Baddest Bad Boys

Shannon McKenna, E.C. Sheedy and Cate Noble
2008, Romantic Suspense
Brava, $14.00, 384 pages, Amazon ASIN 0758208529

Grade: D+
Sensuality: Burning

I plunked down full price for this anthology simply to read Shannon McKenna's novella. But it, along with the other two, didn't engage me as many of the previous Bad Boys books I've read. Romantic suspense premises act as a catalyst to bring each of the three couples together and sets up strong cabin romance themes, but ultimately they either detracted from the romances, such as they were, or, in McKenna's case, creeped me out.

Romantic Suspense
Sensuality: Burning

I've never read a full-length Shannon McKenna novel, but I've read all of her short stories to date; Anytime, Anywhere is not in the same class as Touch Me, Meltdown, or Something Wild. The 25-year-old virgin heroine does not compute - neither does her two older brothers' desire for her to remain in that state - and while the suspense sub-plot brings the hero and heroine together, it takes up too much page count and at the same time lends the story a very unsettling vibe I didn't appreciate.

Robin MacNamara, whose older brother Mac's story was told in Meltdown, is 25 and horny, and after learning that Jon Amendola, a family friend - and her long-time crush - will be staying at the family cabin, she decides to take advantage of the situation and seduce him into taking her virginity. Jon, a cop decompressing after an horrific murder/sex crimes case, is shocked to see a gorgeous woman at the MacNamara cabin, and even more shocked to discover that she is none other his buddy's little sister. Even though his over-sized penis gets hard as a rock from that moment on, he refuses to take her up on her offer; he doesn't want to ruin his friendship with her brother, and he has trouble with virgins. Either they turn clingy or can't wait to further experiment...with other men. Eventually, though, he changes his mind.

McKenna's trademark psychological intensity, men with anger issues, and couples who experience explosive sex only with each other, are in evidence here, but for the first time, they failed to excite. Maybe it was hearing the overly-obnoxious Jon refer to Robin's "lube" as "yummy" that did it, or maybe it was just hearing her wetness called lube at all. But mostly it was because this very sexual woman remained a virgin for so long, had never experienced an orgasm with a man, and that her brothers' attitude belonged in an historical and not a contemporary setting. Then too, there was the intrusion of that incredibly creepy suspense sub-plot.

Grade: C-

Romantic Suspense
Sensuality: Burning

After Tommi Smith confronts a business associate she'd once dated about his illegal behavior involving their company, he threatens her so badly that she turns to a long time friend for help. He, in turn, suggests she go to his younger brother's cabin for safety. Mac Fleming agrees to take her in, but he's not happy about it. Tommi has always had a reputation for sluttiness, and Mac doesn't plan to be another notch on her bedpost. The once-gangly Mac is now centerfold material, and Tommi's attraction to him is obvious. This angers Mac, and after he jumps to the wrong conclusion about the danger she's in, she gets angry too.

As the two spend time together, though, Mac begins to see beyond the sexuality Tommi exudes to the kind and loving person inside. His anger wanes and the want for her grows. She begins to feel more than lust for Mac too, but decides to wait before acting on their sexual attraction because while Tommi's had lots and lots of good sex in her life, she's never had a good relationship with a man.

E.C. Sheedy's After the Lovin' is the most straight-forward of the three stories in terms of plot. A damsel in distress is kept safe in a cabin by a strong, handsome hero, sex ensues and, lurking outside, the villain waits for his chance to pounce. Unfortunately, as bad boys go, Mac's not bad so much as cranky.

Grade: C-

Romantic Suspense
Sensuality: Burning

Cate Noble's Deal with the Devil reads like a Harlequin Presents novel in short form, and with more sex. It's got that flamboyancy I associate with HP characters, which helps in a small way to combat the pedestrian plot. There's the widowed heroine-in-peril who married the wrong [half] brother, the tycoon hero who brought the family company back from the brink of bankruptcy, and the jealous and vindictive ex-girlfriend whose marriage to the hero would have united two companies.

Ellie McMann DeLuca proposes a night of passion with Max DeLuca in order to exorcise him from her fantasies. He turns the tables on her and demands a full week instead. It's not just feelings that tie the two together; there's also the stock she inherited from her husband that Max would like control over.

The chemistry between the two is well-written, but Max's secretiveness - and control-freak nature - and Ellie's jumping to wrong conclusions almost constantly, threw me out of the story every few pages. While the cyber-stalking sub-plot doesn't fizzle out, it becomes increasingly unbelievable when combined with another sub-plot. Then the story comes to an abrupt end that left me wondering whether an epilogue had been wrongly omitted from the book.

Grade: D

I've never read Sheedy or Noble before, and after their contributions to Baddest Bad Boys, I don't plan to, even though Sheedy's last grade, in another Bad Boys anthology, was stellar. As far as McKenna is concerned, I'll give her another shot, but she truly disappointed me here.

-- Laurie Likes Books

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