Cover image for Handyman
Nichols, Linda, 1954-
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Publication Information:
New York : Delacorte Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
296 pages ; 22 cm
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An accidental therapy session is the catalyst for change in Linda Nichols's winsome, witty, irresistible debut novel--a love story about two people who don't realize they're made for each other until it's almost too late. Sweet, struggling Maggie Ivey is a twenty-six-year-old single mom trying to keep it all together, burdened by a lecherous boss, a dead-end job, and a worried mother who just wants her to move back home to Georgia. Maggie's prospects look dim, until her friend Gina signs her up for the famous Dr. Jason Golding's 21-Day Overhaul. Maggie's first session seems to go perfectly. Dr. Golding is warm, sensitive, and a terrific listener. There's only one problem: The handsome man in Dr. Golding's chair isn't Dr. Golding. In fact, he's not even a therapist; he's Jake Cooper, a contractor hired to remodel the office. But all Maggie knows is that talking to him helps her feel better. And Jake doesn't quite know how to let Maggie in on the secret. Will he eventually confess to his ruse? Will she discover the truth on her own? And the most important question of all: Can a handyman fix a broken heart? Set in the San Francisco Bay Area, and featuring a cast of characters impossible to resist,Handymanis a fresh new look at the oldest story of all and just what the doctor ordered for anyone with a case of the blues. Maggie's first session seems to go perfectly. Dr. Golding is warm, sensitive, and a terrific listener. There's only one problem: the handsome man in Dr. Golding's chair isn't Dr. Golding. In fact, he's not even a therapist; he's Jake Cooper, a contractor hired to remodel the office. Will Jake eventually confess? Will Maggie discover the truth on her own? And the real question: Can a handyman fix a broken heart? Set in the San Francisco Bay area, and featuring a cast of characters impossible to resist, Handyman is a fresh new look at the oldest story of all and just what the doctor ordered for the mid-winter blues. -->

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

When Maggie Ivey unloads her problems on the wonderful, understanding man in the office of eminent psychologist Jason Golding, she doesn't realize that the listener isn't the doctor but a contractor hired to install a "rebirthing" hot tub. Jake Cooper is basically a good man, but he can't bring himself to embarrass Maggie or himself by revealing the truth. Instead, he tries to help Maggie the way he knows best, by fixing the things that are wrong in her life. There are only two problems with this plan: Maggie thinks the "doctor" is operating on the three-week schedule outlined in his book The 21 Day Life Overhaul, but the real doctor is due back any day from heart surgery in New York. On this skeleton is hung the funniest, most poignant love story to come off the presses in years. Nichols manages to get in some sly digs at psychobabble and self-help fads, but her humor tends to be warm and forgiving rather than malicious. Recommended for anyone who wants a novel that touches both the heart and the funny bone. --George Needham

Publisher's Weekly Review

Nichols's contemporary romance debut is built around an engaging comedy of mistaken identity. When a weeping Maggie Ivey enters the San Francisco therapy office of Dr. Jason Golding, hoping to have her life magically transformed by his famous 21-Day Overhaul, she has no idea what she's letting herself in for. The real doctor has been hospitalized with a heart attack and the man behind his desk is his carpenter, Jake Cooper. Before he can clear up the misunderstanding, Jake is swept along by Maggie's account of her not-so-small problems, which include a sick child for whom she is the sole caregiver and a boss who is both sexually harassing and underpaying her. Missing several chances to correct Maggie's error, Jake instead finds himself scheduling her next appointment. Maggie, meanwhile, is pleasantly surprised to find that her therapist is more like a kindly genie than Sigmund Freud. Jake's unconventional approach to Maggie's problems involves practical assistanceÄhe strong-arms her boss, fixes the locks on her doors and reads to her sonÄbut he encourages her to develop her own backbone, too. As it becomes clear that the two are attracted to each other, however, complications arise. What will they do when Maggie's three weeks of therapy end? And how will Maggie react if and when Jake finally confesses that the man she's come to trust so much has been harboring one fairly big whopper of a lie? Nichols has a fine sense of irony and her lampoon of the expensive self-help industry is often droll. There's even a madcap climax … la the Marx Brothers, and the denouement will satisfy the sensibilities of romantics and justice seekers alike. Major ad/promo. