An Irresistible Bachelor

Beauty and the Black Sheep
by Jessica Bird
(Silh. Sp. Ed. # 1698, $4.99, PG) ISBN 0373-24698-6
Jessica Bird has written the first in a new series called the Moorehouse Legacy by pulling in a character from her previous book, The Irresistible Bachelor. She has written a delightful story for Nate Walker with a strong and interesting heroine named Frankie Moorehouse. Their story, Beauty and the Black Sheep, stumbles a bit but is enjoyable all the same.

Nate has been disowned by his politically inclined father because his dream was to be a chef. He went to the Culinary Institute of America and has worked in many high-class restaurants. Now Nate and his friend Spike are looking for a restaurant of their own to buy. On his way to Montreal, his old car conks out and he finds himself at the Moorehouse Bed and Breakfast in the Adirondack Mountains.

Frankie Moorehouse has had better days. Her chef just called to say heís on his honeymoon after eloping and will not be back. The pipes in the old house just caused a leak that collapsed the ceiling into her office. And the mortgage payment is due, but bookings have been off so far this June. Frankie inherited the bed and breakfast when her parents died in a storm on the lake. She has raised her younger sister, who is beautiful, fragile and now 21. Her grandmother is suffering from dementia and thinks she is still in the 1950's, and her brother is off sailing somewhere. The burden of the house is on Frankieís shoulders and she is bound and determined not to give up or give in.

Nate arrives in time to rescue Frankieís dinner from disaster. He agrees to work for the summer, until Labor Day. He figures he can earn money towards a down payment on his own place, and he can also see where his interest in Frankie goes. While she doesn't consider herself a beauty, Nate is attracted to Frankieís sincerity, beautiful eyes and seemingly passionate nature.

As one disaster after another befalls the B&B, Nate and Frankie have a fiery relationship. Neither trusts in relationships due to things from their past. Neither wants to be hurt from a short-term affair, yet they canít stay away from the attraction they feel. Despite their efforts, Nate and Frankie do become friends and ultimately more.

While their love story is satisfying, there is much to detract from it. Many of the scenes are simply setting up future stories about Joy, the sister, and Alex, the brother. It was obvious that was the tactic and their interludes really did not have much connection to Frankie's story. As a reader, I understand this set-up but I didnít care for it here.

Frankie is a bit on the stubborn side and it takes a while to understand just what in her past makes her so cranky at times. But she is tenacious and someone who works hard for what she has. Nate, too is a bit hot-headed, but he is also caring and gentle and the kind of guy everyone wants to have around when having a panic attack or emotional outburst. Once their background comes to light, their somewhat erratic behavior is understandable. Don't give up on them too early.

There is sexual tension, but it is understated. Frankie and Nate really are like two people who meet, get to know a little bit and are intrigued enough to find out more about each other. Ms. Bird makes the reader want to find out more too.

Beauty and the Black Sheep is a nice way of spending some time in the mountains of New York and getting to know the people who will fill the remainder of the series.

--Shirley Lyons

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