His Comfort and Joy

From the First

An Irresistible Bachelor

Beauty and the Black Sheep

A Man in a Million
by Jessica Bird
(Silh. Sp. Ed. #1803, $4.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-373-24803-2
Michael “Spike” Moriarty is six-feet-four of bad boy in leather. He has a difficult past, to say the least, and his policy towards women is pretty much hands-off. Besides, no woman in her right mind would have him if she knew what his past entailed. Now a successful chef, Spike avoids most social engagements. This one, however, is different: one of his best pals is getting married, and Spike must attend the engagement party.

Arriving late and slightly disheveled, Spike is stunned to see Madeline Maguire, whom he met a few months earlier. Madeline, who looked at him with interest and asked to see his tattoos. Madeline, who was not only drop-dead gorgeous, but also smart. Madeline, who comes from money and is a professional sailor on America’s Cup-level racing yachts. Surely she isn’t interested in him. Better to keep his distance.

Madeline has some serious self-esteem issues. For starters, she’s six feet tall. Add on a miserable upbringing with a stepfather who constantly belittled her; a half-sister Amelia, who slept with two of Madeline’s boyfriends; and her own athleticism, and she’s totally unsure around men. Especially someone as gorgeous as Spike Moriarty. He could have his pick of women – he’d never be interested in her.

Mad and Spike are thrown together when both spend the night at their mutual friend Sean’s apartment. Sean can see the attraction between them, and does his best to foster it. A series of false assumptions, however, leaves Mad and Spike more convinced than ever that neither is interested. But Madeline needs help, and she turns to Spike. Her half-brother, Richard, controls her trust, and when she turns twenty-five in a few weeks, Mad will be eligible to vote her own shares in the supermarket chain her family owns. Richard has cowed Madeline forever. It’s time she stood up to him, but she could use a backup. Someone like, oh, Spike.

At first, he refuses, and Madeline arrives at Richard’s alone. Soon Spike shows up on his Harley, however, not exactly sure himself why he came. Over the course of the weekend, he and Madeline will establish a relationship, and it’s sweet and sincere. But Richard will do just about anything to keep control of Madeline’s trust, including digging up dirt on her newfound boyfriend and calling in Amelia to do her worst.

If this story stumbles at all, it’s in the use of the Big Misunderstanding to create a crisis. The author sets it up carefully, and both Madeline and Spike have definite traumas in their backgrounds, but it’s still rather annoying. It’s a shame, too, because the rest of the story is excellent. Spike and Madeline are clearly meant for one another, and they complete each other in more ways than just sex. They’re likable characters and well worth rooting for.

A side issue – that Madeline virtually starves herself to keep in shape – is used carelessly and not very realistically. A woman who eats so little that she stops menstruating has a serious problem, not one that will be fixed by, “Gee, I guess I’ll eat some more from now on.” I didn’t buy this for one minute, and other than using it as a plot point to prevent a pregnancy, I couldn’t figure out what it was doing in the story at all.

But overall, A Man in a Million is an excellent category romance between two adults who can’t quite believe anyone would really be attracted to them. Madeline and Spike are wonderful characters and well worth your time. I hope the author has plans for some of the side characters, too – Sean would be excellent hero material.

--Cathy Sova

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