Claire Willoughby is a nationally famous “lifestyle diva” akin to the likes of Martha Stewart (in her earlier, less turbulent days). Claire and her best friend, Olive, have built an empire called "Simple Pleasures" that features a television show and magazine that instructs on the simple pleasures of life, such as creating handicrafts from household items and cooking delectable meals from scratch. People cannot seem to get enough of Simple Pleasures, and Claire’s number-one fan is named Eleanor. Eleanor writes to Claire and shares pictures and stories of her rambunctious toddler, Anabel, through regular letters to Claire. Claire has never met Eleanor but feels a special connection to her number-one fan.
While Claire is the forefront and “face” for Simple Pleasures, as she appears in each episode of the television show, as well as in the magazine and cookbooks, Claire is not the lifestyle diva that she portrays herself to be. For example, Claire would rather drive to the grocery store and purchase a jar of Welch’s jelly rather than whip up a batch of homemade jam with homegrown berries and cane sugar. The real secret behind Simple Pleasures and the source of its inspiration and ideas is Olive, Claire’s best friend from college. Olive is an extremely shy and introverted woman who has no desire whatsoever to be in the limelight. Olive is content to produce the ideas for the company and to help run the company in a way that permits her to stay out of the limelight.
Claire and Olive continue on in this special arrangement of theirs, but life drastically changes for Claire one day when Chandler, Claire’s attorney, makes an unannounced visit. Chandler informs Claire that Eleanor has died in an accident and has left full custody of Anabel to Claire. Claire is stupefied. While Eleanor is her number-one fan, they have never even met, and Claire does not know a thing about children. She is not maternal and she certainly is not the homemaker-type that she appears to be in Simple Pleasures.
Nonetheless, there is a little girl’s well being at stake, and Claire reluctantly agrees to take Anabel under her wing while Eleanor’s long-lost brother, Ramsey Sage, is located. Claire hopes that she can pass off custody of Anabel onto this Ramsey person and resume her normal, childfree existence as soon as possible. Well, things certainly are not moving in that direction when Ramsey enters the picture and visits Claire’s home to retrieve his niece. Claire is dismayed but secretly aroused by Ramsey. His motorcycle, torn jeans and shirt, barbed-wire tattoo and untamed inky black tresses certainly do not paint him as the picture-perfect father. However, Claire cannot help but notice Ramsey is easy on the eyes and his smooth, sultry demeanor intrigues her. While Ramsey may not know much about children, he certainly knows a thing or two about women, as Claire is soon to find out.
The Thing About Men is an entertaining contemporary romance that will fit nicely in a beach bag as a “beach read” this summer. The fireworks between Claire and Ramsey build slowly but surely throughout the novel, and there is an interesting romance that develops between the shy, introverted Olive and Anabel’s caseworker. The antics of little Anabel as a toddler are hilarious and it is clear that the author has a great sense of humor. There is also an interesting mystery element as the suspense builds as to who Ramsey really is, why he evades Claire’s questions about his past, and the real motives of Claire’s attorney, Chandler. The Thing About Men will be enjoyed by any fans of contemporary romance and those who enjoy romances mixed in with humor and a bit of mystery.