I’m not a believer in coincidence. Even if I was, the story of how I ended up reading A Man of Character would have changed that.
I came across this book by accident when looking at a new site for romance authors and readers called Romance Debuts. I read the interview with author Margaret Locke and thought the premise (below) sounded cute, so I downloaded it.
What would you do if you discovered the men you were dating were fictional characters you’d created long ago?
Thirty-five-year-old Catherine Schreiber has shelved love for good. Keeping her ailing bookstore afloat takes all her time, and she’s perfectly fine with that. So when several men ask her out in short order, she’s not sure what to do…especially since something about them seems eerily familiar.
A startling revelation – that these men are fictional characters she’d created and forgotten years ago – forces Cat to reevaluate her world and the people in it. Because these characters are alive. Here. Now. And most definitely in the flesh.
Her best friend, Eliza, a romance novel junkie craving her own Happily Ever After, is thrilled by the possibilities. The power to create Mr. Perfect – who could pass that up? But can a relationship be real if it’s fiction? Caught between fantasy and reality, Cat must decide which—or whom—she wants more.
Blending humor with unusual twists, including a magical manuscript, a computer scientist in shining armor, and even a Regency ball, A Man of Character tells a story not only of love, but also of the lengths we’ll go for friendship, self-discovery, and second chances.
It was only once I started reading that I realized the story sounded familiar. That’s because I had judged an early version as part of an RWA contest! (For those who don’t know, those contests are anonymous, meaning the judges don’t have the author’s name and the authors don’t know who their judges were.) I remember that I liked it, but thought it wasn’t quite ready at that point. It thrilled me to see the small changes and other improvements Margaret made in the book between when I saw it and when it was published. This is the first book I’ve judged where I’ve gotten to see the final product – a rare phenomenon.
Besides my personal connection, A Man of Character is such a fun book! It’s lighthearted (which is how I like my romance), sexy without being dirty, with just enough magic to make the never-grown-up believer in you happy, but enough reality to make your jaded adult self believe magic just could happen. There’s actually less about the big magic item than I would have expected (may I suggest a novella giving us the back story on that item and maybe even letting us read it, Ms. Locke?), but it leaves more room to focus on the romance, which is the heart of this story.
As the blurb above implies, Cat ends up with several suitors, each of whom I liked in a different way. (Okay, one of them was a jerk, but we’ve all known and wanted someone like that at some point in our past.) I found myself rooting for each one to end up with her at different points in the book. Now knowing the ending (which was A+), it’s interesting to sit back and analyze what it is that makes each man attractive and what part of me, and Cat, he was appealing to.
This book is the delicious kind of fantasy you never want to end. What girl doesn’t want to experience these dream dates Cat goes on? One made my toes curl it was so hot, and one was so perfect, I almost jumped up and down with glee. This is the kind of story you don’t want to put down and can’t wait to get back to because it touches an inner longing for that storybook story (to use a phrase associated with The Princess Bride) we’re trained as little girls to want. Actually, I think a modern-day fairy tale is the perfect way to describe it.
The supporting characters are well-rounded and relatable, especially Eliza, the romance-reading, Jane-Austen-obsessed best friend. She’s like your real friend, one who is genuinely warm, forgives you for not being able to look past your own nose, but isn’t afraid to tell it like it is when you need her to. She’s got a surprise twist in this story, one that I’m excited to learn from the excerpt at the end, we’ll get to read all about in the next book.
In short, A Man of Character is a fun read that will make you swoon, while leaving you clamoring for more. As a reader, it made me feel all the ways I hope my books will make others feel. (It reminds me a lot of my own book, Been Searching for You, but I’m biased.) I highly recommend it to fans of light contemporary romance. And Margaret, this is my second plea for you to enter it into the RITAs next year. It’s that good folks – it really could win romance writing’s highest honor. Five stars.
Have you read A Man of Character? If not, do you want to now? Are there any other books it reminds you of? I’m always looking for more books like this one and poor Margaret can only write so fast!