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DUELING REVIEW: Any Man of Mine by Rachel Gibson

Dear Ms. Gibson,

I’ve been reading your books for so many years and have enjoyed enough of them that when I hear a new one is coming out, I automatically make room in my reading schedule to at least look at it. And since the books with sports heroes are usually ones I like, the fact that this book features a hockey hero got me excited.

Any Man of Mine by Rachel GibsonSam LeClaire knew that he’d see his ex-wife Autumn Haven at the wedding she helped to arrange for Ty and Chinooks team owner Faith. He expected fireworks since the two hadn’t gotten along in years, not since their quickie hookup and marriage in Las Vegas six years ago, but surprisingly things went well between them. A baby sitting snafu ends up with their son Conner staying with Sam while Autumn finishes overseeing the wedding. Sam begins musing on how little he’s been in his son’s life but it takes a comment from Autumn, about how hurt Conner has been in the past when Sam has canceled at the last minute, to get Sam to think about his own absentee father and how he never wanted to be like that.

With that in mind, Sam starts to see Conner, and Autumn, more. And both remember back to how they first met in Vegas and began a whirlwind affair which led to a wedding. Then had to pick up the pieces after Sam fled from their hotel room the morning after. Can Sam prove to Autumn that he’s changed? And does he have a chance to win back the woman he never understood why he fell for in the first place?

It is part of the Chinooks series and a few past characters show up. Ty and Faith marry. Chelsea and Bo are planning their weddings through Autumn’s business but they neither take over this book nor, I think, would irritate newbies who don’t know them from Adam’s housecat.

The book has a sports hero but the ice action is peripheral to the romance relationship. It shows a part of who Sam is but doesn’t influence Autumn that much since she doesn’t know or follow the sport and didn’t know he was a hockey player when she met him. The actual sports stuff seems okay but since I don’t follow hockey passionately, I could be wrong. If readers don’t know/follow it, it’ll probably do but if hockey is their life – I honestly don’t know if they’d find it accurate or annoying.

We see Sam doing a little of his hockey thing as well as Autumn running her business. Instead of sitting around waiting for the child support checks, she’s built security for herself and Conner which I and Sam both like. She’s usually a great mother, good friend and all around somebody who is moving forward and ahead with her life. She still does her lists – I love the chapter subheadings – and is a version of how she was in Vegas. Another thing I like is that in Vegas she didn’t fall immediately for Sam. She held something back for a while since this is part of her personality too. But Sam overwhelmed her in Vegas and made her fall for him then broke her heart. She hasn’t forgotten that even if she doesn’t dwell on it 24/7. Oh, I also appreciate that Autumn hasn’t sworn off all men – she’s still a romantic at heart.

After reading the blurb, I was expecting a hook up in Vegas followed by a falling out then some cool off time then a reconciliation – just like I’ve read many times in other books. But here, it starts in the present day and Sam and Autumn’s flash romance/marriage is long over. Even the residual hate is over and Autumn has not only got on with her life, she’s put what Sam did behind her and doesn’t hold a “I just can’t get on with my life” grudge. Heroes and heroines who can’t seem to move on AT ALL since the past relationship that went south make me question whether or not they’re ready for this new(er) relationship. Here Autumn isn’t stuck dwelling on the past. There are issues to be dealt with – some really painful ones – but she acts as if five years have passed.

Both were in a low point of their lives then, and in Vegas, and not acting as they normally would. Their marriage – at the time – was a mistake. Plain and simple. Feelings were there but these two didn’t know each other. And let’s face it, Sam did three shitty things – leaving Autumn the day after their marriage with no good-bye, filing for divorce and then requiring a paternity test. But he had some reasons – the anniversary of his sister’s death made him act out and get drunk, he did feel something for Autumn but felt that he’d made a mistake, he’d just signed a multi million contract and didn’t know if Autumn would take him to the cleaners. Okay he still acted like a shite but the reasons are more legit than some I’ve seen.

