by Lori Foster, Janelle Denison, and Nancy Warren; contemporary (2003)
Brava, $14.00, ISBN 0-7582-0551-1
It looks as if the people at the Planet of Lori Foster (otherwise known as Brava to you and me) are listening to all those complains about the "Bad Boys" anthologies being skimpy on plot. Bad Boys To Go sees the authors developing some plot in their stories and focusing on emotional bond between the characters instead of just throwing in some love scenes. The result is what is easily the best Bad Boys anthology to date.
Not that anyone reading Lori Foster's Bringing Up Baby, the appetizer novella, will realize this. This is easily the worst novella thanks to a plot that never makes sense and characters that never rise above being typical Lori Fosterish stereotypes. Gil Watson realizes that he is a father only now, two and a half years after his one-night-stand with Shelly resulted in the dire secret baby plot. Maybe we should make it an official decree that people in series novels should never have sex or something. This kid, Nicole, is raised by Anabel Truman, Shelly's roommate, whom apparently Gil has a thing for all along as well. Euw, the whole thing is like a Jerry Springer show in the making. Anyway, Shelly's dead and all Anabel wants to do is to take care of Nicole. In fact, while Shelly is alive and being demonized by Lori Foster, it is Anabel that takes care of Nicole all along. Now Anabel has no money. She doesn't want Gil to take Nicole away - so maybe Gil wants to marry her or something?
From the way the story is set up, Anabel is already a sad heroine in every sense of the word from the get go and she remains that way to the end. Gil, well, he's Gil. This one is another ho hum novella from Lori Foster and the silly plot handicaps the novella ever further.
Janelle Denison's The Wilde One has our heroine Chayse Douglas, photographer extraordinaire, pursuing Adrian Wilde, an extreme sports enthusiast, to pose for a beefcake calender she is snapping photos for. He asks her to snap him in his mountain cabin, which is a good idea as it can get embarrassing sporting a massive woody during a photoshoot in a public area, I guess. The plot for this story reeks of Eeeuw de Harlequin but Adrian and Chayse are a pleasant surprise in that they actually have some soul-searching chit-chat in the afterglow of their energetic photoshoot (among other things). While the story itself is nothing new, the characters have a credible bond that makes their happily ever after convincing to me.
Saving the best for last, Nancy Warren scores big with Going After Adam, a cute story about a PI, Gretchen Wiest, trailing Adam Stone. She is hired to catch Adam Stone in the act of cheating on his wife, but as it turns out, Adam is not even married: he's on the run from thugs while making his way to Vegas, of all places. Gretchen is way deeper in the smelly stuff than she realizes, and soon she and Adam are on the run.
This premise of this story will not hold up to closer scrutiny and the love scenes that take place in between chases qualify as "they're not serious - ohmigod, they're doing it now?!!" moments. But Gretchen is a great heroine and Adam is equally fun as they encounter everything from guitar-swinging Elvis impersonators in wedding chapels to a busload of dangerous old people. These two people really hit off with style and their banters are fun. Ms Warren also have them talking to each other so that they know each other a little beyond the superficial inspection of each other's private parts.
The only thing that spoils this story is the wedding at the end. These people do not know each other that well yet and definitely not under ideal circumstances, so a Vegas wedding is not my idea of a happily ever after, more like a mistake in the making. If only these two have just gotten on the bus and wave bye-bye, I'd be much happier with the story. A wedding, a Vegas wedding of all things, when they barely know each other? Give me a break.
All three stories have plots - or in Lori Foster's case, it tries to, at least - and the sex scenes do not overshadow relationship and character development. This is good, although in the case of Bad Boys To Go, only Nancy Warren actually succeeds in shaking off the Eeeeuw de Harlequin completely off her novella. The sex scenes, by the way, aren't any hotter than those one can find in a Harlequin Blaze novel.
If for some reason you just have to read a "Bad Boys" anthology, forget the rest that come before this book and just go buy, borrow, or steal this one. It takes two years and five anthologies before the people at the Planet of Lori Foster come up with one that does things halfway right. I can only hope that Bad Boys To Go is not a fluke and the subsequent anthologies to come will improve on this one.
This book at Amazon.com
This book at Amazon UK
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