Reviewed: January 16, 2011
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Moorehouse Legacy, Book 1
Line: Silhouette Special Edition
Rating: 4 Stars
Length: 256 Pages
Formats: Mass Market Paperback, Kindle, Nook
When her parents died ten years ago, life as Frankie Moorehouse knew it ended. At twenty-one, she was thrust into the role of parent for her teen-aged sister Joy, caretaker for her grandmother, who suffers from dementia, and manager of her once wealthy family's home, now a Bed & Breakfast in the Adirondack Mountains in Upstate New York. That's a huge responsibility for someone so young, but given her older brother Alex had taken off to the sea years ago, she was the only one who could keep it all together. And so she did. Barely.
Now thirty-one, Frankie is hanging on by her fingernails as the old family home deteriorates and the bad economy chips away at the tourists who are their livelihood. She's behind on the mortgage and things keep breaking and flooding and growing mold. It's a bleak, scary time, and the sixteen hour days, seven days a week that she's putting in still haven't lead to any headway. So when her cook dashes off to Vegas with no warning, Frankie is stuck taking on yet another responsibility for her floundering business. Too bad she's not exactly a world class chef.
Once heir to a massive family fortune, now disowned black sheep of the family, Nathaniel Walker is a renowned chef with Cordon Bleu training. On his way up from the city on a leisurely trip to Canada, he's taking the summer to find the perfect location for his and his friend and partner Spike's new restaurant. He was driving through the Adirondacks when his car Lucille gives up the ghost, and a tumble into some poison ivy, along with a sprained ankle, left him with limited options for the night. He makes it to the Moorehouse back door just as Frankie is in a panic over the scorched chicken and scorched temper of hungry guests. Fortunately for her, there's only one other thing Nate does better than cook...and he'd like to try that out on Frankie, too.
Nate may have saved her bacon, but his presence burns Frankie's buns. She's a control freak of the first order and he's impossible to control. Thing is, if she's going to save her family home, it's obvious she needs him. Doesn't mean she has to like it...or be at all civil to him. If she can just remember that his employment is definitely short term, they may be able to make something for the B&B if they work together. Problem is, the looks he gives her definitely raises her temperature, and his advances, while confusing, are the stuff of which dreams are made. Before she can even figure out if she can survive employing him, an even scarier question arises. Can she survive loving him?
Kicking off the Moorehouse Legacy series, Jessica Bird (aka J.R. Ward), starts with feisty, core-of-steel Frankie and big bad chef extraordinaire Nate. I loved these two. Though, admittedly, Frankie was such a thankless shrew at first it took me some time to warm up to her. I ended up admiring her strength and her tenacity in the face of monstrous responsibility and sacrifice. And Nate just tickled me. Bird has a gift for characterizations, that's for sure. I also adored the backdrop of this series. Reminded me of my grade school years in Glens Falls, and my childhood memories of the mountains up there.
I had a couple of issues with the book, which started with a bit too convenient an introduction between Frankie and Nate. I'm all for kismet, but still, that seemed pretty contrived. Fortunately, the pace of the plot and the presence of the characters was strong enough coerce me into forgiving that too-convenient beginning. Frankie was a bit unsympathetic for much of the beginning of the book, and her wild hair over Nate's presence in "her" kitchen felt a bit overdone, but again, that smoothed out as the book went along. I do wish more development had been given to Nate and the impact of his break with his family. That could have added another dimension to his character.
Likable (in Frankie's case, eventually) lead characters, charming and interesting secondary characters and a solid, if slightly unsurprising romance were pluses for Beauty and the Black Sheep, but I would definitely have appreciated a bit more depth to Nate's background and some added complexity to both of their personalities. The plot was classic contemporary romance fare, but it was well written and nicely paced, with a smooth narrative and realistic dialogue, all framed by picture postcard scenery. I enjoyed it and look forward to continuing the Moorehouse Legacy series.
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