And now he sees where he went, and is going, wrong, he shapes up as a parent due to his memories of his own “out of touch” father. And it’s through his increased contact with their son Conner that Autumn comes back into his life. Neither one is looking for a relationship -Autumn even consciously avoids one – and time is taken to clear the air and clear the boards before any advancement is made in getting them back together. Because issues needed to be dealt with, forgiveness sought and given and the awful things that were said and done aren’t the sort of things swept away with a few hot kisses that lead to instant “I love yous.” I like that this time is allowed and that it isn’t instalust leading to twue lurve. One thing I don’t like about this aspect of the book is how clueless Sam is about Conner and why Autumn waited so long to jerk a knot in Sam for the way he was neglecting their son? She knew how much it was hurting Conner and, even though Sam should have known better, she should have told Sam he was being a putz.

Okay so do I believe Sam and Autumn’s growing relationship? Yes. It starts with them interacting over Conner – though with caution then proceeds to them beginning to talk about their lives, where they are now and broaching the past. They get to know who the other is now and then something of what drew them together six years ago then pulled them apart. Neither mistakes the sex they start to have with love and it’s Sam who caves first and admits to himself, then to Autumn, that he wants more – that he can feel the difference between simply great sex and expressing love through sex. While Autumn realizes that she’s fallen for the man Sam is now instead of clinging to what she felt for the man he was then. They are friends as well as lovers and now he’s man enough to own up to what he did and offer his apologies while Autumn has moved forward enough to forgive what he did.

The book has a slower feel – I guess partly due to the past being told as flashbacks rather then quickly touched upon or info dumped on us. Sam starts out living on the surface but has to dig deeper to uncover why Autumn is the one for him despite the past while Autumn has to drop the protective shield she’s built around her heart and take the risk to believe that Sam has changed. I enjoyed the slowly uncurling petals of the growing relationship and watching these two reach a stage where everything finally meets up and syncs together. And Conner, with his questions about life, is a darling, too. B

~Jayne

And now for a different point of view

Dear Ms. Gibson,

Any Man of Mine Rachel Gibson Not RecommendedOh, dear, where to start? I had a rather strong reaction to this book. To be fair, my reaction is probably partly rooted in some stuff that’s been bumping around my brain for a while about romance, sexism and gender roles. I’ve had some issues with several books I’ve read lately, so it may be that I was primed to take offense. Whatever the case, I find Any Man of Mine difficult to grade. I usually  grade mostly on how well a book entertains me, rather than on literary merit (though literary merit often, but not always, informs how well a book entertains me). But that becomes problematic when a book entertains me but also pisses me off. And this book pissed me off, a lot.

The story: pro hockey player Sam Leclaire and event planner Autumn Haven run into each other at the wedding of the Seattle Chinooks owner and the team’s manager (I believe their story was told in an earlier book). Sam is there because he plays for the Chinooks, while Autumn planned the wedding and is there overseeing all the details. Sam and Autumn have a history together. In fact, they have a child together, five-year-old Conner. But they haven’t actually seen each other for a couple of years; apparently their relationship was so bad that after a particularly nasty fight witnessed by Conner, they decided to have Sam’s assistant handle all of the pickups and drop-offs on the relatively rare occasions that Sam saw Conner.

After their semi-civilized encounter at the wedding, Sam decides that he wants to be a better father, and he not only begins spending more time with Conner, he begins to handle the custody exchange himself, thus reconnecting with Autumn. The story of how Sam and Autumn met is told in flashbacks sprinkled through the first half of the book. Sam was partying in Las Vegas with his hockey buddies when he came across Autumn, a small-town girl vacationing by herself. Autumn had been having a tough time; she had recently lost her mother after nursing her through colon cancer, and the trip to Vegas was a treat to herself. She ends up caught up in a whirlwind romance with Sam against her better judgment, and one drunken night they are married by an Elvis impersonator. They celebrate back in Autumn’s hotel room by having unprotected sex (they have already had sex, but had used protection). The next morning, Autumn wakes up, alone, and finds out that Sam has gotten cold feet and checked out of the hotel. She tracks him down months later to let him know he’s a father, and Sam, through his lawyer, demands a paternity test. Things don’t really improve any time in the next five years before the story starts; we’re not given explicit details but led to believe that Sam is an affectionate but neglectful and selfish parent.