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Pretty, sweet Maggie Ivey is struggling with the familiar problems that weigh down many twentysomethings: a small son with ear infections, a harassing boss, a hopeless temporary job, and far too little money. When a friend gives her the gift of a life-makeover from a San Francisco yuppie psychiatrist, she decides to go for it. The shrink, though, has huge problems of his own and is out of town. A contractor named Jake (handsome and charming, of course), measuring the office for remodeling, decides on the spur of the moment to pretend he is the doctor. From that moment on, there are many more "of courses." Both are disentangling from awful relationships she with a jerk and he with a preening snob. Tales of love triumphing over mistaken identity are probably even older than Shakespeare and a staple of light romances. Still, the crazies surrounding the protagonists are boldly drawn and save the story from drowning in clich‚s. Reader Katherine Borowitz does a great job with the voices. Recommended for public libraries with an audience for easy listening romantic fluff. Barbara Valle, El Paso P.L., TX (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Tuesday, April 21 "Just tell me one thing." Ethelda was bent over the plans she was drafting for Dr. Jason Solomon Golding's office remodel, her pencil poised in the air. She looked right at home at the secretary's desk, though Jake knew better than to tease her about it. "What on God's green earth," she asked him, "is a psychologist going to do with a hot tub this size, and smack in the middle of his office?" Jake shrugged. "Not our job to ask," he said, and went into the doctor's inner office to finish measuring. "Maybe he likes the open concept," he called over his shoulder. "Uh-hunh," Ethelda answered back. Jake thought it was strange, too. The doctor's present arrangement of L-shaped waiting room, reception desk, and small half bath with walled-off inner office seemed perfectly adequate to him, though Ethelda, with her designer's eye, said the architect could have done more to maximize the view. But who knew what went on in these guys' heads? These celebrity therapist types were odd ducks, all of them, and from what Bob Metzger had told him, this guy was the king of nutcases--always coming up with some new way to bilk people out of their cash--his latest offering being some sort of birth therapy where you got into a hot tub and pretended you were being born again. Jake shook his head, incredulous at the idea of people paying money for such a thing. He went back to work measuring the room that would not exist in a week or so when the doctor's plan was implemented, and opted not to share what little he knew about the hot tub with Ethelda. She would have an opinion, and the ensuing discussion would probably last all the way back to Petaluma, and the truth was, he didn't really care what Dr. Golding was going to do with his hot tub. In fact, he didn't even really want this job, and was tempted to put the bid high enough to ensure they wouldn't get it. Petaluma was a long way from San Francisco, a good thirty minutes if he drove and forty-five or so if Ethelda took the wheel. He'd done the estimate only because Bob Metzger was a good customer and had asked him to, but there were plenty of jobs closer to home. He thought about the people he knew who got on the bus at four A.M. to be in San Francisco by eight for the start of the business day, and concluded again that they were crazy. Jake was even sorry they'd agreed to do the estimate, regardless of the fact that the money was better in the city than it would be for the same job anywhere north of Marin County. Golding was already proving to be a pain, leaving phone messages and sending faxes, trying to get them to hurry things along. Well, he'd give the guy his estimate. Today. Five more minutes and they'd be on their way, Jake told himself. And then, with any luck, he and Ethelda would never see this place again. His Stanley steel measuring tape snapped back from its twenty-five-foot extension, giving that satisfying little schwaap that he loved, and he bent over to note the last measurement on his chart, actually a page in a frayed three-and-a-half-by-five-inch spiral notebook he carried in his pocket. A door opened and closed. He looked up, thinking it was Ethelda, but it was not Ethelda he saw coming through the doorway of Golding's office. It was someone else--a small woman, a girl Jake would have called her if he hadn't learned not to--and he could tell with just one glance that she had been crying hard, and recently. Her face was mottled--little red splotches all the way down her neck to her chest. Her nose was bright red, and she stabbed at it savagely with a crumpled--up tissue. He remembered the little cloudbursts his sister, Shelley, would treat them to from time to time when they were growing up, but this was nothing like those. Even he, a failure where everything about women was concerned, knew this woman had been doing a different kind of crying. He thought about Shelley's sniffling histrionics and shook his head. This woman's crying had been no mere cloudburst. It would have taken a thundering gully washer of tears to leave her in such a state. Jake dropped the measuring tape onto the chair behind the doctor's huge desk, beside his jacket and frayed blue Cooper-Jackson Construction cap. He straightened up and tried to think of what to do. Ethelda stood behind the woman in the doorway, arms over her chest, her face a familiar cross between humor and suspicion. The crying woman seemed oblivious to both of them, to everything but