Prolific romance novelist Marilyn Pappano published A Man Like Smith
, the third book in her Southern Knights
series, in 1995. Like the rest of the Knights
books, the novel is set in the fictional Serenity Street neighborhood of New Orleans, a rundown area where organized crime is rampant and lower-level criminals are under the thumb of slippery mob boss Jimmy Falcone. Each of the novels in the series foregrounds a figure in the immediate periphery of Falcone—all would-be “knights” who are doing their best to fight against his terrible influence from the right and wrong side of the tracks. In A Man Like Smith
, the “knight” is a prosecutor who has a personal connection to Falcone driving both his relentless pursuit of this crime lord and attempts to find the source feeding a local journalist information.
Smith Kendricks has done his best to make his adopted city of New Orleans his home. Having rejected the cushy law path laid out for him by his wealthy family, he has instead dedicated himself to public service, quickly rising through the prosecutorial ranks to become an Assistant District Attorney despite his youth. But although he has developed meaningful friendships with clairvoyant police officer Michael, the protagonist of the series’ first novel, Michael’s Gift
, and retired FBI agent Remy, the main character of the series’ second novel Regarding Remy
, Smith has started to feel something is missing. Both of his friends are married, while Smith still lives in the bachelor condo he found when he first moved to New Orleans. He would like to settle down and have a family.
But all that will come after he cracks the case of his career—a case that might actually take down Jimmy Falcone, the head of the crime syndicate plaguing the streets. Not only could Smith put Falcone behind bars, he could get even with the vicious mobster for having harmed both Michael and Remy earlier.
There’s just one problem: Smith needs the help of ace reporter Jolie Wade, a muckraker covering crime for the local newspaper. Jolie has many contacts in the unsavory underworld she writes about, mostly because she takes scrupulous care to keep their identities secret. Recently, she has been writing uncannily accurate articles about the crime at the heart of Smith’s case—clearly, she has a very well-placed informant feeding her excellent information. Despite Smith’s entreaties, Jolie refuses to reveal the identity of this unsavory character.
Unlike Smith, Jolie is entirely focused on her career. She grew up poor in New Orleans, with neglectful and borderline abusive parents who did little for her and her younger siblings. Having had to raise her siblings practically on her own, Jolie has vowed to never marry or have children because she still spends most of her personal energy on her siblings and because she is worried that she might repeat the horrible mistakes her own mother and father made.
Smith feels very attracted to Jolie but worries that their careers will prevent them from having a relationship. Jolie also has feelings for Smith but is apprehensive because she has an ulterior motive for not wanting to give up her source to him.
Nevertheless, their close working relationship soon becomes a romantic one. The more Jolie explains to Smith how little she wants to settle down, the more she realizes that this is no longer true—and the more Smith wants to show her that marriage and family don’t have to mean abuse and misery. Still, Jolie doesn’t fully trust in Smith’s affections, wondering why a man as perfect as he would want to be with someone like her.
Eventually, however, Jolie realizes that revealing her source is in the best interests of the public good. She explains that she has been receiving her information from Nicholas Carlucci, Jimmy Falcone’s lawyer, who has secretly been working against Falcone for years by collecting evidence of everything the mob boss has been up to in order to eventually turn against him. Jolie doesn’t want to expose Nick to danger and doesn’t want to admit that the reason he became her source is that he was her first love—and the man who broke her heart.
Smith convinces Nick to turn state’s evidence. Nick agrees, but only on the condition that he does not get immunity in exchange for his testimony—he doesn’t want to be a rat, but a man doing a noble act. The ramification of Nick’s decision will form the plotline of the sixth novel in the series, Knight Errant
The novel ends happily, with Jolie and Smith on the way to a more lasting and deeper union.