- Drover, Kansas. 1888.
- Heroine: The heroine seems like a "take charge" kind of girl, trying to do the best for her nephews despite being overwhelmed. She has always seen herself as a plain Jane, and has a bit of trouble understanding male attention.
- Hero: The hero ran with a bad crowd when he was younger, and tried to rustle cattle from the heroine's brother. After spending five years in jail, he comes back to the brother's farm in an attempt to make amends. His loneliness in jail has taught him a new appreciation of life, and - while he's never taken care of children before - settles quite easily in being a responsible, father-like figure.
- Between raising her brother's abandoned nephews and taking care of his run down farm, the heroine has her hands full. To make matters worse, the heroine is afraid she might be dying - her monthly courses have stopped (and she's not pregnant). In desperation, she puts out an ad looking for a "family man" who can take care of the farm and children if she dies. The hero shows up, looking for the heroine's brother to make amends. When he learns about the heroine's situation, he fills the position and starts helping out around the farm in an effort to right his wrongs.
- The hero settles into the farm life right away, fondly taking care of the children and doing his best to help out where needed. The protagonists clearly start to have deeper feelings for each other almost from the start, but before the wedding eventually happens the storyline meanders quite a bit with a fair amount of repressed feelings and a brief love triangle. Further drama ensues as the hero's former compatriots try to steal cattle from the hero's neighbor, and the hero is implicated in his efforts to stop it.
What I did not like:
- Most of the storyline. While the plot starts out promising, the author seems to quickly run out of new things to write about. So instead, the plot listlessly moves forward with silly situations and inane disagreements until the conflicts are finally resolved towards the end.
- The neighbor. The neighbor plays a really weird role in the story. He's never showed the heroine any attention before the hero shows up, but then becomes a major competitor for her hand. There are several silly-to-the-point-of-being-stupid scenes as the hero and neighbor interact. And the heroine encourages his courtship, although she still wants to marry the hero. To make the hero jealous, I guess? I don't know, it was strange. But then when the neighbor suddenly sees the heroine's sister naked, he forgets all about the heroine and falls in "love" with the sister. He also almost kills the hero when he thinks that the hero stole his cattle, and urges everyone to have the hero hanged. Yeah...
- The heroine's physical appearance. Everyone seems to think the heroine is plain, including both the hero and the heroine. Yet the hero also lusts after the heroine's womanly figure from he first moment he sees her, and the neighbor starts to lust for her as well. It all seems rather incongruous.
- The mind-numbing romantic conflicts. The heroine is warmed by the hero's actions, is attracted to him, and frequently tells herself that she wants to marry him. Yet she repeatedly turns him down. And even when she finally agrees, she states firmly that she doesn't love him and she's only doing it "for the children." Oh, and she wants to make love with him... yet she's terrified of the wedding night. The hero is almost as bad, clearly smitten by the heroine yet tells himself he is marrying her to make amends for his youthful behavior. I can't stop rolling my eyes. The final romantic conflict is fairly annoying as well, basically consisting of the heroine being miffed the hero didn't tell her about his past. Even though he tried to before, and she told him she didn't care. Way to be consistent, lady.
What I did like:
- The beginning of the story. The first part of the novel was undoubtedly the best. It was also kinda silly, but it a sweet way. The main characters fall effortlessly for each other and the hero demonstrates his softer side.
- The lightheartedness. While I thought the book was far too silly in places, the easygoing romance was enjoyable at times.
- Carol Carson's Family Man was a rather disappointing western romance. The characters and majority of the storyline were all over the place, and their actions were lighthearted to the point of often being unrealistic and unappealing. The romance is never well developed, and the development that does occur happens almost right away - allowing for little to happen for the majority of the book. I feel it would have worked better as a novella, rather than a full-length novel with an unappealing plot. I cannot recommend it.
*There is one love scene in the book. Quite mild in content.