they’ve been around the block a few million times and had quite a bit of advice for every wrong turn Evan made in his social life. The problem though, was that after a while their humor started to wane because it was not backed up with very good characterizations. Oddly, Trini and Rodel were exempt from this, and though they each came off as a bit of caricature of a stereotype (Rodel specifically, of the over-the-top twink), they were enjoyable enough and they still served their purpose of being the snarky and jaded friends with numerous one-liners to dish out at a moment’s notice. Evan, however, flopped all over the place. When we first meet him, he’s very shy and unsure of himself. He’s struggled with his sexuality (or, we’re told he has), but then as soon as he’s forced into a sexual situation with a man for the first time… wham, he’s finally free to be himself: a diluted version of Rodel, bitchy, campy, jaded and alternately sappy and on the prowl for Mr. Right. He often goes back to that shy, demure character, but then he jumps back again. I felt like I never really understood who he was.
The character problems that I had with Evan is a great example of the biggest problem that I had with this story. Since we never see the actual transition between these two states of being, whether they be different parts of Evan’s character, the different periods in the growing relationship between Evan and Liam, or even a block of a scene, we miss out on the most important part of every change in the character’s lives. It felt a bit like eating a bologna sandwich without bologna. The jump in the character’s feeling or in the plot almost always lost me, and I’d have to go back and find what I’d missed. Usually, I’d find the characters thinking and acting one way, and then at the beginning of the next paragraph, thinking and acting in the totally opposite way. How can you feel affected by a character, or relate to them if you don’t get to see them learn their lessons, question themselves, and force themselves to change and grow? Ultimately, when the story neared the climax and the relationship was tested, I found that I didn’t much care if they remained a couple or not, because I didn’t much care for the characters themselves.
Aside from these things and a few formatting and editing errors, I found that the story was actually quite enjoyable simply for the humor. I probably would have rated this lower if it wasn’t for the fact that, several times, I woke up my sleeping cats by barking out laughs (only to find creepy mirror eyes glaring at me to shut it). Ultimately, I think this is a story that readers will like depending on how much their humor aligns with the characters’, because there isn’t much more than that to carry the story. Overall, it is rather mediocre.