Slowly, but surely, I’m correcting the oversight.
Mr Irresistible, by Karina Bliss
This is the middle book in the Lost Boys trilogy, and once again we have a winner. I will never understand how Ms Bliss manages to pack to much emotional impact in a relatively short length, particularly considering all the constraints of writing a category romance.
The important thing, I suppose, is that she does. Boy, does she ever!
Here’s the blurb, from the author’s website:
Two people used to control out of control with each other
She craves security; he needs independence. She sees the world in black and white; he lives in Technicolor. He denies his insecurities; she’s only too aware of hers. He wants her; she wants someone else.
They’re perfect for each other.
She’d seen his type before…
To everybody else, Jordan King was a selfless philanthropist and most-eligible bachelor, but newspaper columnist Kate Brogan had inside information that he was a home-wrecker-handsome and full of false promises. Just like her philandering father. Of course, she let “Mr. Irresistible” know, there was nothing he could do to change her mind.
Oh, how Jordan King loves a good challenge. Besides, he couldn’t let Kate’s scathing newspaper article go unanswered, not when destroying his reputation also jeopardizes his camp for underprivileged kids.
Setting the record straight is only one of the reasons Jordan has for getting the incredibly sexy Kate Brogan in a canoe for five days on the river…
This is another wonderful book, with fully developed characters, that touches on a number of important issues in ways that feel honest, not manipulative. And the sense of place–hello, New Zealand!–is always a plus.
When the book starts, Kate has just returned home after settling her youngest sibling at college. Her other sibling just got married and is on his honeymoon. At just twenty seven, empty nest syndrome is hitting Kate hard.
However, and even though she is in a long term relationship, she feels no hurry whatsoever to take the next step. This is the first, and likely only, period in her life that she’ll be by herself, shouldn’t she enjoy it? From this rationalization to the first scene we see her and Peter together, it’s evident to the reader that this is mostly a security blanket type of thing. It is also evident to everyone but Kate just how wrong for her the relationship is.
Blind as she may be on the topic of Peter, Kate is self aware enough to realize that she cannot be particularly fair when the topic of infidelity comes up. Even so, as the writer of a popular and respected column, more than once has she exposed cheating politicians and the like. Therefore it’s impossible for her to resist writing about Jordan King’s latest escapade: despite her recently publicized affair with a married woman, Jordan happens to be one of three trustees for a camp for underprivileged inner city children.
Granted, the connection is fairly tenuous. It’s not, after all, as if Jordan was going to spend time with the children himself. But Kate, having met Jordan some timer previously, just doesn’t like the cocksure, arrogant, golden boy. Everything about him, from his charm to his wealth to his long hair, to the fact that he doesn’t seem particularly impressed with her as a professional, yet has no qualms about asking her out–even knowing she has a boyfriend!–just everything, offends her.
What’s a self righteous crusader for social accountability to do, but crucify the man?
Mind you, despite my flippancy above, Kate is quite likable. She is running scared of many things, but like many of us, she’s determined not to make any of the mistakes her parents did–her mother, marrying an unreliable, adventurous man; her father, by cheating on her mother, then abandoning their children, leaving Kate to raise her two younger siblings.
Kate’s column does create a problem for the camp. Whether the trustees are hands on or not, social services can pretty much shut the whole thing down even before they are ready to open, if their reputation (or rather, Jordan’s) is black enough.
And so, Jordan comes up with a plan of (evil) genius: he’ll take Kate and a couple of kids canoeing down a river. In theory, it’s a test run as an activity for the charity camp. In reality, is a way to isolate Kate and charm her out of her socks, simultaneously showing her how good Jordan is with kids.
Of course there is no potential for negative fallout there, even without the sparks already flying between him and Kate.
Jordan has his own issues, though they are a little bit less well defined as Kate’s and therefore a bit harder for me to buy into.
He is the oldest, and only male, of five siblings. His father died when Jordan was twenty, and though they family was fairly secure financially speaking, his mother basically fell apart for a couple of years. So, from then on, and for all intents and purposes, Jordan became the head of the family.
When the book starts, Jordan finds himself reluctant to tell a woman that he loves her when he…well, is not sure he actually does. His fears are founded on a previous and fairly long lasting relationship, and while he and his ex are still friendly, the main reason the relationship lasted as long as it did was her son.
Which brings us back to the river trip, to Dillon and to Mike.
Dillon’s father was not in the picture for years–even longer than Jordan and Claire, Dillon’s mother, were involved. Once it became clear to Jordan that the relationship was going nowhere, because it would not have been fair to anyone to marry Claire just to keep Dillon in his life, he encouraged Claire to reconnect with Mike, for Dillon’s sake.
That does not mean either man is particularly enthused with the idea of spending five whole days in each other’s company, though.
Add Andrew, a teenage nephew in the throes of his first serious fight with a much loved girlfriend; dump together two outdoorsy kids, two adults with zero outdoor experience, a Jordan determined to charm Kate even if he must turn himself into a snake oil salesman; stir in five days canoeing downriver…
Shenanigans of the best kind obviously ensue.
Dillon is wonderfully written. All the scenes he’s in, and all the passages from his point of view, absolutely reflect the feelings and reactions of a twelve year old boy. He feels torn, because he loves Jordan and enjoys their time together tremendously, while he soon realizes his father and Jordan dislike each other–quite a bit. While Dillon doesn’t quite understand that what both men feel is jealousy over him, he does understand loyalty, and he hurts because he feels he must choose between them.
For his part, Mike is neither wholly saint nor sinner. He knows he has made plenty of mistakes in his relationship with Claire and with Dillon, who was born when they were both barely out of high school. His own family life was fairly dysfunctional–and oh man, the revelation of why is heartbreaking!–and he feels extremely insecure when he compares himself to Jordan.
Which he does, of course. Constantly.
There are many wonderful and emotionally intense moments in the book, all of them necessary to the characters’ growth–and the best thing is that all five characters grow during the trip. Yes, all five.
Some of the things that come to light are relatively innocuous. For example, Kate thinks Jordan wears his hair long because he’s vain and can’t accept his age–a man over thirty should look the part, after all. Jordan wears his hair long as a reminder, to himself, not to judge by appearances.
Some other things reveal so much about the three adults. It really is amazing how much ground Ms Bliss manages to cover, and how believable the changes are, in so few pages.
As in the other two books in the trilogy, Christian and Luke play a key part, though their time on page is relatively short. Their friendship with Jordan is an important part of who he is, after all.
I have but two quibbles with this novel. One, Peter. I completely understand why Kate would try to make a go of a relationship with the man she believes him to be. Sensible, reliable, staid even. Eventually, being a smart woman, she would have realized that marrying him would do neither of them any favors. I didn’t much see the need to make him into an opportunistic asshat on top of boring.
My second issue is Andrew’s age. Apparently he’s seventeen, and Jordan is thirty two. As the oldest, that means that Andrew’s mother would have been what? Fifteen at most, when she had him? Unless Andrew is one of Jordan’s sisters stepson. Either way, I would have thought that something like that would have been touched upon at some point in the novel, yet is never mentioned.
Mr Irresistible is another very good read, which gets 8.50 out of 10.