Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-233005-5
Romantic Suspense, 2015
The more apt title for Playing Dirty is Playing Safe. I’m talking about six layers of condom and a dose of Hail Mary and Hare Krishna for extra measure kind of playing it safe here, because the leading title of the Bad Boys Undercover series is the epitome of the brotherhood of agents formula.
We have four… wait, five, maybe sixty hunky guys, all with super mysterious pasts, with the guy having the most mysterious past no doubt waiting to have his book dangled as a tantalizing “keep buying the series!” hook to readers for as long as HelenKay Dimon can milk this series. They are all Americans, rugged, studly, whatever, while the British counterparts are stiff-lipped in an “I have buttons on my southern entrance to keep it tight” way. The Americans are all rearing to go, because gung-ho makes right, and real men don’t follow orders like pus… er, pansies. Yes, these guys all try to cuss in a manly way to prove that they have hair where it counts, but we don’t want to offend genteel readers, so these guys are gentlemen enough to cuss like short-tempered church-going grandmothers. No politically incorrect or sexist locker room talk, naturally! Bless their hearts, they must be Southerners.
There is a lone woman in this team, and of course, she’s earmarked to do her thing with the big boss, just like all the lone Bambi types in such brotherhood of men. Ladies need a more powerful man to tame them and show them their place in the world, after all, so what better way than to shack them up with the big boss?
In this story, we have Ford Decker. He is chomping at the teeth to capture this brat who has designed a more lethal gas than sarin, but so far, his team has only walked into two set-ups. Something is clearly wrong with the intel. Meanwhile, he is shagging and getting his lollypop munched by Shay Alexander, whom he originally stakes out because she is his target’s cousin. Hey, don’t blame him for being randy – his last girlfriend was a Korean spy whom he had to neutralize after they’d had sex. At least this girlfriend remains oblivious and sweet after he’s had sex with her, so it’s an upgrade.
So, basically, this story is Ford and his men doing their thing, then he going back to have hot sex with Shay (occasionally feeling guilty about his deception right before he urges Shay to go down on him or ride him like a bronco), repeat and rinse. I am clearly expected to be satisfied with Ford being this virile hot stud who is cocking his gun in more ways than one all the time, because Shay doesn’t have any personality that goes beyond sweet and naked. Seriously, this poor dear is written to be either clueless or engaging in sex scenes with Ford, that I wonder whether she’s supposed to be a deliberately near-blank slate for me to imagine that I’m her, getting boinked and doinked all over by Ford. Perhaps I would be thrilled, if I were thirty years younger and this is the first romantic suspense story I’ve read. Now, however, I’m jaded like that woman in the song I’ve Never Been to Me: I’ve seen them all, done them all, and now, those T-shirts better have something outstanding written on them for me to get them, as there’s no room for more. Ford is too much like the generic action hero to stand out.
The romance isn’t even good because up to the last few chapters, Shay is completely clueless about who and what Ford really is. This is one romance where the happy ending hits the couple despite the fact that she barely knows him and she just discovers a handful of chapters ago that she’s gone the whole nine yards and then another ninety with a guy that, from all appearances, is using her to track down her cousin. She just “knows” that he loves her, so yes, it’s love, how sweet. The poor dear resembles a confused blinking doe so much in this story, and it doesn’t help that she also doubles up as a damsel in distress in addition to being Ford’s shore leave sex doll.
As I’ve said, this book is all about the penis. If you don’t fall on your knees and drool as you gaze in rapture at Ford’s manliness within the first ten pages, there isn’t much to savor here aside from a tale of a clueless woman believing for so long whatever lie Ford feeds to her. Factor in the formulaic elements that the author doesn’t even bother to tweak a little, and this one is strictly for readers who know and really want what they will get in this story.