So, what we have is a pretty simple story of two people who dislike each other (Autumn with good reason; Sam because Autumn makes him feel guilty) who slowly become closer when Sam (rather arbitrarily) decides to change. Autumn is understandably wary, but Sam becomes more and more determined to do right by his son, and also becomes increasingly intrigued by his ex-wife.

Sam and Autumn both have traumatic pasts. Autumn had a father who ran out on the family, and a mother who turned to religion for comfort. She has an older brother, Vince, who looks out for her (and consequently hates Sam, though he seems to share many characteristics with him). It’s indicated that Autumn and Vince were raised by their mother to be unforgiving – I guess this is supposed to explain why Autumn has trouble trusting Sam, thought the fact that he was a huge asshole also might have had something to do with it.

Sam’s backstory is even sadder – he grew up in Canada, the son of a local cop who was well-respected on the job but who ignored his kids and never went to Sam’s hockey games. He died when Sam was a teenager, and Sam felt responsible for his younger sister Ella. When she was 24, Ella was killed by an abusive boyfriend. I guess this tragedy is supposed to be at the heart of Sam’s commitment issues, but I never quite got the connection. It seemed more like Sam enjoying being a selfish, shallow, self-centered, egotistical jackass. The majority of the story takes place when Sam is 35 years old. In my opinion, that’s about 15 years past the age at which his behavior is at all acceptable or understandable.

So, there you have it: my first, last, major and minor objection (and everything in between) to this book is Sam. Well, to be fair, I have issues with how Autumn’s chastity is contrasted with Sam’s promiscuity, but it’s a detail that would’ve niggled less if Sam had not been so awful and sexist.

Some choice quotes from Sam:

She was a wedding planner or, as she always insisted, an “event organizer.” Although, really, what was the difference? Wedding or event, it was the same damn circus. But it was typical of Autumn to make a big deal out of something little.

Yes, there goes that stupid Autumn, wanting some respect for her profession. I wonder if Sam would mind being called a baseball player? Same thing, really – uniforms, teams, sticks, etc.

Sam sometimes worried that Autumn raised his son like a girl. Made him wimpy. Good to know that he thought like a boy.

Of course, Sam hasn’t heretofore worried enough to tear himself away from his own entertainment and spends more time with his son, or anything crazy like that. (He also at one point “jokes” to his son that men are smarter than women. So, men: smarter and stronger; women: dumber and wimpy. Good to know.)

The Ford F-250 was still running, and he thought about turning it off, but he figured he wouldn’t be much longer and left it on. A guy didn’t buy an F-250 because he worried about gas consumption. He drove it because of the payload and because it hauled serious ass. Although he never hauled anything heavier than his sports bag, it was good to know it had the power if he ever decided to tow twenty four thousand pounds.

Okay, now you’re just screwing with me. I’m not even that avid of any environmentalist, but do I have to have Sam’s selfish conspicuous consumption shoved in my face? It’s like an attempt is being made to make Sam as unlikable as humanly possible. He’s basically a hot Rush Limbaugh, and I don’t see Rush Limbaugh as appealing hero material, even if he were hot (actually, I’m making myself queasy here).

I have so many pages of this book dog-eared to note instances of Sam making an ass of himself. I feel like I have to limit myself to a few before I turn into the crazy lady ranting in the corner.

(Okay, just one more: Sam can’t be friends with Autumn because, “he didn’t have women friends.” Shocker.)

All of Sam’s troglodyte behavior is portrayed as somehow cute in the book, but he is simply a misogynst. He dates (well, sleeps with) skinny supermodels, though he doesn’t seem to like them much. One of these models is featured in a few scenes in the book. Sam internally criticizes her for being narcissistic and rude, for not eating enough, and for being superficial and shallow.  I am really quite sick of romance heroes who don’t appear to like women. There is no way I can respect a 35-year-old man who consistently seeks out unlikable women just for sex.

