Reviewed: January 18, 2011
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Series: Moorehouse Legacy, Book 2
Line: Silhouette Special Edition
Rating: 4 Stars
Length: 256 Pages
Formats: Mass Market Paperback, Kindle, Nook
Joy Moorehouse has loved Grayson Bennett for years, despite only seeing the successful political consultant a few times a year. She may be the provincial younger sister of Frankie and Alex, the baby of the family, but she's well aware that he doesn't even see her - not as a woman, anyway. Sure, he's always polite, but she and the older, powerful man aren't exactly in the same social circles. Still, she couldn't help but be thrilled at the opportunity of helping Frankie and her fiance Nate cater the birthday party that Gray is throwing for his father. Several hours of surreptitiously sneaking peeks at the dashing man may not do much for her equilibrium, but it'll definitely thrill her.
Gray Bennett has no illusions about his job. It's all about getting his hands dirty, being a political shark and knowing when the blood was in the water. Or tossing the blood in the water himself as needed. It made him powerful in D.C., but it didn't do much for his soul. But then, Gray has no illusions about himself, either. The product of a loveless marriage...at least on his slut of a mother's side...he learned young - too young - that women came in two categories. The innocent and guileless Joy Moorehouse was in the good category. Ever since he'd seen her in a bikini at the lake, all lush curves and faint blushes, he hasn't been able to get her out of his head. It's driving him crazy. Making him do wild things just to get near her, and even wilder things to get away.
She's too good for him, too young for him, too innocent for him...and she's all he wants. But his past and present conspire to keep him from being the man he knows she needs.
Jessica Bird (J.R. Ward) has penned another surprisingly complex and sweet contemporary romance with three dimensional primary and secondary characters and an enchanting backdrop of gorgeous upstate New York scenery and New York City high life. Bird/Ward has an innate ability to layer plot threads and bulk up a story with characters who evolve in genuinely organic fashion over the course of a series. It's an ability that has always impressed me with her BDB series and it translates nicely to contemporary romance.
We met Joy as the nearly angelic and giving younger sister of Frankie Moorehouse in the first book in the series, Beauty and the Black Sheep, but she really impressed me in her own book. Her character is likable and despite her innocence, has an inner strength and self respect that serves her well. She could have come across a bit too sweet or a bit too easily trod upon, but instead, her growth and evolution over the course of the book was handled very well as she gets a chance to both spread her wings and stand up for what she wants. I enjoyed her.
Gray...well...okay, I have to admit, I have a soft spot for men who act like total goobs over the women they can't admit they love. Especially when they're so uber-cool in every other aspect of their life and work. And Gray was a total goob over Joy. He did have a tendency to seem a little disturbingly self-loathing in some spots, though, and that was less fun, and he had an annoying habit of making assumptions based on incorrect answers to questions he was too stubborn to ask. As a general rule, I don't have a lot of love for romances that have primary conflicts as simple to resolve as miscommunications or misunderstandings, yet still drag on for any length of a book. It frustrates me. That aspect of this book didn't thrill me.
The rest was enjoyable. Jessica Bird (J.R. Ward) certainly manages a smooth, flowing narrative that balances description and action nicely, dialogue that has a genuine conversational flow, and a layered plot that complements the preceding book and sets up the following book even as it enhances and fleshes out this one.
At its core, this contemporary romance is simple and predictable. But then, at its core, what romance isn't? The devil...and delight...is in the details. Gray's Mommy issues, his growing distaste for his job, his love and care for his father, his charming bumbling with Joy, Joy's burgeoning fashion career, her yearning to spread her wings beyond her family's Bed & Breakfast, the guilt from the pleasure of being in the big city, and more...all of that juicy stuff is what elevates this simple romance beyond the parameters of feel good fluff. I'm hooked on this series, this family, and Jessica Bird's (J.R.Ward's) contemporary romances.
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