by Maggie Shayne, contemporary (2000)
Silhouette Intimate Moments, $4.50, ISBN 0-373-27070-4
I keep wincing whenever I see that title. Angel Meets The Badman - badman?!! - oh please. But the story inside isn't bad - very good actually. Who would've thought Maggie Shayne, whose single title heroes are mostly saps, could have created a bad boy like Jake Nash? The sexual heat this man oozes can steam up the already sultry Louisiana bayou this story takes place in.
"Shall I take it off?" are his first words to shy, timid (the usual) Sara Brand who is ogling him not-too-discreetly. Oh my.
Sara is seeking refuge from the bad world outside. She has witnessed a murder, you see, and now she is tormented by long-suppressed, now reawakened memories of an incident in her past that put her in a witness protection program. She is now ready to meet her family again, but no, she has to meet local bad dude Jake instead. Jake is an ex-con with a chip the size of Alaska on his shoulders. He doesn't want to tangle with pristine schoolmarmy (but with the figure of Ms Louisiana, of course) Sara.
Sara is terrified after witnessing the murder, and Jake is forced to play Good Samaritan and protect the heroine. They run off to the swamps and they have lots of fun.
The story succeeds mostly because of Jake's reluctant attraction to Sara and the subsequent rediscovery of his conscience. He just wants to play doctor with Sara and then scram, but really, he finds it increasingly difficult to play the bad guy. I like Jake, really, and that man can bodyguard me anytime.
Sara is a bit more problematic as a damsel who is always in distress. She never does anything to move the story along, no matter how much she assert her independence. The downside to Angel Meets The Badman is that this story is such that if Sara isn't always in trouble, I doubt Jake would be compelled to stay.
But oh well, it's been a great hour or two meeting Jake. What a hottie. Mean, bad, and dangerous, yet with a softie exterior - how can I resist such a guy? (And his lean hips and washboard stomach don't hurt either.) It's just too bad that Jake's wonderful characterization is perfectly wasted on a stock damsel-in-distress waif like Sara.
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