Autumn is an unobjectionable if uninspired character, for the most part. There were things about her that bugged me, but they mostly bugged me because of how uber-masculine Sam was set up to be. Of course Autumn works in a traditionally feminine profession. Of course she doesn’t dress sexy like the other women in Sam’s life. (A detail that is dwelt on far too much in the book – Autumn doesn’t wear sexy pajamas, she wears cutesy ones; Autumn doesn’t wear sexy Halloween costumes, she wears wholesome ones. Why not just put a burqua on her and be done with it?) Of course she’s been without any sexual partners (or even casual romantic interests) since parting from Sam. She’s a mother, you know. No time for dating or men (who aren’t Sam). I respect single mothers who protect their children from attachments to men who may not remain in their lives. But that’s not a reason not to make any attempt to have a relationship. Not that I even judge that, in real life – it just drives me nuts in the context of the story, when we’re told repeatedly that Sam humps anything that stands still long enough. I guess it bothers me in general in contemporary romances, because in real life, women, even women who’ve been hurt and who have children they need to consider first, do date. They have relationships. This has become sort of a corollary to the virgin heroine in contemporary romance – it’s not reading about any single one that is problematic, it’s that when there are so many that it seems that authors are trying to make a point about what makes a character heroine material. I know that romance novel tropes about “true love” dictate that the hero and heroine in contemporary romance usually do not have serious romantic relationships before meeting each other (or re-encountering each other, in reunion romances such as this one). I understand the reason for this, though I wish the community would be more open to the idea that a person can love more than one person in a lifetime, and that even if the first love doesn’t work out, the HEA for the h/h aren’t necessarily compromised. And I wholeheartedly object to the double standard that allows the hero to have casual sex while the heroine just makes do with her vibrator (though I guess the heroine even having a vibrator represents a step forward?).

Another reason this scenario bugs me is because it puts the heroine in a state of suspended animation, waiting for the hero to notice her, or in Sam’s case, get his act together. What if it had taken another five years? Another 10? What if it never happened? Well, then I guess the heroine would just stay chaste and throw herself into her work and her child. Again, I’m not criticizing those choices IRL, but in the context of a romance novel they bother me, because they require a heroine to be so passive. I read Linda Howard’s Sarah’s Child years ago and that aspect of the story still bugs me.

For the longest time, I really thought Sam wasn’t going to apologize at all for what he’d done to Autumn in Las Vegas. He really shows very few signs (aside from a little guilt that he mostly turns back on Autumn) that he knows he did something wrong. He does, very late in the story, express a tepid apology, but even then he’s mostly of the opinion that Autumn should just get over it. He’s changed! It’s been three months and look how well he’s behaving himself! How is it possible that she still doesn’t trust him?! It must be because she’s insecure and uptight and neurotic. He never does express any remorse over his crappy parenting to date. Early in the story, Autumn tells Sam of the times Conner cried himself to sleep after Sam cancelled on him, something we’re given to understand happened pretty often. Conner has obviously not been a priority for Sam for the past five years, yet we see no evidence of resentment or uncertainty on Conner’s part, no regret on Sam’s part, and Autumn’s misgivings about her son’s relationship with his father are portrayed as being the same as her concerns regarding her own relationship with Sam. In other words, she needs to get over it, he’s changed, etc.

We never see any epiphany on Sam’s part that explains the change. It’s more about what he wants. He’s decided that he wants a family, that he wants to be a parent, that he wants Autumn. Forgive me for not caring so much about what Sam wants – Sam seems to have that pretty much taken care of.

Often, even if a book is cliched or boring or problematic in some other way, by the end I am convinced of the HEA and that fact along makes me bump the grade up a bit. That wasn’t the case in this book – maybe Autumn loves Sam, though I don’t know why she would. Sam’s feelings about Autumn seem to be evenly divided between lust (musings on how he “didn’t get enough of her” in Las Vegas all those years ago) and contrasts between her purity and the sluttiness of all the other women he knows. Not really the basis for a long and happy marriage, IMO.

