I Brake for Bad Boys
by Lori Foster, Janelle Denison & Shannon McKenna
(Brava, $14.00, R) ISBN 0-7582-0417-5
****
This sizzling anthology, which is the sequel to I Love Bad Boys, is a sexy, hot read with few flaws. The first novella is Lori Foster’s “Drive me Wild,” in which the third of three coworkers and best friends is dared to visit the porn shop across from their factory, and make her wildest fantasies come true. Cameron and Asia have just gotten married, Becky and George are shopping for a diamond, and finally it’s Erica’s turn. She’s a powerful, assertive, smart-ass who turns off lots of men, but still manages to find more than enough dates. However, she’s not at all into the idea of marriage, and really isn’t inclined to go through with her part of the dare.

But all that changes when Ian Conrad, the big, (make that very big) tall, muscled and hunky electrician who’s always been intense, quiet and controlled, slams into her office in a rage, while everyone else in her section is in a meeting, and proceeds to tell her that he knows all about the dare, and that he is not going to permit her to satisfy her fantasy with anyone but him. He’s been attracted to her from the first time he saw her, and while they’ve chatted frequently, especially when he was rewiring her office, she’s never let him get too close, even though he could tell she was as intrigued as he was. Now, he wants to take advantage of the dare to convince her to give their mutual attraction a chance.

Ian is certain that they are right for each other, that she is just as passionate as he is, a woman with whom he can finally lose control, who won’t be intimidated by his huge body, proportionate in all ways. Erica is intrigued and turned on but still not into commitment, in spite of Ian’s persuasiveness. She’s noticed him. How could she not notice someone as big and gorgeous as Ian, especially when that’s coupled with his quietly dominant personality that makes other men fade into the woodwork when he’s around? Still, it takes her a while to realize that while she has always chosen men she could control, what she really wants is a man who has just as much power as she does, who won’t be intimidated by her, and who values her strength enough to let her show it.

This couple’s sexual and psychological energy leads them into and out of disagreements and beds, as Ian gradually figures out why Erica is so stubbornly independent. Unfortunately, the ending is abrupt and unbelievable, as she suddenly capitulates and agrees to marry him. It seemed that Foster had just realized that she had written the required number of pages, and simply stopped. It’s a shame, since it spoils the lovely tension that she has spent so much time creating, and is completely untrue to her characters. Even just another page or two would have given her enough time to let the expected ending develop more naturally and realistically.

In Janelle Denison’s “Something Wilde,” Eric Wilde knows he has to do something, anything, to keep his luscious consultant, Jill Richardson, from leaving his company before he convinces her that he’s the man for her. So far their relationship has been professional, but his fantasies of what he’d like to do to her and with her have not. But Jill is very aware of his reputation as a bad boy playboy, and wants nothing to do with him, in spite of the undeniable sexual chemistry between them. Besides that, they are coworkers, and for her, that makes him completely off limits.

In desperation, just a few weeks before her contract is up, Eric dresses all in black, and late at night scales the wall surrounding her home, and walks through the open double doors of her bedroom just as she finishes her bath. He has a proposition for her. During the day, their relationship will continue just as it has, but at night he offers to become her fantasy lover, and make all her sexual dreams come true. It is an offer way too good to turn down, and Jill doesn’t. Eric is a lover unlike any she’s ever known, but Jill is still unwilling to admit him to any part of her real world, and Eric has to go even further to convince her of his sincerity. Denison has done an excellent job with this lush, erotic romantic fantasy. The characters are complex and realistic, the setting carefully and lovingly described, the fantasy world these two create is hot and sensuous, and the resolution, with both characters taking risks to be together, is satisfying and believable.

Tess Langley is a massage therapist, and one of her hunky clients is the business powerhouse Jonah Markham. There’s no way she could not be attracted to him, but she knows he goes for tall model types, not short round women who have already crashed and burned once with a powerful man. Besides, the claw marks on his shoulders brand him as the kind of man who enjoys wild sex, and she’s not that responsive or uninhibited, even if she occasionally does wish she was. But Jonah has different ideas and fantasies about the woman who can make his muscles melt with her talented hands, and wants more from her than just a regular appointment for a massage.

When she turns down his repeated requests for dinner, he decides to hire her for a house party, paying her an obscene amount of money to give his guests massages all weekend. Of course, when she gets there, she’s the only guest, and when she rummages in her purse to find his check, her roommate has filled it with all different kinds of condoms, which explode all over the floor, much to her humiliation. But he persuades her to stay for dinner and more, promising much later to fulfill all her sexual fantasies and treat her like the empress of the universe. And Tess can’t just turn down all that, even though she’s afraid to trust either him or herself, as a result of her previous experiences with men, and one man specifically. It will take all of Jonah’s wiles to win her over.

These characters are realistically and engagingly flawed, seeming to truly want to care for and about each other in spite of their insecurities. And as Tess comes to believe in Jonah’s love, she is able to also begin to believe in herself. In “Touch Me,” Shannon McKenna has created a story that is both erotic and romantic, as two people share their doubts and fears and gradually learn to trust themselves and each other.

After two excellent anthologies about the pleasures of lust and love with a bad boy, might I suggest that the next one be called Bad Boys Need Love, Too? I can hardly wait!

--Joni Richards Bodart


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