A Man In A Million, by Jessica Bird

>> Thursday, November 12, 2009

TITLE: A Man In A Million
AUTHOR: Jessica Bird (aka JR Ward)

COPYRIGHT: 256
PAGES: Silhouette
PUBLISHER: 2007

SETTING: Contemporary US
TYPE: Category romance
SERIES: Related to books in the Moorhouse Legacy series, and also to The Billionaire Next Door.

REASON FOR READING: I liked The Billionaire Next Door, despite the sucky title.

As far as bad boy Spike Moriarty was concerned, Madeline Maguire defined female perfection. When they'd met, she'd walked up as if she wasn't the most gorgeous thing on the planet and asked to see his tattoos. He--a tough guy who'd make grown men run--had just about passed out. But their connection was definitely one-way…it had to be. Because he could never be the man in a million she was looking for, not with the things he'd done and seen. So for as long as she'd let him, he'd give her whatever she wanted. He'd worry about her walking away when it happened.
Sometimes when an author writes both single titles and categories, they have very different feels. Nalini Singh is a good example of that; her categories read nothing like her single titles. This is not the case with Jessica Bird / JR Ward. Her categories affect me just as her Black Dagger Brotherhood books do, in that they get me in the gut and make me 100% absorbed in the story, while often irritating the bloody hell out of me.

Madeline Maguire and Spike Moriarty are both good friends of Sean O'Banyon (whose story is told in The Billionaire Next Door, and I must say, he must have had a personality transplant in between this book and his). Since their first meeting, they've been eyeing each other in fascination, but neither thinks the other could possibly be interested in them. Madeline is a competitive sailor and has always felt unfeminine and unattractive, especially next to her beautiful sister (whom Mad's boyfriends have a history of prefering to her). Someone as sexy as Spike could never actually want her. Spike, meanwhile, comes from a modest background and looks quite rough, with tattoos all over his body. Someone from a background as privileged as Mad's could never actually want him. Not to mention his five and a half years in jail for killing a man (to save his sister's life, of course). The last woman he told about this dropped him like a hot potato, and he fears Mad would have the same reaction.

But things change when Mad asks Spike for help. She's been avoiding her bully of a half-brother for ages, but she now needs to take action on some family business, and that requires her to confront him. The idea of spending an entire weekend at the family house fills her with dread, and Sean can't help her, so no one's left but Spike.

There's plenty of silly / annoying things about the book. For instance, Madeline's character felt very contradictory to me, and I never felt she made sense. On one hand she's a renowned athlete, very much a jock, nicknamed Mad Dog, of all things! On the other, she's a doormat and a complete pushover with her family. Fortunately, from the beginning of the book she's determined to stop this spineless behaviour and stands up to her stupid brother every time (otherwise I don't think I'd have been able to finish this), but the things that nasty bastard would say to her and expect her not to react to gave an idea of just how passive she must have been in the past.

And then there was her eating. Or rather, her not eating. She's forever playing with her food, or refusing to order breakfast, or pretending she's just eating. Aside from the fact that it irritated me that so much was made of it, that made no sense at all for an athlete, especially not one with a training schedule as punishing as Madeline's. Wouldn't you need at least some calories if you're going to burn off so many? I'm not expecting Michael Phelps here, and maybe she'd eat some things but not others, but I would expect her to at least eat!

Spike's a more consistent character and I understood his reluctance to tell Mad about his history. However, I wasn't too convinced about the final conflict, which was a very cliched Big Misunderstanding one could see coming miles and miles away, and in which the "villain" behaved in very cartoonishly villainy ways.

But for all that, oh, the romance! I just loved, loved, loved Spike's reactions to Mad, which just border on awe at the beginning (he thinks of her as an Amazonian goddess and thinks every man is drooling after her, and he becomes tongue-tied if she as much as looks at him), and turn into a very sweet protectiveness and worship as the book goes on. This is a very sexy book without being particularly explicit. It's more the sort of steaminess that gives you the shivers because you really get what a huge deal it is for the two characters to be together.

Oh, well, I'll definitely keep reading Bird. I know I'll have to keep myself from rolling my eyes at the irritating bits, but that the good bits will more than make up for that.

MY GRADE: A B.

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