Any Man of Mine was one of those books that makes me examine what I expect out of a romance. I can’t claim to be terribly consistent, because with really good writing and characterization, most of the rules fly out the window for me. That said, most of the time, I like heroes and heroines who are flawed, and who need to overcome some obstacles (preferably internal v. external) before they are ready to be together. I don’t really want to read about a hero or heroine who is perfect to start with, and I don’t require them to become perfect in the course of the story. Nor do I want love to be the thing that heals them or makes them whole – at least not entirely. I like it when the h/h are catalysts for change in each other’s lives, not necessarily the entire impetus.

In Any Man of Mine we have a hero that really needs to change, and to make amends for his past mistakes. And it just doesn’t happen. His path changes – he becomes,  if you believe the HEA, a one-woman man and a responsible parent – but it doesn’t seem to be connected to any increase in maturity. Again, it’s simply because Sam decides it’s what he wants.

My grade for Any Man of Mine is a D.

Regards,

Jennie

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has been an avid if often frustrated romance reader for the past 15 years. In that time she's read a lot of good romances, a few great ones, and, unfortunately, a whole lot of dreck. Many of her favorite authors (Ivory, Kinsale, Gaffney, Williamson, Ibbotson) have moved onto other genres or produce new books only rarely, so she's had to expand her horizons a bit. Newer authors she enjoys include Julie Ann Long, Megan Hart and J.R. Ward, and she eagerly anticipates each new Sookie Stackhouse novel. Strong prose and characterization go a long way with her, though if they are combined with an unusual plot or setting, all the better. When she's not reading romance she can usually be found reading historical non-fiction.

30 Comments

  1. Amber
    Apr 26, 2011 @ 12:16:47

    “maybe Autumn loves Sam, though I don’t know why she would.”

    That sums up my feelings about this book in a single sentence. Sam never evolves.

    The bigger problem for me was Sam’s indifference/casual neglect of his son. That is an unforgivable flaw in my eyes.

    Does it really take 5 years to figure out your son should rank higher than your partying? And then only after a haranguing from your ex-wife?

    I am normally a fan of Rachel Gibson’s books, but this one just pushed all of the wrong buttons for me.

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  2. chanceofbooks
    Apr 26, 2011 @ 12:31:06

    I liked the book, but I’ve been struggling with how to rate it as well. I’m reviewing it later this week and I still haven’t decided whether it’s a 3 or 4 star read for me. I read it in a single setting and couldn’t put it down, which usually marks a great read for me, and there have been past Gibson books that I couldn’t finish or didn’t enjoy this much. But there have been others that I enjoyed far more, and I think you are both right–it all comes down to Sam. He’s probably typical of lots of divorced fathers, particularly athletic ones, but that doesn’t make him a great hero. I would have liked A LOT more groveling and changing from him. His treatment of Autumn during her pregnancy and first few years of Connor’s life was pretty horrid, and he kept trying to blame her for blowing hot and cold. Um, no, dude it’s you. All you. But, strangely this is a very engaging and readable book, and I think your dueling review captured that beautifully. I LOVE the dueling reviews here at DA when you do them.

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  3. Jayne
    Apr 26, 2011 @ 12:46:07

    @chanceofbooks: Jennie actually got her review written first. As I read it in our ‘behind the curtain’ section of the blog, I nodded at many of the things she thought of it but in the end, there was still enough of it I liked and that worked for me to give it a B grade.

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  4. Gretchen Galway
    Apr 26, 2011 @ 13:10:50

    Wow, it’s so interesting to read counterpoint reviews. I’d love to see more of them!

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  5. Keishon
    Apr 26, 2011 @ 13:14:33

    I think some authors have a reputation for hitting all the wrong buttons. I thought Rachel Gibson was one of them? I mean her heroes are jerks sometimes and that aspect of it sounds like it hasn’t changed. I don’t mind characters that make me angry if the story is well written. I plan to read it for myself, thanks.

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  6. Praxidike
    Apr 26, 2011 @ 13:35:13

    “Sam sometimes worried that Autumn raised his son like a girl. Made him wimpy. Good to know that he thought like a boy.”

    The casual sexism here makes me cringe. “[R]aise[] his son like a girl“? His son “thought like a boy“? What, exactly, does that mean? How would a boy be raised “like a girl”? How, exactly, does a “boy” think? Do all boys think the same?