the cause of those tears. She looked sad and tight, and after a second or two she spoke, but hesitantly, as if she were afraid that making any sound would cause her careful control to wash away. She stood there, just inside the door, all blotchy and red, and said, "I'm Maggie Ivey. I'm here for the 21-Day Overhaul." Jake felt rooted to his spot by the desk. His mouth opened and closed, but no words came out. The crying woman--Maggie Ivey--didn't seem to notice. She walked over to Dr. Golding's little love seat and crossed her arms over her chest. Jake could see a new crop of hives beginning on her neck, right before his eyes. She glanced toward the seat, and then back at him, and he realized she was waiting for an invitation to sit down. "Please." He gestured toward the little couch. "Thank you," said Maggie Ivey in a polite, tight little voice. She sat down on the love seat and dropped her purse into a heap at her feet, then pulled out a fresh tissue from her pocket and looked around for a place to put the used one. Jake looked around, too, a little wildly, but he couldn't locate the trash can. Maggie Ivey finally put the Kleenex on her knee. She took a second or two and seemed to be gearing up to say something. Jake watched her face go from stiff to crumpled to scrunched, and then she began crying again, so hard that the words she tried to say came out as rhythmic groans, the same sound his engine made when the battery was dead and he tried to start it. Ethelda still stood in the doorway. "I can't do this anymore," the crying woman said, but taking much longer than normal and each word interspersed with the dead battery noises. Ethelda, who seemed to be much better at architectural planning than sign language, was motioning, and mouthing things Jake couldn't decipher. Tell her something. He motioned himself--that Ethelda should come in and talk to the crying woman--but she waved him away and walked back out toward the waiting room, leaving him alone. Jake felt foolish just standing there by the desk, so he pulled a chair from the corner and dragged it over to the love seat. He positioned it to face the crying woman, but he wasn't exactly able to face her, since her face was now on her knees. Her arms were around them, too, and her shoulders shook with the force of her sobs. She stayed that way for quite a while. It seemed like hours to Jake, though it was probably only five minutes or so. But five minutes was a long time, he thought, when you were heaving those great, gut-wrenching sobs as Maggie Ivey was doing. And through it all, he sat there. He was afraid to touch her, so he just rested his elbows on his knees, leaned forward, and waited for her to finish, his heart pounding from all the emotion in the room. At first. But then, oddly enough, after a while he forgot all about his own discomfort, and instead felt pity stirring somewhere in the vicinity of his tight chest, that someone so young and pretty could be carrying burdens that would bring her to such a state. He wished he could think of something to do or say. He murmured something from time to time. "It's okay," usually. He gave up on "What's wrong?" after the first minute or so, when he realized that Maggie Ivey wouldn't be able to tell him right then even if she had known. Finally, after what seemed an eternity of listening to her tearing cries, the sobs diminished and came farther apart. Jake looked around the room again, more calmly this time, located a box of Kleenex, and rose up from his chair long enough to get it, prompting Maggie Ivey to lift her wet face. He handed her the box without speaking. She mopped her eyes, and with an embarrassed glance at him, blew her nose. Jake shifted on his seat. "I'm sorry," she finally said, sounding as if she had a bad cold. "No need to apologize." Jake shook his head and examined his shoes, then couldn't help noticing hers. She had tiny little feet, and she wore loafers, old and a little run-down at the heels, but carefully polished, and a bright new penny in each. She straightened up, and so did he, but neither one of them looked at the other for another minute. When he glanced at her, Maggie Ivey was dabbing at her eyes and nose, and twisting the Kleenex by turns. She had quite a pile of them on her knee now. Jake finally spied the trash can over by Golding's desk, so he got it and put it by her feet, and with a little flush Maggie Ivey threw the tissues away. Jake decided to leave the wastebasket close by, then sat down again himself and continued waiting. He wasn't sure exactly what he was waiting for, but somehow in the wake of all that emotion he felt Maggie Ivey should be the first one to speak. She finally did, hesitantly at first, but seeming to gain speed and strength as she went along. Jake leaned back in his chair, rested his hands on his thighs, and listened. It didn't seem like quite the time to correct Maggie Ivey's obvious mistake in thinking he was Dr. Golding, though as she gathered steam, he began to feel uncomfortable again. A few times she paused and he opened his mouth to tell her, but he was slow getting the words out, and each time before he could bring himself to say them Maggie Ivey would begin talking again or shed a fresh batch of tears. Excerpted from Handyman by Linda Nichols All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.