Madeline Maguire has carved out a successful career as a navigator with a competitive sailing team. Being a woman in a man's world hasn't been easy, but she's managed to earn the respect of the men on her crew. However, that's all men usually see her as - a teammate or a friend. At six feet tall, most men are intimidated by her size, and the couple of guys she's managed to have a relationship with ended up cheating on her. That's why she's still a virgin. She doesn't think of herself as the type of woman who any man would want long-term, much less the drop-dead gorgeous Spike whom she met through a mutual friend. While Madeline might be confident on a yacht, she's anything but that around him and especially not around her dysfunctional family either. With her twenty-fifth birthday rapidly approaching, her friend, Sean, thinks it's time for her to take control of her shares in the family owned grocery store chain, but she knows she's going to have to fight her older brother who runs the company tooth and nail to convince him of her business competency. That's why she doesn't really want to go to her family's Memorial Day get together alone.
Spike Moriarty is a top-notch chef with a checkered past. He's crazy attracted to Madeline, but he's convinced that attraction is a one-way street. When Sean asks him to accompany Mad to her family's estate for the holiday weekend as moral support, he turns his friend down, but the lure of being near her ends up being too much to resist. He's happy to be her shoulder to lean on, or give her anything else she might want from him for the weekend. But casual lovers is all they can be. History has proven to Spike that revealing his past to a woman he loves will lead to her looking at him with fear in her eyes, although Mad is proving that she just might be worth the risk to his heart to try. However, before he can tell her about what happened himself, her meddling brother interferes, causing Mad to run away without a backward glance. Will Spike ever get the chance to prove to her that she has nothing to fear from him and that his feelings for her have become all too real?
A Man in a Million was another awesome read from Jessica Bird (aka J. R. Ward). This is one of her earlier contemporary romances and is now considered the final, honorary book of the Moorehouse Legacy series, although all of these contemporaries have ties to one another and basically take place in the same world. In this one, we have Spike and Madeline, who were both previously introduced in other books of the series. Spike is best friends with Nate Walker (Beauty and the Black Sheep aka The Rebel). The two of them both invested in and run White Caps B & B in the Adirondack Mountains. He's also good friends with Alex Moorehouse (From the First aka The Renegade). Madeline is friends with Alex, too, and was the navigator on his boat during his sailing days, something she still does with the rest of the remaining crew. However, throughout most of this story, Madeline keeps her feet firmly planted on land, as she takes on her jerk of an older half-brother who wants to remain executor of her shares in their family-owed chain of grocery stores. But Mad is ready to start taking responsibility for voting her own shares at board meetings, something that doesn't sit well with her brother who tries to keep that from happening. Throughout her attempts to exert her independence, Spike is there for moral support and this pair share an explosive attraction that leads to plenty of passion but also some misunderstandings.
As a woman who is six feet tall and larger than many men, Madeline has found it difficult to date. Most men either find her intimidating, think she's a lesbian, or simply see her as one of the guys. That's a large part of why she's been able to enjoy a successful sailing career as a woman, working with an entirely male crew. However, her love life has languished. The only two guys she was ever serious about both cheated on her with her half-sister, so Mad is still a virgin at twenty-five. She has a troubled and dysfunctional relationship with her two half-siblings and rarely sees them, but her half-brother has invited her to the family estate for the long Memorial Day weekend. She knows he's only going to try to talk her out of taking control of her shares of the family business, but she knows she has to go to prove her worth. Despite her physical size, Mad has a somewhat timid personality, so she knows it won't be easy to stand up to her brother. That's why she asks her friend, Sean, to accompany her. When he can't, he suggests Spike go instead. Mad has been crazy attracted to Spike ever since she met him at Alex's house, but she doesn't think he would ever give her a second glance. She harbors a lot of insecurities, so it takes her a while to accept that Spike really is into her. But when she misconstrues a moment she witnesses between her half-sister and Spike, she thinks history is repeating itself. As someone who is rather shy and retiring myself, I related to Mad quite well, and admired her for how she finally managed to take control of her life. Normally I'm not a fan of misunderstandings, but given her history, I fully understood why she thought what she did when she saw Spike and Amelia together, and she does gradually come to realize that something isn't right and makes amends for her lack of trust in him.
Spike is a celebrated French-trained chef who has worked hard to make it in the restaurant business. With his spiky hair, tats, large size, and motorcycle, he has bad boy written all over him. He's definitely not from the world of the rich and famous, but given his line of work, he moves effortlessly among their ranks. His outgoing personality helps, along with his attitude of not really caring what anyone thinks of him. However, he has a few of his own hang-ups to deal with. He's haunted by the knowledge of something he did in the past, but he knows he would do it all over again to save his sister. Because of his checkered past, he avoids relationships, as the only woman he ever got serious enough with to reveal the truth to turned her back on him afterward. He's every bit as attracted to Madeline as she is to him, but he thinks he's no good for her. In fact, he initially turns down Sean's plea to accompany Madeline to her family weekend, but later changes his mind and proves to be great moral support. He thought he could walk away when the weekend was over, but he finds he can't bear the thought of not seeing her again. However, when Mad is the one who splits and her brother leads Spike to believe it's because he revealed Spike's past to her, he doesn't have much choice in the matter. I really liked Spike and found that he reminded me of the boys from the author's popular Black Dagger Brotherhood world. In fact, he bears a unique physical trait that leads me to believe he does in fact have some vampire DNA somewhere in his ancestry. I love how he was there to support Mad, but he doesn't simply take over like she's a damsel in distress either. He allows her to find her own independence, while simply backing her up. Despite his violent past, he has a kind, gentle side and he's devoted to his sister, as well as to Mad, once she let's him in.
There aren't quite as many character cross-overs in this book, but there are a few. Nate shows up in a couple of scenes when Spike returns to White Caps. Although we don't actually see them, the opening scene of the book takes place at Alex & Cass's engagement party. When we meet Spike's sister, Jaynie, toward the end of the story, I couldn't help thinking that she would make a great heroine, and I would have loved to see her get a story of her own. Since she got a scene or two from her own POV, I couldn't help thinking that perhaps Jessica Bird was originally intending to write a story for her, but perhaps with the author having since moved on to bigger and better things, it got left by the wayside. The most prominent secondary character, though, is Sean O'Banyon, who is good friends with both Spike and Mad, and engages in a little matchmaking between the two. This high-powered businessman who came from the mean streets of Boston gets his own story in The Billionaire Next Door aka The Billionaire, which is supposed to be the first in The O'Banyon Brothers Trilogy, but since that series was never finished and Sean has such close ties to the Moorehouse books, I can't help but consider it a spin-off.
Overall, A Man in a Million was a lovely, easy read that I greatly enjoyed. Spike and Mad were both wonderful characters, who were very likable and relatable. They each come into the relationship with a certain amount of baggage that creates some conflict, but it wasn't too intense, and even when they're working to get past all of that, I could tell that they were destined for one another. With Mad's dysfunctional family dynamics, I saw a few shades of the author's more recent Bourbon Kings series with a little less angst. The story is well-written and nicely paced, and the love scenes have just the right amount of steam, while also expressing deep emotions. There was nothing I didn't like, so this was a perfect little read for me. Now I'm looking forward to finishing things off by reading Sean's book soon. A Man in a Million was originally published in the Silhouette Special Edition line, but has since been republished under the new title The Rogue as a stand-alone ebook.
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