    Frankly, that paragraph right there is enough to turn me off of this book because I would be ranting at my husband about the entrenched sexism and misogyny throughout the reading of it.

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  7. Jennifer
    Apr 26, 2011 @ 13:39:52

    If it has hockey players, I will read it (good or bad)… but for some reason I have trouble liking romances that use flashback stories…Are they harder to pull off?

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  8. Heather
    Apr 26, 2011 @ 13:43:25

    I felt that this was a ‘B’ book as well. While I missed some of her smexy, she handled Autumn and Sam’s growing relationship with all the delicacy it deserved.

    I’m not at all surprised to see a man facing his immaturity at 35, particularly because this is supposed to be set with him as a professional hockey player. Why would he have to grow up, when all the perks of being paid well, make it so he doesn’t have to? That and because he doesn’t want to face what has happened in his past.

    I think she handled well the moment when he has to face himself and his life in all its “glory.” And he’s not immediately a perfect father, either.

    As to Sam’s promiscuity v. Autumn’s chastity, I think it makes perfect sense. Sam’s job provides access to lovely women, and he’s trying to ignore his mistakes. Autumn is a new mother, refusing to rely on Sam, starting a new career, and afraid of allowing herself to trust – I’m not sure that I’d be all that up for dating, either, if this was “real” and I was in the same position.

    I’ll be curious where she goes next with this series.

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  9. Jane
    Apr 26, 2011 @ 14:14:43

    @Amber: Yep. I never understood why that one mention of his son being upset finally switched the lightbulb on for Sam. And Sam wasn’t just neglectful, he was purposefully cruel at times.

    However, it is a very readable book and in the end, I would have given it a C but both grades make sense to me.

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  10. Heather
    Apr 26, 2011 @ 14:22:02

    @Jane: My impression when reading was that Sam was finally ready to hear it. His friends and fellow players are finding their HEA’s, it is years after their weekend together, and Autumn wasn’t really talking to him, so he couldn’t have that “a-ha!” moment because they avoided each other. I think sometimes all it takes is one thing to trigger a change, almost like flipping the switch. I had one of those moments myself lately, and I wondered “why that,” when everything else that came before it made no difference..

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  11. Janine
    Apr 26, 2011 @ 14:28:47

    Really interesting duel/dual review. I have only read one book by Rachel Gibson, Truly Madly Yours. I remember enjoying the heroine, the humor and the sexual tension a lot, but feeling that the hero was an immature caveman who hadn’t sufficiently apologized for some of his behavior. Even though I liked that book, I haven’t been tempted to read Gibson again. Are her heroes typically like this?

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  12. Jane
    Apr 26, 2011 @ 14:43:42

    @Heather: I suppose that is a plausible explanation but I feel Jennie’s depiction of Sam fit my reading of the book better.

    However, I think it is one of those books that will generate a ton of varying responses.

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  13. Jennifer
    Apr 26, 2011 @ 16:04:10

    I usually like exes-reunite stories, but the thing is, they have to have broken up for a reason that doesn’t boil down to, one of them is a total jerk. If your friend was dating a guy like this and you’d tell her to dump him, shouldn’t that apply to you too?

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  14. Lou
    Apr 26, 2011 @ 16:45:50

    I just finished this book, and pretty much hated Sam from the start right to the end of the book.

    He was such an asshole. An asshole who treated Autumn in the most appalling way. And on top of that, he casually (and I do think cruelly) neglected his son for most of his life. And there was no reason for it. None whatsoever other than he was an asshole.

    I felt he showed no remorse whatsoever for his behaviour. He decided there and then that he was ready to be a better father, and not because he realised it himself, but because Autumn told him that his son went to bed crying at night.

    I didn’t feel the love that he supposedly had for his son, nor his love for Autumn towards the end.

    He was an utter dickhead, and I wished Autumn had given him the boot. For Sam alone, I would give him a big fat F grade.

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  15. Amber
    Apr 26, 2011 @ 17:06:05

    @Jane: I think I ended up giving this one a C+ because while Sam was a complete ass, I kept reading.

