WHAT A GUY WANTS is what a woman wants…
That’s because the Manley Maids Cleaning Service’s slogan is:
Manley Maids… Satisfaction Guaranteed!
A few years ago, a neighbor of mine was mentioning that she’d hired a cleaning service and had been really surprised when a man had shown up to clean her house instead of a woman.
Such traditional gender role bias got me to thinking—what if there were a group of guys who cleaned houses, and—since I write romance—ended up falling for their clients?
And what if their last name was Manley?
Voila! The Manley Maids series was born (and had a small auction when pitched to NY publishers to my everlasting delight…)
What A Guy Wants is book 5 in the series, and I’ve branched out from the three Manley brothers (Liam, Bryan, and Sean) and their sister Mac, to a friend of theirs, Beckett Fields. (And, trust me, there are a WHOLE lot more friends in the Manley brothers’ world—you can see the set-up for other stories in the epilogues of the other books.)
The brothers get roped into working for their sister who owns the cleaning service over a lost poker bet, so it’s only fitting that Beck does as well. After all, betting on money is what Beck does for a living. Numbers are his thing; he can’t lose.
Except he does.
Or… does he?
I loved the idea of taking a gender-norm and turning it on its head, but isn’t that what we do in romance? I mean, the idea of Prince Charming rescuing Cinderella has been flipped upside down since the ’80s—most notably in the movie Pretty Woman. Julia/Vivian’s last line, “And she rescues him right back,” says “I am woman; hear me roar.” It gives us our power in our relationships. Our right to be who we want to be and do what we want with our life.
And Jennifer Bingham, DVM, is doing just that when Beckett shows up to rock her world by cleaning her house. Her niece Sami is instantly smitten but Jennifer is worried about starting anything with Beckett that won’t be forever. Sami’s mom—Jennifer’s sister—had had a revolving door of men around Sami and Jennifer needs to provide stability. Hot-shot playboy financier Beckett isn’t exactly high on the stability list.
But Jennifer’s heart begins to melt each time Beckett helps out her three-legged dog Flopsy (hey, he came to Jennifer’s clinic with the name), and when he suffers through her fat-cat (literally) Nero’s dictatorial rule of the house, and especially when he’s so kind to Sami and her insecure new friend, Cassie. Here’s a scene that brought me to tears when I was writing it—heartfelt tears for how kind Beck is, as well as tears of laughter.
(The set-up is that they’re on their way to Mercurio’s, a fancy restaurant, for dinner, and Sami has been calling Jennifer “Mommy” since she’d come to live with her.)
“Do they have mussels at this place?” Sami asked from the background chatter she and Cassie had going on.
Beck glanced at her in the rearview mirror. “I certainly hope so, otherwise no one’s going to be strong enough to carry the food to the table.”
“Not those kinds of muscles, silly. I mean the fish kind. The ones you can eat.”
Beck glanced at Jennifer. “Really? Mussels? And you tell me I don’t have to indulge her? Can’t say mussels are normal fare like, say, meat loaf and fried chicken for a kid.”
“Okay, so I’ve taken her out to nice places occasionally. I’m allowed.”
“Didn’t say you weren’t. But if you’re allowed, why aren’t I?”
“Well, for starters, there’s the fact you’re not her parent.”
A very good point.
He’d forgotten this wasn’t a family outing and they weren’t a couple. Because it sure felt like this was and they were. Not that he’d really know since he’d never done anything like it before, but it felt like what he’d always thought one would feel like: inside jokes, lots of laughter, chatter in the backseat between the kids, grown-up talk in the front…
What was he doing? This was not his family and he did not belong with them. More importantly, he didn’t want to belong to them. He was a free spirit. In charge of his own destiny. Able to leap on a plane in an instant and be anywhere in the world within the next thirty-six hours. That was the life he’d wanted. The one he’d worked so hard to earn. The one that would give him financial security before he’d ever consider settling down. But, damn, as a preview of things to come, this afternoon wasn’t half-bad.
“So do they, Beck? I wanna get some for Cassie. She thinks they sound gross.”
He glanced back at them again, this time meeting Cassie’s eyes. “They do sound gross. So do clams and oysters. But not snails.”
“Ew, snails!” the girls sang in unison.
“Hey, snails are awesome. Some butter, some garlic… you don’t even know what you’re eating.”
Jennifer turned in her seat. “That’s because all you taste is the butter and garlic—which is as it should be. Without that, snails are just big giant—”
“Balls of snot!” Sami giggled so hard she jammed her seatbelt when she leaned forward.
“Of what?” Beck glanced in the mirror again. “I’ll have you know, young lady, that Mercurio’s does not permit such language. If the word snot crosses your lips once we step foot in the place, they’re going to ask us to leave and never come back.”
