Samuel Cooke knows most women wouldn’t give him a second glance even if he were the last man on earth. He’s the cripple with crutches, the nerdy computer genius every female past puberty feels compelled to mother. So when he leaves his lucrative career to teach programming to high schoolers, romance definitely isn’t on his radar.
Perhaps that’s why Greta Cassamajor catches him off guard. The sarcastic gym coach with zero sense of humor is no beauty—not even on the inside. But an inexplicably kind act toward Samuel makes him realize she is interesting.
Samuel is certain she won’t accept his invitation to dinner—so when she does, he’s out of his depth. All he knows is that he’ll do whatever it takes to keep her as long as he can. Pretending he’s got his class under control? Easy. Being vulnerable enough to admit why he ditched his programming career for teaching? Um, no. That would require honesty. And if there’s one thing Samuel can’t exist without, it’s the lies he tells himself.
In this poignant, witty debut, Ramsey Hootman upends traditional romance tropes to weave a charming tale of perseverance, trust, and slightly conditional love.
Hootman's terrific debut, a most unlikely romance, involves a 34-year-old crippled computer geek and a middle-aged Sue Sylvester–like gym teacher/basketball coach with a penchant for addressing him as "Mr. Cooke." Samuel Cooke joins a Northern California high school's faculty to teach programming classes after taking a 10% stake in the successful software firm that formerly employed him. Despite being warned against gym teacher Greta Cassamajor, a 46-year-old who towers over and outweighs him, he feels strangely attracted to her. Recognizing Greta's prickly nature and uncompromising attitude, Samuel nonetheless sets out to navigate a relationship with her. He has the outward social graces she lacks, but hidden underneath is fear, anger, and self-pity, particularly over the congenital birth defect that forces him to use elbow crutches and ankle braces. While Samuel faces the school's unprincipled principal, outdated computers, and difficult students, Greta proves remarkably perceptive and caring. By the end of this surprisingly sweet, if sometimes bitter, novel, Samuel has started to appreciate everyone else he has on his side, including his housekeeper, who helps him woo Greta, a nosy fellow teacher, and an old boss who advises him that "in real life, you spend a lot of time on your ass."