    I could see him being immature and clueless…but it took 5 years to realize his broken promises were hurting his son? Really?

    One too many hockey pucks to the head, I guess. 5 years is a long learning curve.

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  16. Jen X
    Apr 26, 2011 @ 17:19:39

    When I read the premise of Any Man of Mine it reminded me of Gibson’s first book, Simply Irresistible. The hero in that one was a real jerk too. He said some vile, crass stuff to the heroine and the heroine was so wishy-washy it had me cringing. Still I read it and enjoyed it. Something about her writing is very readable.

    I agree with Keishon, RG’s heroes tend to veer to the jerk side. I’m ok with it and plan to read this one.

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  17. Niveau
    Apr 26, 2011 @ 17:40:49

    I am really quite sick of romance heroes who don’t appear to like women.

    I’m so with you there. Whenever a hero starts to express his contempt of women – but not the heroine, she’s special – I wonder why the author puts that in, because most romance readers? Women. Beyond the fact that it makes me doubt the HEA, I don’t like to be insulted by the author whose book I just paid for.

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  18. Jacqueline Cook
    Apr 26, 2011 @ 18:01:25

    I feel much the same way that Jennie does. I was actually surprised that I was intrigued enough by the story to finish it. Usually, when I come across detestable characters like Sam, I’ll quit reading. Actually, I think what fascinated me was how unapologetic he was. I just couldn’t fathom a romance that had a jerk of a hero who is barely redeemed (and so late in the novel, at that).

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  19. Jennie
    Apr 27, 2011 @ 01:59:44

    @chanceofbooks: That’s a good point – Sam accuses Autumn of “blowing hot and cold” on several occasions. There’s just never any understanding on his part of why she might be wary of him. And it’s not even like he’s been a straight arrow since he dumped her in Vegas – he continues the same bad behavior right up until the time the story starts, and again, seems to have no understanding that a few months of less sleazy, more responsible behavior might not be enough for Autumn to trust him. Argh. I’m getting annoyed just thinking about it again.

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  20. Jennie
    Apr 27, 2011 @ 02:11:45

    @Jennifer: You know, I’ve heard a lot of romance readers say this, but I actually like stories with flashbacks. Maybe it’s because you get earlier glimpses of some of the intense, conflict-y stuff that, in a linear story, typically comes later in a book.

    The flashbacks didn’t work as well in that regard in this book, because we never really saw deep emotion from Sam at any point in the story, early or late. Also, I would’ve been interested to see some flashbacks of Sam and Autumn’s conflict after Conner was born, but that part is barely mentioned. We’re given just enough to understand that they fought in front of Conner and that’s the reason they haven’t seen or spoken to each other for several years (a detail I found sort of unrealistic, but whatever).

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  21. Bronte
    Apr 27, 2011 @ 05:26:43

    @Janine: Yep, pretty much, however they are really readable. See Jane Score is an awesome example of a self involved hero who actually becomes likeable. If you want to try another Gibson, thats the one to try.

    I like Gibson’s heroes because I find they are realistic. My foster dad (who is actually a great guy) didn’t start growing up til about age 40 if you believe my foster mum. I also used to play mixed ice hockey. We had unisex locker rooms. As one of the few girls (and a quiet one at that) I think quite often the boys forgot there was actually a female in the room. I received quite an education in the way boys/men behave and talk about women. I don’t find Gibsons representations of men that off base.

    I like the fact that her heroes grow up. They are not perfect. I didn’t like Sam for probably the first 2/3′s of the book, but he grew on me at the end. I think if the book was about 50-100 pages longer we probably would have seen greater character growth and perhaps that would make the HEA a little easier to accept. Having said all of that, I couldn’t put the book down. As opposed to 11 scandals which I couldn’t find fault with but wasn’t interested enough to finish.

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  22. Bianca
    Apr 27, 2011 @ 08:03:41

    Oh, I loathed Sam. Hated him. I’ve worked in child welfare, and I’ve seen plenty of dads like Sam. Fathers who wander aimlessly into their children’s lives whenever they want; not caring one bit how their obvious disinterest hurts their child. And then they act all surprised when their (now) teenage children end up in the Department of Juvenile Justice system — if they care at all. UGH, vomit, vomit, vomit.

