Pocket, $14.00, ISBN 978-1-4165-2416-8
Contemporary Erotica, 2007
This month, the TBR Book Review Challenge theme is Kicking It Old School, which means I should be reviewing something that was published over ten years ago. Well, this should be easy, as I have accidentally packed and sent all recent releases to my new place, leaving me behind only the old, unread books to read and review for the moment. This isn’t a bad thing at all, as I am rediscovering interesting titles that I bought on impulse and later forgot, and in a way this is helping me get over my book slump.
It’s been a while since I read something by Thea Devine, so when I come across Bad as She Wants to Be, hey, it’s time to get reacquainted with this author.
Bar Harbor is a seaside town with a local economy that is greatly dependent on the very wealthy that come down to the big houses for three months, during summer, to frolic and party. When she was seventeen, Frannie Luttrell was one of the serfs unnoticed by the spoiled rich folks until she rescued the very wealthy heiress Marianne Nyland. She was helped by Daniel Alexander or Dax. another wealthy rich kid. As a reward for saving her, Marianne took Frannie in as her BFF for the remaining two months, and our heroine found herself the new popular girl of the rich and hot crowd. She enjoyed herself a lot, especially with the boys, although the one she really wanted was Dax. Because Marianne also wanted Dax, she didn’t try to get his attention much out of loyalty to the other girl. Dax didn’t seem to want any of them, however – he kept to himself most of the time instead of joining the rest in their partying 24/7.
Then, summer was over and Frannie believed her time in that part of the world was over.
Hold that thought. When Frannie graduates and accepts an internship at a publisher in Manhattan, she impulsively sends an email to Marianne telling her that she is coming to town. To her surprise, Marianne is delighted and asks her to come stay with her, so that they can be BFFs again. Since they last met, Marianne’s parents had passed on and she is now a very wealthy woman. Soon, Frannie finds herself drawn willingly into Marianne’s happy world of debauchery. There’s Rob, the boy she lost her virginity to, but there are also so, so many hot men that Marianne introduces to her. Our heroine is soon the happiest slut in Manhattan, but as always, there is Dax. Disapproving, condescending, snarling Dax who wants her to be his ideal innocent woman instead of the merry town bicycle that is, whom she still thirsts for no matter what. And then, tragedy strikes…
Despite the Dax thing, and the “Romance” on the back cover, Bad as She Wants to Be is not a romance novel. No, it’s not. The “romance” has zero chemistry between Dax and Frannie as they barely interact in any meaningful way aside from a few “pee-pee meets hoo-hoo” moments, and the happy ending seems tacked on to appease people who expected a romance novel when they picked this one up. Frannie doesn’t even seem to enjoy Dax’s company at all. She has far more fun with the gang bang train, the truck guy (don’t ask), and of course, Rob. In fact, she is in full control over her sexuality when it comes to those men, while she has a more stereotypical dynamic with Dax. Because I’m all for unrepentant happy sluts that make no apologies for their fun, I enjoy the former, and I think that the latter really, really holds Frannie back from being true to herself.
Mind you, readers who prefer conventional romance novel morality – or more specifically, conventional romance novel moral code for women; the men can do anything, readers will still want them – will give Frannie their worst side eye. This woman is a joyous slut, plain and simple, and the author doesn’t punish Frannie for her unapologetic enjoyment of the opposite sex. She never apologizes to Dax for having the stamina to sex-up the moxie for twelve hours straight, and she never acts like it’s an unforgivable sin to have lost her virginity to someone who isn’t Dax. Frannie is a glorious heroine who could have stepped out from to the 1980s glit-lit stories heroine hall of fame (think Jackie Collins, et cetera), and I can’t help but to adore her. Folks who want “likable heroines” have best stay away, however.
Dax is boring, though. If Frannie had to settle for one man in the end, I’d rather it be Rob. He tries to dominate her now and then, but she doesn’t take any crap from him, so he’d make an adorable pet for our heroine.
Now, aside from the heroine and her adorable town bicycle act, this one doesn’t offer much else that comes close. Marianne could have been a bitchy fun character too, were not for the author making that character the focus of a plot that ends up being too absurd for its good. The late third or so of this story is the weakest part of the whole story, as the plot racks up a few notches and becomes increasingly dumb, and there is just way too much Dax for my liking. The ending only makes me roll up my eyes because, ugh, Dax.
All things considered, though, Bad as She Wants to Be has its share of trashy wholesome fun moments. I won’t say that it is a good story, but it’s like junk food – there isn’t much nutritional content to be had, sure, but consuming it is still fun anyway, and sometimes, that’s all that matters.