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Hot guys. And knitting.

Cover of Real Men Knit
A review of Real Men Knit by K. M. Jackson

It's a bit of misnomer to call Kwana Jackson’s newest novel, Real Men Knit a romance. It’s being billed as such by its publisher, but this is really more the story of a family with strong elements of romance intertwined. And unlike many other romances, this one begins with a tragedy: Mama Joy Strong, a foster-turned-adoptive mother to four boys and the proprietor of Harlem’s Strong Knits knitting store, has suddenly died. Her boys, now all grown and more or less launched into life with varying degrees of success, are left stunned. Jesse, in particular, was devoted to his mom and to her store, a cornerstone in their neighborhood. But Jesse hasn’t progressed much beyond dabbling here and there in careers and his only successes seem to be in the number of one night stands for which he’s become notorious. Jesse’s three other brothers—firefighter Lucas, financial guru Damian and dancer Noah—have moved beyond the shop to pursue their own interests, and view selling the shop as the only option. And once it’s revealed that Mama Joy had taken out a very large loan on the shop and family home above it, the possibility of keeping the property going seems impossible. Jesse sees the shop as his opportunity to make not just something of himself but to continue Mama Joy’s commitment to the largely African-American neighborhood. But can he convince his brothers that he can make a go of it?

He has a very important ally in Kerry Fuller. Although she wasn’t adopted by Mama Joy, she might have well been. Friends with the Strong family since childhood, Kerry has been a part of the shop almost as long, and views with the dismay the possibility of its closure. Unsure of her own path, Kerry wants to help with the store, but working with Jesse is a fraught proposition: he views her as ‘just Kerry’ and his dismissal of her rankles, although she’s not sure why she’s suddenly so concerned with what he thinks of her. When an apartment mishap forces Kerry take up residence in the Strong household, the awkwardness only grows. But close quarters, late night knitting sessions and a shared sense of mission have a way of putting feelings in a new light. Is it enough for them to commit to more than the store and find a way to commit to each other as well?

Real Men Knit is a series launch, and Jackson has a lot of exposition to get through before Jesse and Kerry can really come to fore. It doesn’t give a lot of opportunity to really understand what drives Kerry and Jesse in their choices, and forces their romance into a sort of rushed conclusion. But Jackson hints that the Strong story will not end with Kerry and Jesse, and those other Strong men—whose backstories, hinted at here, offer promising storylines of their own--have yet to find their HEAs. Real Men Knit is a good choice for those who enjoy enemies-to-lovers romances, romances that follow multiple characters through several books and stories with strong family connections.

Jul 1, 2020