The Guys' Guy's Guide to Love by Robert Manni book cover
The Guys’ Guy’s Guide to Love (2011) is a romp through the glitzy world of Madison Avenue ad agencies, and the sexual politics of modern-day Manhattan. Max Hallyday is a rising-star in the world of advertising, but with a new high-pressure job and demanding girlfriend things are far from simple. When his womanizing best friend, Roger, seduces one of Max’s key clients, Max is forced to respond; penning a column, for his friend Cassidy’s magazine, Max reveals the tactics that guys like Roger use to get women into bed. The column becomes an overnight success, but can Max handle the attention, and get his love life, career, and happiness in order?

The novel explores spiritual ideas in relation to the sexual politics of an ever-advancing world, finding that fulfilment is reached through goodness and positivity, rather than manipulation and out- smarting others. In some ways the book is a treatise on modern masculinity; on combining the evolutionary imperative to be a dominant male, with the need to express and understand complex emotions and social dynamics. However, more than anything The Guys’ Guy’s Guide to Love sets out to be a fun ride through the hectic lives of a handful of Manhattan’s hungry up-and-comers, with a good spiritual message at its centre - for the most part it achieves this.

The writing is smooth and, despite the dramatic potential of some scenes barely being stretched, moves along nicely. However, there are problems. The biggest of which is the complete lack of perspective on relative timelines; where one character’s story advances several months, another’s progresses just a few days, causing a hugely confusing situation when the two are brought together. Even within character’s plotlines the timescale seems confused. There is also a problem with the character’s knowledge or, more accurately, their ignorance, of the world around them. There are huge coincidences, and plenty of moments where one’s credulity is stretched beyond breaking point by the sheer daftness of the character’s lack of awareness. Indeed, there are a number of rather clunky plot devices used throughout. For example, in one scene Max gives a reading from one of the children’s stories he writes. This facet of his character is incongruous, and is mentioned neither before, nor after this one scene. Clearly this contrivance was used purely to introduce the character of Brenton Banks - a diversionary love interest for Cassidy - who turns out to be utterly superfluous to the plot.

As a protagonist, Max is a little on the dull side and, with the technique of shifting between narrative perspectives that is employed, becomes a little overshadowed by the more charismatic characters. All the female characters are described as attractive in one way or another and, with no contrast, this soon becomes meaningless. Equally, the frequency of sexual relations, and the ease with which they are achieved, becomes boring; the lack of emotion in these passages meaning they read more as described fantasies than well-observed dramatic scenes. There are also times when the characters’ behaviour appears driven by the plot rather than their own personality, yet another example of sloppy writing.

If one is prepared to ignore some of the minor failings, the book can be a lot of fun. However, on many occasions there appears to be a frustrating subtext within the novel, in which the author is using the book as a form of seduction itself, projecting and promoting his spiritual, cultural, and romantic nature through his writing. The references that suggest this are often unnecessary and this continual self-promotion becomes irritating quickly. Having said this, The Guys’ Guy’s Guide to Love rattles along, and it’s easy to get swept up in the story. Sadly, the ending is predictable, doe-eyed, and frankly not at all in-keeping with the dog-eat-dog world of Madison Avenue: Mad Men this ain’t.

Despite a few issues with the way the novel is construced, I enjoyed this. It's fun, light, and has some good ideas without getting bogged down in them. A page-turner, and an easy read.

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