    Rachel Gibson’s hero may be “realistic”, but it’s really a realism that makes me tired. I mean, I guess it’s really good that Sam ended up changing, but I didn’t buy it at all because of my professional experience working with families (which, I should mention, is purely my experience and not representative of anything but me). Some dads do manage to turn it around (kudos to them, honestly), but — imho — Sam didn’t have the redeeming qualities to be one of them.

    I def. let my cynicism and past work experience color my reading, but — eh. Anyway, love the dueling reviews; I probably would have gotten more out this story if I wasn’t so…bitter. ;)

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  23. tori
    Apr 27, 2011 @ 08:38:20

    Great reviews. I am a Gibson fan and her books are pretty much auto buys for me. While Sam wasn’t my fav Chinook I felt Ms. Gibson did a good job in keeping his character real. He’s a sexist jerk. His evolution is slow and while he doesn’t do a 180, I wouldn’t have believed it as much if he had.Having grown up ard minor/major league athletes, this attitude isn’t that far off base. Often enough they do feel it is all about them and they tend to deal with everything and everyone in relation to how it benefits them.
    I agree with the above poster who said maybe a few more pages could have eased us into their HEA a little better.

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  24. Lorenda
    Apr 27, 2011 @ 14:08:45

    @Janine – Yes, all her heroes start out as the sterotypical jock, but this is the first book I’ve felt the hero stayed that way.

    I actually read Ms. Gibson’s books because the “big, bad, manly-man” is forced/led into becoming thoughtful, attentive, and heroic over that special gal.

    But for this one, I felt like that very important part was missing, and because of it, I finished the book irritated with the heroine for forgiving him at all. There was no angst, no “aha” moment, nothing. Basically, Sam ends up saying something cute and perverted, and Autumn eats it up.

    I’ve gotta say, this is the first Gibson read that I’d like to demand my money back on.

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  25. Jennie
    Apr 28, 2011 @ 01:31:09

    Sam may be a realistic depiction of pro athletes and/or the plethora of men pushing 40 who have yet to really grow up, but that doesn’t mean I want to read about him in a romance. Just because behavior is realistic, it doesn’t mean it’s romantic, or even really acceptable IRL, in my book.

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  26. Review: Any Man of Mine by Rachel Gibson | Smexy Books
    Apr 28, 2011 @ 06:30:30

    [...] Reviews Book Addict – 4/5 Book Binge – 4/5 Love to Read for Fun – 3/5 Dear Author – B/D [...]

  27. Recommended Reads for May
    May 03, 2011 @ 10:21:39

    [...] by Sara Craven REVIEW: Petals and Thorns by Jennifer Paris REVIEW: Royal Weddings novellas DUELING REVIEW: Any Man of Mine by Rachel Gibson REVIEW: Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke's Heart by Sarah MacLean REVIEW: Haven by [...]

  28. Unpacking the Navy SEAL hero in romance or the magic in “Let me take care of you”
    May 10, 2011 @ 04:00:52

    [...] Navy SEAL archetype would not act like Sam in Rachel Gibson’s Any Man of Mine (dueling reviews). What the author Pamela Clare (aka P White) explains above isn’t universally true [...]

  29. Anne
    Aug 04, 2011 @ 14:42:46

    I have been a fan of RB since her first book Simpley Irresistable and I think that one is her best. She writes with heart and humor and in some books they are about jerks who either dumped the girl without a backwards glance, or they have so much turmoil in their life they could never love anyone. I am a fan of hers and even if I dont like the book much or at all, I still will be a dedicated reader of her books.

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  30. lauren
    Mar 12, 2012 @ 09:37:31

    I, unfortunately, still have RG as a autoread, although I HATE her Chinooks series. I find the stories too stereo-typed. My first book that I read by her was her Truly, Madly Yours and it was great. I am a rabid hockey fan, but find reading about her team made a couple of the books DNF for me.

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