Avon Impulse, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-06-237226-0
Contemporary Romance, 2015
Bad for Me is similar to the author’s previous books in that she has her characters win the baggage lottery and get saddled with what seems like more issues than the New York Times archives.
Callie Jacobson is the DJ Callie Jay (hey, that rhymes) who plays country music at Kat Country 106.1 in the morning. Don’t be fooled by the sultry voice, though – this is one lady practically crippled by all kinds of negative emotions at the thought of going out with a guy again. You see, she ignored the warning sign that the guy she once wanted to marry was not quite there, mentally. The guy snapped one day and, in one of his more violent moods, killed her mother and her dog, and nearly killed her. He ended up in a psychiatric ward for two years, only to come out and want to get back with her again. She’s like, hell no, and now here she is, in Little Big Town, playing music while blaming herself for the deaths of her mother and her dog.
Everett Silverton is a former Marine who, after being honorably discharged, spends his days working at the family farm, caring for his father (a former alcoholic with pancreatitis), and counseling veterans with PTSD. Everett has his own shares of issues, having seen his partner die in duty and still feeling guilty about it. The guilt is worsened by the fact that his partner’s wife hates him for letting her husband die – she actually tells him that he should have died instead of her husband. Oh, and his previous marriage fell apart thanks to his own PTSD. Calling in during Callie’s show every day is one bright spot in his life. He’d like to know her better. When she accepts the offer to play the DJ at his brother’s wedding, is this his chance to move on?
Well, not quite. Initially, Callie tells herself that maybe it is time to try to move on, but the moment Everett shows some interest in her, she reverts back to her old habits and treats Everett like complete dirt. I have no idea what he sees in her, but Everett is patient and understanding enough to want to keep cracking at her defenses. So there you go, Bad for Me.
I get what the author is doing. Callie is going to come to her senses late in the story, realizes that she has to let go of the past and forgive herself in order to move on and love again, and all that peachy stuff. I get that, and I appreciate that. But it doesn’t change the fact that I can’t stand Callie. She’s horrible to everyone around her, and yet, often, it is other characters like Everett who would apologize or make allowances for her. While there is an underlying message here – an important one, if I may add – about how people with mental issues like schizophrenia need to see a qualified medical professional for proper care and medication, so we shouldn’t ignore the signs or pretend that the person is fine, or else he will come kill your mother and gut your intestines one day, and I better start a new sentence since this one is long enough. Anyway, there is that message, but at the same time, the author seems to be ignoring the signs herself, that Callie should just see a shrink instead of making everyone around her feel miserable too. Don’t they have lovely colored pills for Callie’s mental issues?
It’s probably a good thing that the author has Callie surrounded with many patient people who won’t be driven to kill her mother – oh wait, she’s already dead – or that somehow Callie becomes more tolerable after the hero succeeds in laying his fingers on – and in – her. It’s true, people! Crazy women – all they need to get better is one good lay. Or maybe two or three, depending on how far she has gone off the deep end.
Anyway, the hero is okay, as despite his issues, he’s actively trying to get over them. The heroine is the center of the conflict here, so it’s just unfortunate that Callie ends up more obnoxious than sympathetic, especially in the first half or so. In the second half, she gets less irritating, but she ramps up her neediness and does as well as says some things that make me cringe. By the last page, I still think a few trips to a psychiatrist are warranted. There’s just something about the heroine’s mental condition that feels off even by then. Needless to say, I have my doubts about the happy ending in this one.