Help Wanted: Mafe by Cooper McKenzie

Help Wanted: Mafe by Cooper McKenzie
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (95 pages)
Other: M/F
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Fern

Harper Ellis finds it harder and harder to juggle the responsibilities of her growing design business, her five-year-old daughter, Miranda, and everything involved in keeping their household running. During a girls’ night in with her best friend, Harper lists all the qualities she wants in a man-wife. Little does she expect for Brenna to post the ad.

The “Help Wanted: Mafe” advertisement intrigued him and before he knows it, Air Force veteran Foster Michaels finds himself hired for the job of man-wife by dress designer, Harper Ellis, and her five-year-old daughter, Miranda.
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Will Foster be able to take over enough of the household to help Harper meet her deadlines? Will Miranda act out and chase Foster off as she has with previous help? Can Foster come up with a meal comprised entirely of orange foods as requested by the Fairy Princess Miranda?

Harper is struggling to balance her life. Between her energetic, smart five year old daughter, running her own rapidly growing business and keeping her house from looking like it was falling apart she has no time left over for luxuries like sleep. When her best friend starts talking about a mafe – a man-wife – Harper thinks it’s an excellent idea, but she has no idea her friend had actually taken the suggestion and run an add for Harper requesting just this. When Foster Michaels answers the advertisement at first it seems a little too crazy, but Harper is desperate for the help.

Previous to this story I’d not heard of a mafe and was pleased that the author clearly (and early on in the story) explained exactly what it was, a man-wife, responsible and keen to stay at home and cook, clean and help with the children. I liked the idea and found as a plot device it was really strong. I also immediately adored Foster’s character. Financially comfortable and at a loose end after quitting his job as a paramedic and the crazy shift hours just no longer worked for him – or his PTSD after serving in the Air Force – Foster is looking for a challenge and something to keep boredom at bay. While the whole concept of a mafe is outside the box for him, he knows it will certainly keep him busy and retain his attention.

It took me a while to get on board with Foster and Harper’s professional and romantic relationship. I’m not certain whether I just didn’t feel enough chemistry between them, or whether the whole insta-lust coupled with a professional relationship all in the space of a few hours of meeting each other just didn’t work for me. Particularly when they back-tracked the relationship after that first day, but then were intimate again mere hours after deciding to remain platonic. The entire aspect of their relationship (working vs romantic) just felt jumbled, confusing and uncertain to me – the back and forth of sexual to platonic felt weird and uncomfortable to me because Harper kept saying one thing, but then initiating something completely different. I think I just never really felt I understood what she really felt or wanted for herself and in particular from Foster. Despite the fact this story is meant to be a sexy romance I feel it would have been far stronger had the chemistry and attraction been built up from the start and Harper and Foster had given the whole situation more time to evolve more naturally and realistically. I think this would have also sold me a lot more on the chemistry and attraction between the two characters – which I really didn’t feel until almost half way into the story.

The real strength in the story I felt was the characters themselves. Harper in particular was extremely relatable to my mind. Strong, capable, modern and trying to do it all I feel she will really resonate with most readers. Foster, too, is a wonderful character and I adored him right from the outset. Watching him tackle head-on Miranda (Harper’s daughter) in an only-eat-orange-things mood and be a complete success was a highlight and Foster only improved from there. I adored his interactions with Miranda and loved how seamlessly he fit into their home and family.

With a deliciously happy ending and two strong, modern and competent characters there’s a lot to really enjoy in this story. I’m completely sold on the idea of mafe’s and am totally on board with trying more stories like this in the future.

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