Why I read it:
I saw tweets about this really funny book from a guy’s perspective from Jane at Dear Author
and then I saw it on NetGalley so I snapped it up.
What it’s about: (This is the blurb from Goodreads) Women have been known to lament, “Always a bridesmaid, never a bride.” For Johnny Smith, the problem is, “Always a Best Man, never a groom.” At age 33, housepainter Johnny has been Best Man eight times. The ultimate man’s man, Johnny loves the Mets, the Jets, his weekly poker game, and the hula girl lamp that hangs over his basement pool table. Johnny has the instant affection of nearly every man he meets, but one thing he doesn’t have is a woman to share his life with, and he wants that desperately. When Johnny meets District Attorney Helen Troy, he decides to renounce his bro-magnet ways in order to impress her. With the aid and advice of his friends and family, soon he’s transforming his wardrobe, buying throw pillows, ditching the hula girl lamp, getting a cat and even changing his name to the more mature-sounding John. And through it all, he’s pretending to have no interest in sports, which Helen claims to abhor. As things heat up with Helen, the questions arise: Will Johnny finally get the girl? And, if he’s successful in that pursuit, who will he be now that he’s no longer really himself? The Bro Magnet is a rollicking comedic novel about what one man is willing to give up for the sake of love.
What worked for me (and what didn’t): This book is SO funny. I was cackling my way throught his book and I think I started laughing pretty close to page one. Johnny is hilarious. I actually found him to be a really nice, sweet, funny, considerate guy but most of the girls in the book didn’t feel that way. When he meets Helen, he so wants to impress her, that he decides to ditch the sports references and other things which girls are always telling him are annoying. Helen is the District Attorney so he also has to cover up his fondness for finding loopholes in the law (he likes the puzzle solving aspect of it) on crime shows and when talking to his lawyer friend Steve.
“So let me get this straight,”: she says. “It’s not loopholes you have a thing for, it’s ice holes?”“Oh, yes,” I say. “From when I was little and my dad used to take me ice fishing. Ever since he got MS and can’t get around as well anymore, I liked to remember the times when we used to be together on the ice, sitting around the ice holes.”
Well at least the part about his having MS is true.
“That’s sweet,” she says.
Hey, I’m on a roll here.
“Not only do I like ice holes,” I say, “but I like sinkholes.”
“I mean, I’d hate to get my truck stuck in one, but they’re so interesting, the way they just appear all of a sudden. And peepholes, I like those too.”
“It is always good to see who’s on the other side of the door so you know whether you want to let them in or not. Oh, and blowholes – you know, whales. They should be saved.”
“So,” she says slowly, reviewing my case item by item. “you like ice holes, sinkholes, peepholes and blowholes?”
“But not loopholes?”
I nod gain.
Hole this, hole that – even when I’m determined not to just be myself, I’m such an asshole. I just can’t help it.
Pretty soon, the girls have him watching General Hospital (the conversations about the Cassidines and the Spencers are hilarious!), redecorating his condo and even getting a cat (because, he’s told, girls like cats). So, he and his equally clueless-about-women BFF Sam go cat hunting.
“Which one should we check out first?” I ask Sam, looking over the listings.
“First? What do you think, we’re going to drive all over Danbury like we’re house-hunting or something, interviewing various feline applicants?”
“I’ll take that as a ‘we’re just going to one place and take whatever they have’?”
“Precisely. Here’s one. ‘Free, six adorable kittens in need of a good home’.”
“But I dont need six. I only need one.”
“What are you, stupid? We look at the six and pick out the one you like best. How hard can it be?”
“But is says ‘good home’, not ‘homes’. Clearly whoever placed the ad is looking to have all the kittens adopted at once.”
“Oh, for Christ sake Johnny just get in the truck and drive.”
But, as funny as this book is (Did I tell you? It’s REALLY funny), there are some really poignant moments too. Johnny is loyal. He goes to the local hardware store every day to buy supplies for his paint business, partly because he doesn’t like being tied down by buying in bulk, but mostly because he wants to help out the local hardware store – he’s not a fan of the big chains. He goes to Leo’s coffee shop every day out of loyalty to Leo rather than go to a Starbucks or similar. He even goes to Leo’s everyday later in the book just to cheer the old man up when he’s not really even in the market for coffee.
He has an “opportunity” early in the book to get laid but she’s so drunk he feels uncomfortable and leaves rather than take advantage of her. See? I told you he’s a good guy.
In the end, Johnny decides that even though he loves Helen, he has to to come clean because if he can’t be himself (or a slightly cleaned up version of himself – he finds he looks good in J Crew, but he really prefers to be called ‘Johnny’ rather than the more mature ‘John’), then she’s not the woman for him. Which is also sweet. I liked that he came to the conclusion that he deserved honesty in his relationship.
Helen has secrets of her own and I don’t think it will come as a surprise to readers that they are more suited to each other than either knows.
Because the story is told in Johnny’s first person POV, we don’t get to know Helen all that much but it’s such fun to be in Johnny’s head that I didn’t really mind that.
I would have liked to see another conversation between the couple at the end or maybe a scene showing their life as they decided to live it once all the secrets are revealed but it was otherwise an excellent read.
It’s very much on the “sweet/subtle” side of the heat intensity so it is suitable for younger readers too.
What else? In the end, the message of the book is that there is someone out there for everyone, even self-confessed assholes. Sure, it doesn’t have the best title or cover in the world. But, this is a great book. I highly recommend it.