About That Man is a pleasant book about nice people caught in a difficult situation. It makes a good ďfillerĒ novel, when youíre in-between books, donít know what to pick up next, and want to avoid any stinkers.
Daisy Spencer is resigned to being Trinity Harborís resident spinster (at 30?). The native of the small Virginia town was dumped by her fiancť several years ago when she told him she was unable to bear children. Now she channels her nurturing instincts into teaching history at the local high school. But when she finds ten-year-old Tommy Flanagan hiding in her garage while making a futile attempt to hot-wire her car, she knows he is her destiny. Tommyís single mother died recently, and the boy has shuffled through a series of foster homes, an angry and unhappy delinquent in the making. Daisy immediately volunteers to be Tommyís next - and last - foster parent. Her overbearing father and well-meaning but overly protective brothers warn her that sheís headed for heartache. The local social worker also cautions Daisy not to get too attached. But Daisy is sure nothing can take Tommy away from her.
Not so fast. Walker Ames, a Washington D.C. policeman, hasnít seen or heard from his sister in years, so he has no idea he is an uncle. When social services finds him, Walkerís initial reaction is negative. After all, he has already proven to be a failure at parenting, as his ex-wife constantly reminds him, and his relationship with his two sons is distant at best. When Walker travels to Trinity Harbor to check out the situation, two things become clear: Daisy Spencer is a babe, and Tommy is nothing but trouble. But gradually the charms of the quiet Southern life mellow the hard-nosed cop, and he starts wondering if the solution to this situation could be a new family comprised of himself, Daisy and Tommy. But first he has to overcome quite a few skeptics, including Daisy, who canít believe this big-city hunk could want a future with a small-town girl who canít even give him more children.
If About That Man doesnít exactly sizzle and snap, it ambles along pleasantly. Both Daisy and Tucker are decent people, and they are smart enough to know that they canít play games with Tommyís heart and soul. Daisy wants to keep Tommy, but she realizes that Walker is his blood relative. And Walker starts to think heíd like to raise Tommy as well, but he knows that his life would have to dramatically change before he could be a good parent. The two communicate well, and try to be as honest as possible about their feelings for Tommy. Of course, their feelings for each other are another matter.
Trinity Harbor is populated with lots of colorful characters, including Daisyís two brothers, Tucker and Bobby, each of whom will have his own romance novel in the coming months. The town minister and her husband, the owner of the local newspaper, are another interesting couple with more than the average romance novel depth. The only secondary character who doesnít work is King Spencer, the stereotypical blustery, meddling father who is all bark and no bite. Unfortunately, it looks like he will play a prominent role in both of his sonsí stories.
A mild suspense thread is introduced into the novel about halfway through, as well as a ludicrous sub-plot about a threat to Daisyís teaching job. Maybe Iíve just lived in too many big cities, but would a teacher really risk losing her job because people thought she was having an affair with a single, eligible man? Does that still happen in 2001? Doesnít the school board have better things to do, like agree on curriculum and balance the school districtís budget?
I didnít finish About That Man with a driving urge to read the next book about the Spencer siblings, but if I saw it in a used or discount bookstore Iíd probably check it out. You could do a lot worse than spend time with Daisy Spencer and watch as she and Trinity Harbor weave their Southern spells on an unsuspecting but fortunate Walker Ames.