Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Always the Best-Man and Never the Groom: The Bro-Magnet by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

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.

It's hard to believe that there is a man "out there" who has the kinds of problems that Johnny Smith has--a good-looking guy fighting off the gals. Instead, Johnny is the pal that every man longs for and will do almost anything to keep. It's not a gay thing by any means. Just that Johnny is one of those guys that really understands men and projects that in such a way that guys feel connected to him and want to be his friend. He really is the quintessential man--sports, poker, hanging out for no reasons, a college graduate that is part-owner of a "blue collar" business, and so forth. Yet the one thing that Johnny wants more than anything in the world is the love of a good woman and all that goes along with that relationship. He hasn't been a total wipe-out with women. He gets lucky every once in a while. But so far, there has been no long-term relationship that smells of and feels like "forever."

This is one of the funniest books I have read in a very long time. How Johnny manages his friendships, how he relates to his long-time friends, the advice he seeks from his best friend Sam (who is a lesbian and doesn't claim to have a clue about what women would find attractive about a man), and the disdain Johnny receives from the woman who was, for all his growing-up years, the person who made his elementary age and teenage heart go "pitter pat." The dialogue is a hoot and most of all, as it is a story told in the first person, knowing what is going through Johnny's head keeps the reader chuckling often if not outright laughing. Yet under all the humor is the story of people who really desire genuine relationship and who are willing to do almost anything to attract a person who can love them forever, even if that means being someone other than who they are. This is the case with both Johnny and Helen and leads to some really humorous situations and conversations. How it all gets resolved is also comedic and readers are in for a comic treat.

I think it is important to remember that we often find humor in situations and people that come very close to our own experience. Watching stand-up comedy on the Comedy Channel is a case in point. The jokes and one liners that get the biggest laughs are the ones that are drawn from human experiences that are common to most people. That's probably why this book hits fairly close to home. I found myself thinking back to my early years of dating, wondering if I really did go to these lengths to be acceptable to the guys I was hoping to attract. I think it is a common theme in many romance novels, but here it is really the core issue. The story highlights the sort of sad fact that two very intelligent people just can't seem to get it together sufficiently to feel confident and attractive to the opposite sex and still be themselves. The author has told the story with a deft touch and the dialogue flows beautifully--never ponderous or overloaded with Johnny's internal monologue. There's almost no overt sex here but the tension is there as well as a strong sense of what's going on with Johnny and Helen's feelings.

I think you'll find this a compelling and engaging novel, one that will be hard to put down and which will be the kind of story where most of us can see ourselves, at least in varying degrees. I think all adults go through the issues of insecurity while dating, and this story will probably remind all of us about those days. In Johnny and Helen's case, those insecurities are still plaguing them long after they should have been put to rest. A terrific read and one I can almost guarantee you will enjoy. I give it a rating of 4 out of 5.

This Novel was released in December, 2011, by TKA Distribution.

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