Callie Burke grew up feeling unwanted as the illegitimate daughter of a wealthy man. She had it drilled into her from a very young age that her heritage needed to remain a secret. When her mother died, Callie was left alone in the world, so when her father passed too, she went out on a limb and introduced herself to her half-sister, who previously hadn't known of her existence. Her sister unexpectedly welcomed her into the family, but because of Grace's high profile that is perfect for tabloid gossip, Callie keeps her identity a secret to protect Grace. Callie is a talented artist who has just lost her job and is down on her luck, when Grace's friend, Jack, approaches her about restoring an old family painting he has just bought. Callie is altogether too attracted to the handsome businessman whose reputation as a playboy precedes him. If she accepts his job offer, Callie doesn't think she'll be able to resist him, and she has no interest in being used and then tossed out like yesterday's news. But what she cannot resist is the lure of working on a painting that was created by a master.
Ever since he met Callie at Grace's benefit, Jack Walker hasn't been able to get her out of his mind. Even though he's engaged to another woman, sexy dreams of Callie haunt him every night. When he hires her to restore the painting of his ancestor, he tries to tell himself it's only because she's qualified for the job and needs the work. Jack has never been a man who believes in love or happily ever afters. In fact, his fiancée is only someone he respects as a friend and who's prefect for him on paper, while Callie stirs unfamiliar feelings in him that make him long for something deeper than he's ever had with any woman in his life. However, Jack is a very ambitious man with political aspirations, and when Callie refuses to tell him her father's identity, he realizes her sketchy past could be a stumbling block to him seeking public office. Jack must decide if being with Callie is worth giving up everything he's worked so hard to achieve, but if he does turn his back on his ambitions, he wants her complete trust in return. Can Callie ever bring herself to reveal the part of her that she's tried so hard to keep under lock and key all her life, and if she does, will it spell disaster for everyone involved?
An Irresistible Bachelor is my favorite of Jessica Bird's contemporary romances I've read to date. It had a Cinderella story vibe to it with a down on her luck heroine who has no money and has just lost her job and a very wealthy but rather jaded hero. He hires her to restore a valuable painting of an ancestor that he has just purchased and returned to its rightful place in his family's collection. It doesn't take long for love to blossom between them, but their opposite sides of the track status stands in the way of their potential long-term happiness. There was also a light romantic mystery subplot that I really enjoyed involving the painting and a couple of love letters that were found in a box of old papers. The hero and heroine's relationship was sweet and tender, but rife with conflicts that kept me turning the pages to see how they worked everything out in the end.
Callie was the bastard daughter of a very wealthy man (she shares a father with Grace, the heroine of the previous book, An Unforgettable Lady) and his long-time mistress. He was never there for her, so she always felt like she was nothing but his dirty little secret and was only second-best to his other family. She had it ingrained in her from an early age that she could never tell anyone who her father was, and even though he's now dead, it's a rule she still follows religiously, in part to protect her half-sister who is very much in the public eye. Despite her father's riches, Callie has virtually nothing. She lives in a crummy apartment in New York, has only a few hundred dollars in the bank, and has just lost her job, when an opportunity presents itself to restore a priceless old painting. This is something Callie has dreamed of doing ever since graduating from art school, but at first she turns the offer down, worried about the reputation of the man who wants to hire her and the strong, immediate attraction she feels for him. Because of how her father treated her, there's also no love lost between Callie and her wealthy patron. In fact, being around someone that rich makes her somewhat uncomfortable. Callie is a proud and independent woman who holds her head up high and doesn't want any handouts from anyone, but eventually her strong desire to work on the masterpiece wins out over any misgivings she might have. Callie was a modern-day virgin which is pretty rare in contemporary romances these days and which I found quite refreshing. She's the sweet, ordinary girl next door, but she also has a strong backbone. I liked that she didn't take any crap from Jack's snobbish mother, or from Jack himself either.
Jack initially comes off as the consummate cold-hearted, take no prisoners businessman, who is only interested in deals that will make him scads of money. As a consequence, he's something of a workaholic, who cares for little else beside wheeling and dealing. He also has a checkered past, littered with tabloid news reports of ex-lovers and his wild ways. Of late, he's settled down a bit and has recently become engaged to one woman, but he doesn't love her. She's merely someone he respects as a friend and who will look good on his arm when he runs for governor. Jack isn't even sure he believes in love until Callie comes into his life. From the moment he first laid eyes on her, she's haunted his dreams, and once he has her living under his roof and working on the painting, she stirs within him the promise of something he never thought possible. She's basically everything he's not, but surprisingly finds that he wants to be. I love how protective Jack is of Callie and how he won't let his snobbish mom treat her like a servant. Even after he realizes she has no money, he believes she deserves only the best his money can buy, not because he's shallow, but because he truly cares for her and wants to make her life easier. As the story progresses, we see a new and improved Jack emerging, someone who has a good heart and really cares about and wants to help the people around him, but was perhaps afraid to do so in the past because of his father's profligate philanthropy. I love how Jack always seems to be in awe of the emotions Callie stirs in him. He's never felt anything like it before. It's all very new and exciting to him and almost too good to believe, yet he embraces it fully, allowing it to make him over into a new man. I thoroughly enjoyed watching this new Jack emerge from his cocoon as a result of his love for Callie.
An Irresistible Bachelor has a number of great secondary characters. Jack has a twin brother, Nate, who pretty much disdains the family fortune. He's a talented chef who wants to open his own restaurant, but who has a rather restless spirit. He was definitely a charmer though, and will be the hero of Beauty and the Black Sheep aka The Rebel, the first book in the spin-off series, The Moorehouse Legacy. Jack's best friend, Gray, goes out on a couple of dates with Callie while Jack is getting his head on straight concerning his feeling for her. Gray is a political insider who will become the hero of the second Moorehouse book, His Comfort and Joy aka The Player. Jack's mother, Mercedes, is a master manipulator and the character readers will love to hate. I was so glad to see Jack finally put her in her place. The family's personal chef, Thomas, was an intriguing guy, who oddly enough owns a classic purple GTO just like Rhage's in the Black Dagger Brotherhood. I'd also be remiss if I didn't mention Jack's dog, Arthur, who was one of the best animal characters I've read.
Overall, I really enjoyed An Irresistible Bachelor and have to agree that it was an apt title. Jack was pretty irresistible, and Callie was no slouch either. The Cinderella theme being one of my favorites only made the story all the more likable. The little side mystery was sweetly romantic though tragic. There's nothing I can think of that I didn't like about the book. The only thing that kept it from being a perfect five stars is that it seemed a little slow in places, which resulted in my mind wandering occasionally. All in all though, I had a really good time reading it, and I'm very much looking forward to Nate's and Gray's stories.
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