Like her brothers before her, Ash bursts to life immediately aware that something has gone terribly wrong in the world and that this is why she has been summoned. Normally, when a Guardian awakens, a Warden is present to inform of them about what the danger is and to help formulate a plan to keep the Seven in check. Like her brothers before her, Ash must deal with the fact that her newly minted Warden doesn't have the slightest clue about what is going on, or even that he is a person of power. With a threat looming, Ash barely has time to think about the ramifications that she is the first female Guardian ever and that she is developing feelings for Michael. The fate of the world is at risk and Ash and Michael are simply unprepared to meet it.
Unlike the other books in this series, Warren tried to infuse a little more humour into the story. Anyone who has siblings and has retained a close relationship with them into adulthood should be able to see themselves reflected. Sure, Michael and his four sister are all adults now and are living active and busy lives but that doesn't mean they won't rat each other to their mother or engage in puerile games to get what they want. At times, this approach had me laughing and thinking about my own younger brothers.
As a male love interest Michael was as crotchity as an old man. I understand that he would have been overwhelmed by a honest to goodness gargoyle coming to life and learning that the forces of evil were aligning but the way that he treated Ash throughout the novel was truly disturbing. I don't think that Michael actually ever moved past sexualising her and so when he declared love, which is the habit in paranormal series, it didn't fit for even a moment. Michael barely saw Ash as human let alone an individual person with feelings which could be hurt. This of course was magnified by the fact that the evolution of Michael's relationship with Ash mostly happened through internal monologue rather than shared experiences.
One of the things that I have loved about the Gargoyles series is that it felt explicitly feminist and I am sad to report, it seems that Warren decided to drop this approach in Hard to Handle. While it was funny to see Michael's interactions with his siblings and mother, it was particularly problematic the way that gender was treated. Warren actually sought to frame Michael as a oppressed by having so many women in his life. Really? Being surrounded by women is hard? If that were not enough, Michael constantly used the feminine as a pejorative.
In the retelling, he imagined he would change the scream to a hoarse, manly shout of surprise; but in the moment, the high pitch of his girlish exclamation sounded like a harmony to the unearthly shriek that shook the air around them. (pg 7)
He might have soiled himself, or at the very least, whimpered and cried like a little girl. Very bad for his image. (pg 15)
He screamed, a small part of his mind shaking free of the error to wonder whether or not he sounded like a little girl. (pg 95)
He opened his mouth to release another, girly wordless scream and heard instead his own voice bellow in an unfamiliar tone of command. (pg 98)
Michael's very understanding of masculinity itself is extremely problematic