Heat Factor: Moderate heat
Character Chemistry: Palpable sexual tension while they’re knitting together
Plot: This is a light-hearted story about coming to terms with grief
Overall: I enjoyed myself immensely
When Real Men Knits opens, Kerry and Jesse are both lost and grieving. Mama Joy – Jesse’s adopted mother and Kerry’s mentor and boss – just died. The fate of the knitting shop she owned is up in the air, until Jesse convinces his three brothers to support his effort to keep the shop going. With Kerry’s help. Mama Joy’s death therefore ends up serving as a catalyst for both Kerry and Jesse to rethink their lives as they take on a new challenge.
I thought Jesse and Kerry were great characters. In some ways, Jesse is a typical womanzing hero. He has a lot of meaningless sex – and is clueless when the women he’s with fall for him. He doesn’t have feelings for them, so they’re obviously on the same page, right? Infuriating, I know. But what saves the dynamic for me is that Jesse is also a hot mess – and the text is explicit about this (rather than me psychoanalyzing him and his emotional constipation). He turns to mindless hook ups as a way of distracting himself from his grief. He thinks he’s a mess and undeserving of respect because of his bad choices; and furthermore, other characters (mostly his brothers) call him on it. Repeatedly. So much so, that the dynamic becomes more about him lacking a support system than about him sleeping around.
Kerry, on the other hand, is a bit more buttoned up, but I wouldn’t call her a prissy good girl. She can be judgmental and saucy (there’s an extended bit about what eating chicken wings says about a man’s prowess in bed, and I died laughing), she’s just reserved. A homebody – and a woman after my own heart.
Jesse and Kerry have known each other forever, but I wouldn’t call this a friends to lovers romance. It’s more of a Girl Next Door vibe, where they’re not friends, but still tease each other. So we’ve got a solid sparring partners dynamic going on. And a blatant case of mutual childhood crush.
There is some Other Woman Drama, which I include as an aside because I know it’s a deal-breaker for some readers. It worked for me, because Jackson uses it to good effect in fleshing out the characters in moments of tension – Jesse is clueless, and Kerry asserts herself.
There’s also a Grand Gesture at the end, but it was perfect. Sorry haters. Well, it was 50% mortifying because of the huge audience (I would have died, but Kerry is embedded in the community and didn’t seem to mind). But the other 50% was utter perfection because the thing Jesse does for Kerry is perfectly symbolic for what he wants their relationship to become. And now I’ve used “perfect” three times in one paragraph.
I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.
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