“Oh no. That would be awful.”
“You’re right, it would be.” Beck glanced in the rearview mirror again. “So you know what we have to do?”
“What?” Both girls leaned in as far as their seatbelts would allow.
“We need to get all the snots out of our system before we go in. Ready? One… two… three! Snot, snot, snot, snot, snot, snot!”
Soon, he had a giggle fest going on in the back seat amid a chorus of “snot!”s that carried over to the front seat, so that when they pulled into the parking lot of Mercurio’s, they all had to sit there for a few minutes until everyone caught their breath.
“Okay, ladies.” Beck held the back door open for the girls while they unbuckled. “Remember, best behavior. The one thing we don’t want is to get tossed out of the restaurant.”
“Yes, that would be bad,” said Cassie, looking so solemn Beck was a bit worried he’d touched a nerve. Or a bad memory.
“He’s just kiddin’, Cass. We’re not gonna get tossed out. You don’t hafta worry.” Sami’s comment confirmed what he’d thought.
“Yes, I’m just kidding, Cassie. No one’s going to ask us to leave. Matter of fact, I guarantee you they’ll ask us to come back.”
“They will? Why?”
“Because when you leave a big tip, they’re happy to have you come back.”
“What’s a tip?”
“Oooh, I know!” Sami jumped up and down with one hand in the air as if she was in school. “It’s money you leave on the table to thank the waiter. It tells them if they did a good job. Right, Mommy? Isn’t that what you said? That you get a reward for being a good worker?”
“That’s right, sweetie.” Jennifer herded the girls toward the entrance with hands on the backs of their heads. “Now, let’s be careful walking in the parking lot because people can’t always see you when they’re looking for a spot.”
“That’s silly,” said Sami with a snort. “Spots are empty and we’re not. How come they can’t see a real live person in an empty spot?”
“No, Sami,” said Cassie with authority in her voice and her shoulders rolled back as if she knew what she was talking about. “Your mommy means they can’t see you when you’re walking in the street because they’re looking for empty spots. They’re not paying attention.”
“Well that’s just not good driving. My mommy’s a good driver. So’s yours. People shouldn’t drive if they’re not good drivers.”
Beck’s head was spinning with seven-year-old logic by the time they were seated at the table—after he’d tipped the maître d’ to be sure to ask them to return when they were leaving later. Oh, the guy would anyway, but Beck had paid him to personally come to the table and make enough of a production about it that Jennifer’s lesson to Sami would sink in and that his promise would be fulfilled. The one thing he prided himself on was his word. What he said could be counted on. He’d had too many people let him down in his life by not keeping their word and he was never going to be that guy.
I hope you enjoy Beckett and Jennifer’s story, and all the stories. Book One, What A Woman Wants, is available for free so check it out as well! You can see all of the Manley Maids—and the rest of my books—on my website at www.JudiFennell.com.
Thanks for stopping by and thanks, Jen, for having me!
About the Book:
A friendly poker bet between friends … and the loser has to clean houses for a month. The Manley Maids are at your service … Satisfaction guaranteed.
Everything financial whiz-wunderkind Beckett Fields touches turns to gold—well, ever since he changed his name and turned his life around. But when he bets on the monthly poker game, it looks like his luck has just run out.
Or has it?
Dr. Jennifer Bingham has done everything right her whole life, starting in high school when she tried to help a cute guy everyone else thought was a loser. And now, thanks to the mess her twin sister has made of her life, Jennifer is raising her niece, Sami.
When bad boy Beckett shows up to clean her house, using a different name now, she tries to forget how he snubbed her years ago. But because of her ex-husband’s lies, the fallout from her sister’s mistakes, and the mystery of who might have fathered her niece, Jennifer isn’t leaving anything up to chance.
Until Sami runs away to find her dad, and Beckett antes up his support, his truth, and his love.
That’s a bet Jennifer’s willing to take.
Award-winning, best-selling author Judi Fennell loves to laugh and loves love, so it’s no surprise there’s a little bit of each in every book she writes. Check out her fairy tales with a twist for a taste of her light-hearted tongue-in-cheek paranormal and romantic comedies. From mermen to genies, to men in maid’s uniforms and male strippers, there’s always a laugh and love to be had.
And, in her copious (?) amounts of spare time, she helps authors with all aspects of writing and indie-publishing with her formatting, cover/promotional design, editorial, company, www.formatting4U.com.
Judi lives in suburban Philadelphia with a menagerie of four-legged friends, and the minute those creatures start A) singing, B) sewing clothing, or C) cleaning the house will be the day she retires from writing…