Ron and Jill—his girlfriend of six months—discovered the house of their dreams in 2000: a landmark Baltimore brownstone that had belonged to a notorious fraternity. It was condemned property, had sat abandoned for nearly a year, and was such a wreck that no one would buy it. But Jill wanted the house and Ron wanted Jill. So he bought the 4500-square-foot ruin. Neither he nor Jill knew anything about house repair or renovation. The bank gave them six months to get the house up to code. The neighborhood historians told them flatly, "You'll never bring that house back." Ron's realtor said, "This house will eat you alive." Ron's mother said, "Why do you always do things the hard way?"
Impulsive and quixotic—and with two marriages behind him—Ron
inspired little confidence. His life had been a series of mistakes and
wrong turns. He recognized that taking on this wrecked frat house could
be the biggest mistake of his life and he wondered if this time, in what
seemed his final reach for love, he had reached too far. As soon as he
and Jill started working on the house, they were at odds every day and
it became clear to them both that the project would very likely ruin
them financially and emotionally. Panicked, flirting with bankruptcy,
and barreling through disasters, they had to learn how to live, love,
and work together—and succeed against seemingly insurmountable odds.